Flexible grouping in first and second-grade: differentiating instruction to meet individual needs
Grimaldi, Stephanie Levine
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This study investigated the ways in which teachers differentiate instruction to meet individual students' literacy needs. Specific questions related to planning, grouping, instruction, and monitoring were considered. Case studies of two teams of teachers in two classrooms in an urban elementary school were conducted. Three focal children, identified as low, average, or high performers, were shadowed by observers for 16 hours over 8 days. The teachers were interviewed before, during, and after the study and classroom artifacts were collected. Data analysis yielded eight findings in two categories (grouping practices and instruction) for the first-grade classroom and six findings in two categories (grouping practices and instruction) for the second-grade classroom. First, teachers used all forms of grouping routinely and flexibly throughout the day and week. Second, in the first-grade classroom, the change in group membership varied according to type, while in the second grade classroom the change was dictated by student need. Third, in both classrooms, teacher's decisions about grouping arrangements were made on the basis of: grade level curriculum or content, and observation of individual needs. In the second-grade classroom, teacher's decisions were also made on the availability of personnel. Fourth, in the first grade classroom, students' decisions about grouping arrangements were made on the basis of: (I) environment created by the teacher, (2) student choice or interest, (3) availability of books/materials, and ( 4) availability of time. In the first-grade classroom, children at all levels received equal teacher time. Instruction in word level and comprehension strategies were balanced across performance levels. Finally, instruction was modified by explicitness of directions, expectations for independent work, and/or teacher support. In the second-grade classroom, instructional time and instructional focus varied among performance levels. Children who struggled received increased emphasis on word level knowledge. Finally, instruction was modified by explicitness of directions, expectations for independent work, and/or teacher support. Limitations include the inability of the researcher to observe and describe the literacy instruction provided outside the scheduled literacy block.
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