How Flexible Grouping Creates Enthusiasm or One More Minute, Pleeease!

As a two year old, my daughter Ella is really starting to become her own person. One of my biggest joys each day is listening to her develop more and more language. While her favorite topic, as the master of the obvious, is to name every single color she sees, her newest phrase is actually making me stop and think: “One more minute, pleeeaase!” It doesn’t matter if we are at the park, the beach, or just watching tv, she begs me to have another minute of the activity.

I can’t help but make the connection between Ella’s pleading for another minute and our students. What if our students begged us for one more minute to write or read? What if our students begged us for one more math problem? How do we recreate that natural enthusiasm and engagement in our classrooms?

Well, just this past week I witnessed this exact phenomenon! I was working with a group of 2nd graders during math. This group of students was clustered together based on their current skills subtracting three-digit numbers. They were ready to go deeper so I showed them how to check their subtraction work with addition. No joke, they were thrilled! One student told me this was so fun and another told me he would teach his mom what he learned that very night. They each worked at their own pace and devoured this newly learned skill in such a delighted and joyful way.

While it is easy to say that we need to make learning fun, one way to do this, which I don’t think is necessarily intuitive, is to meet students where they are. By knowing where our students are in terms of their skills (in other words, by collecting multiple measures and exploring this data) we can then flexibly group students for the purpose of building on those skills.

While I focused on flexible grouping as a way to create enthusiasm, here are articles on additional benefits:

https://www.nwea.org/blog/2015/4-reasons-why-flexible-grouping-powerful-force-learning/

http://www.teachhub.com/flexible-grouping-differentiated-instruction-strategy

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