Teachers often feel overwhelmed by the management issues involved in grouping. We
worry that the rest of the class is unproductive when we are meeting with one small
group. We grow concerned about individual needs when working with small groups and
we feel guilty that some students receive more of our individual attention than others.
The answer is that none of these instructional contexts alone will support the needs of all
students. It is the balance of these three models, carefully constructed based on
assessment feedback that, over time, will provide the most effective support for learning.
Once students are taught how to behave and use their time productively, teachers can
move in and out of group instruction as the need arises without losing valuable time.
What matters is that each student is moving forward along a continuum of becoming a
successful reader. Planning for good instruction must focus on the reader, not the text.
Whole Group Teaching
We teach to the whole class when we determine that the great majority of our students
have the same need. Whole class lessons should be based on what we know about our
students as readers. Early in the year students’ needs seem more similar than they do later
in the year and so it is likely that we will spend more time on whole class instruction in
the first couple of months of school and more time with individuals and small groups
later in the year.
When might we be teaching to the whole class?
Mini Lessons on management, on strategies or skills, or on literary analysis
Book Talks
Interactive Read Aloud
Shared Reading
Phonics or Word Study Lessons
Reader’s Theater or Process Drama
Poetry Share
Oral Presentations
Reflection of the day’s work
Small Group Teaching
Small groups are formed and reformed according to student needs. We make an effort to
provide choice, challenge and collaboration – key factors in motivating students to put
forth effort in their reading work. There is no formula for the number of days, length of
time or size of the group when we plan for instruction. Students repeatedly abandoning
books might meet with us for a few days until we feel each has made a good book choice
and learned some strategies for sticking with the first 30 pages or so. We may meet with a
group over the course of an entire text if they are having difficulty sustaining meaning.
We may call a group together for a few weeks using a specific text level and work on
comprehension strategies or fluency. Small groups offer students a comfortable
environment for participation. Students interact with text and peers with the support of
the teacher who can focus instruction on exactly where students are having difficulty.
Small groups allow the teacher to informally assess each student’s learning and directly
teach the strategies needed for good comprehension.
When might we be teaching to small groups?
Guided Reading – students grouped by text level for explicit strategy instruction
Book Clubs – student reading the same text and coming together periodically
Target Group – students pulled together for a few days on targeted instruction on
a specific skill, strategy, or concept
Individual Teaching
Individual time with students gives us the opportunity to sharpen our profile of the
readers in our classroom. Spending time talking with each student about their reading
choices, processing of text, word solving actions, or error behavior, can assist in forming
target groups, pairing students with similar needs or interests and many other valuable
learning opportunities. When a student’s needs are not being met in small group or
whole class lessons, we make time to meet with that student individually to better
understand what might be causing the difficulty. Conferencing with students one-on-one
gives the teacher a window into each student’s skills, motivation, interests and reading
When might we be meeting with individual students?
Independent Reading Conferences
Assessment – running records, fluency checks, and other diagnostic assessments