So often, I see teachers as the “sage on stage” while the students’ heads are about to explode from all of the information that they are expected to retain. The “Sit and Get” model happens way too often and serves as an obstacle rather than a help to student’s success. When I was in the classroom, I was guilty of shining the spotlight on me the entire block and shining it back on my students when it was time to assess. I was missing the most important part of the equations. I did not fully understand the value of listening to my students discuss their understanding with their peers. I immediately corrected them for fear that they would confuse another students. I had it all wrong until I attended a professional learning on one very useful tool by Norman Webb. It was the Depth of Knowledge Levels which helps teachers meet that challenge of rigor. Depth of Knowledge (DoK) categorizes tasks according to the complexity of thinking required to successfully complete them. The levels are:
Often times, I hear the term “small group” thrown around in schools and I wonder if they there is a common understanding of what that actually looks like in a classroom. Because of time restrictions, bathroom breaks, assemblies, etc. it seems to interrupt the natural flow of the routines and procedures that need to take place in a classroom of 25 plus students. Quite honestly, teachers are excited to get students in small groups at least 3 times out of the week! Small group instruction tends to take a backseat to whole group instruction, which decreases the opportunities for differentiation to occur.
So why small group instruction? It provides students with a reduced student-teacher ratio, typically in groups of 2-4 students. It gives students more of the teacher's focused attention and a chance to ask specific questions about what they learned.
This is the most opportune time for teachers to monitor individual progress and give immediate feedback. When teachers master the art of maximizing each small group rotation, they can see up to 2-3 groups per day! Alright, don’t beat yourself up! By seeing 1-2 groups, you are still on the right track. Each rotation should include a teacher guided group which gives students practice opportunities with skills using text on their independent reading level. The teacher is then able to remove the lexile level barrier, teach the focus skill, and improve their performance.