Making The Most Of Small Groups: Chapter 3

shared reading

Today we are talking all about grouping our students and forming small groups and chapter 3 of Making The Most Of Small Groups!

Takeaway 1:   Use all of the available information about students!  

Our district uses FAST for our benchmark assessments and Fountas And Pinnell for our text level assessments or running records.  We also use ESGI for our weekly common formative assessments.  So we clearly have lots of great formal data on our students.  BUT we also have lots of great informal data from observations, listening to our students reading and looking at their writing.

I appreciate how Debbie Diller uses the analogy of a doctor running tests and asking us about our symptoms before making a diagnosis!   LIGHT BULB MOMENT!   We are DOCTORS and we are trying to come up with a plan for our readers and a plan for grouping our readers.   So why not use all of the available blood work and symptoms and come up with a plan?

It is also to remember that data is just one piece of information and not the be all end all when it comes to grouping and working with our students.  That data is a snapshot in time.  And our students are complex and unique individuals and we need to remember to consider the whole child and not a data point.  Our students are not numbers or data points.

Takeaway 2:  use anecdotal notes and grouping students

This is something that I have tried to figure out for years and I’ve never been able to find a system that works for me.  I take anecdotal notes on Post-It notes and on my iPad but that can be cumbersome.  The Post-Its get lost.  The iPad isn’t charged…I write notes on paper and I lose the papers.


So….I am excited to try the index card system!   I like the idea of placing the cards at the student’s seat and keeping them in  an ABC file!   Simple and effective.  And everything  you need for one student is right there!

Takeaway 3:  Flexible Grouping

In our class we have 4 guided reading groups and 4 guided math groups.   Our guided reading groups are based on reading levels and skills.  These groups are not the same as our center groups.   When I need a group for guided reading, I just call the names of the students that I need.

LIGHTBULB MOMENT!   Again, Debbie Diller gives us permission to not see every group every day!!!!!!   She also says it’s not OK to expect teachers to plan for three or four small groups and whole groups in all subjects.  This is something that has been a discussion in my building because we are expected to write daily guided reading plans for every group and submit them on Monday.  I will now use this section of the book as support for not doing this and for making our guided reading instruction QUALITY instruction and not quantity!

My groups meet for 10-15 minutes.  I’ve found 20 minutes is too long.   Early on in the year we go for 10 minutes and build up to 15 minutes.   As stated in the book, I try to meet with my lowest group more often and I try to see them daily.  BUT here’s how my guided reading looks each week:

Monday-Wednesday-see groups.  Lowest groups each day.   High groups once during this time.

Thursday-Friday-no groups.  See students one on one.  This allows for some flexibility in what we work on and what we focus on.  This also allows me to read with each child in my class one on one each week!

Takeaway 4:  Literacy centers for differentiation

This is not so much a light bulb moment but a nice affirmation of what I’m already doing!   Diller recommends using literacy centers/stations as interventions and additional practice!  This is why our centers are so differentiated and targeted to what my students need.  This is also why I create our centers so my students have the engaging, rigorous and fun activities to practice the skills they need to practice!

For information on how we run our centers, check out this post!

centers for kindergarten

Finally,  here are some questions for discussion:  (Leave your answers and pictures in the comments section on this post and you can also join the conversation on our Facebook page!)

  1.  What do you use for assessments?  

  2. How long are your small groups?  How many groups do you have?

  3. What is your system for anecdotal notes?  Show us pictures if you have them!

  4. When do you start your groups?



Also make sure to visit Kindergarten Chaos for her post and thoughts on Chapter 3!

grouping students for small groups

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