The Pros And Cons Of Ability Grouping For Your Independent Small Groups

ability grouping

I made so many mistakes when I first began planning for small group instruction. One of the big ones was grouping my students and leaving them in that group for long periods of time. I forgot to make my groups fluid, and that meant my literacy centers lost their effectiveness. I also didn’t consider how ability grouping impacted my students and their growth. Once I shifted my mindset and changed my groups around, my students began to thrive at their literacy centers!

What Is Ability Grouping?

ability grouping

Let’s talk about ability grouping for your independent reading groups. Student ability grouping means that you’ll make a group of children with the same abilities.

Reading levels for example. I always learned this as the term homogeneous grouping. If you’re grouping your students by reading level, you’ll put your high readers together, your at-level readers together and your below grade level readers together.

Grouping your students in this way can have its pros and cons.

Pros Of Ability Grouping For Reading Centers

Your students can share a leveled text that they both can read and gain an understanding of the content without struggling with decoding. Critical thinking can improve when every student is reading at his or her level.

ability grouping

It is easier for you to plan content for literacy centers. You don’t need to differentiate IN a small group.

You can adjust the pace of the activities. If your struggling students need more time, they can continue to work on the activities until they reach mastery. If your students who are reading above grade level are ready to move on, they can start a new project.

Cons Of Ability Grouping For Reading Centers

ability grouping

Research shows that ability grouping can be detrimental to minority students.

Struggling readers in grades K-2 may not understand the activities without help, and that might lead to unwanted behavior problems at your centers. But more importantly, they’re not learning. 

Student expectations are lower. Your top readers will understand what is expected of them and will do their best. Your struggling readers instinctively know that they can’t read as well as their classmates and won’t work as hard due to a lack of motivation and confidence. 

Flexible Student Grouping For Literacy Centers

Luckily, your literacy centers can have flexible student grouping. By using mixed ability grouping, you can make your groups fluid to maximize student achievement. 

For more information, here’s a great article on ability groups!



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