Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Pluses of Homogeneous Grouping

Homogeneous (pronounced either ha-mah-ga-nus or homo-genius, depending on who you are) grouping involves putting students of a similar skill level together, either in a group setting within a class, or in a class setting. Some teachers, a lot of times those who are self-contained (don't send their students out for any subjects), are faced with the choice of whether or not to ability group their students. If you work in a larger school, with many classrooms per grade level, you may have been faced with the possibility of grouping students for a subject by level and sending them, by those levels, to a certain classroom (this is also sometimes referred to as departmentalizing).

Homogeneous grouping can cause some issues, especially if you somehow become the teacher who is asked to take the 'low' group every time, but there are pluses. If you have a large class like me, and you are self-contained, like me, then you have to either teach whole group, small group, or a combination of both.

Since this blog is focused mainly around literacy, let's look at it from there. I've posted previously on how I run my reading class, and some suggestions on how to set up a reading class (that post was titled Reading Instruction: The Basics), but basically, I do some whole group stuff with the class, read aloud and the discussion that usually follows, as well as the activities that go with that book. I do that with all students, regardless of level, this could either be referred to as whole group or even heterogeneous grouping, although a more appropriate definition of heterogeneous grouping would involve their application in smaller groups. Then, they split off into their ability, or homogeneous, groups, and have work to do there.

The most obvious advantage of similarly skilled students working together is that you can focus them on texts that are appropriate for their ability. Why put the student reading on a 10th grade level in small group with the student reading on a 2nd grade level? Well, there are pluses for doing that, including having good modeling and a reciprocal relationship in the group, but there is also pluses of keeping them apart in small group.

A lot of it comes down to book choice. I would want to challenge my advanced student, and not frustrate my struggling student, so homogeneous grouping would be appropriate to steer clear of this conflict.

This blog is still rather new at this point, but I do have some long-term goals, especially as I gain readers, which has been happening very slowly so far, as I'm still getting embedded into Google and teacher blog sites, and things like that. However, I will be posting more on this topic, as well as its counterpart, both pros and cons. But for now, this is a good starting point.