Friday, 17 April 2015

Purposeful Learning

Recently while having a chit chat with a principle about small group leaning, I stumbled over my words. For those of you who know me I rarely stumble with words.
The questions was: 

What do you do in small groups?

My blubbering answer was: (paraphrased)

I have done a variety of things. Novel studies, non fiction texts, comprehension questions and math.  I really like small group instruction for math as you can really see what the student knows and don't know. 

The follow up question was:

What are your other students doing?

A variety of activities and stations. 

Ugh! I said that? A very vague answer that really did not answer the question. The principle saved me by following up with:

You mean: purposeful leaning. 

We both laughed. 

Gulp. Has it been so long that I have had to answer directly about how I run my class program that I stammer? 

This lead me to reflect. Reflect a lot. 

What am I doing exactly in these stations? Is it purposeful learning?

I shared with a couple of colleagues that awkward moment. The replies back were: 

"You should have said you do daily four(or five)."

"Say you do Strings to start off with then, deeper questions in groups."

I have never been a believer in programs. I don't buy into one way of teaching for all. To answer with the Daily 5 program or Fosnot math Strings is not an answer that I am comfortable with. Truthfully, because I am not always doing these things. ( Please slap my wrist later).

Why not? At any given time you walk into my classroom it will look different. Next year will look different from this year. 

That is why I started with small groups to begin with. I started using small groups not because it was a program but a way of reaching each child. 

How do I reach every child? Differentiate the learning. How do I differentiate the learning? Small groups! 

Image from 
Growth Mindsets In the Classroom

I also don't work in small groups everyday. ( It is getting real in here! ) Sometimes the students are working individually. At times they work collaboratively in their own groups. Other times it is one on one with me.

 It differs everyday. I believe that differentiating the learning is not just with the content but also with how it is delivered as well.

Here is the other dose of honesty: Small groups can be boring when used exclusively. I only know this because I tried it a few years ago. I thought that this was the only way to respond to a child's needs. At the end of my language block I was bored. I realized that if I as the teacher was bored, students were too. 

What are your thoughts?
How do you utilize small groups in your classroom? 

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