Flexible grouping has been used in the elementary schools for more than 15 years. Many elementary schools began to use flexible grouping as a way to differentiate instruction for their students. However, flexible grouping has not always been used in secondary schools because of the large number of students in high school classrooms and the large differences in abilities that exist in today's middle schools and high schools.
Flexible Groups in the English/Language Arts Classrooms
One of the best places flexible grouping can be used is in the English language arts classroom. In language arts, a teacher can use texts to create groups by interest. For example, if a group of students likes sharks, a teacher can pull shark texts of different levels for a group to read and share. In this way, even if the group has varying skill levels, they can gather information about a subject together. A teacher can also use the jigsaw method of flexible grouping to read a text, which allows students to help each other read parts of a longer text together and share information. Teachers can also use literature circles to group students within a language arts class and use the same literature circles to create writers' circles.
Flexible Grouping in Mathematics Classrooms
Flexible grouping in secondary schools can also be successful in a mathematics classroom. One of the best uses of flexible grouping in the mathematics classroom is graduated difficulty. The students work in a group to solve a series of problems that grow increasingly more difficult. Another use of flexible grouping in a mathematics class is project groups. The students are grouped in a service project according to an interest, and then the students will use mathematics to solve a particular problem. A third use of flexible grouping in mathematics is to have students create a game. The students must learn the skill and then construct the game. The teacher can group students of different ability levels for game construction.
Flexible Groupings in Social Studies/Science Classrooms
In social studies and science, there are a lot of ways students can be flexibly grouped. First, teachers can group students together to make anticipation guides for an upcoming unit. Anticipation guides are particularly useful for students, such as second language learners, who have difficulty learning new vocabulary. Second, teachers can form experimentation groups or study groups based on interests in social studies and science. One group of students may love tornadoes and another may love hurricanes, for example. Third, teachers can group students based on a book or a series of books in social studies or science. For example, a group of students may want to work on writings about rocks and minerals, while another group of students may choose to look at an author's work on erosion in a canyon.
Other Ideas for Flexible Groupings
Flexible groupings are also useful in secondary schools for other projects. Students can be grouped according to their understanding of technology, for example. Two students who are strong in technology but weak in writing could be grouped with two students who need help with technology but are strong in writing. Flexible groupings could also be helpful in electives courses. Students could be grouped according to preference in music, what artist they want to research or by level of exercise they want to try to accomplish. In reality, any grouping a teacher can envision is possible.
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