Photo by Audiolucistore
I’ve been writing about differentiating for student’s skills by adjusting a task’s complexity. You can catch up on the series here.
In order for students to learn, we have to adjust a task’s complexity to meet their skill level. Too easy, they become bored. Too complex, they become frustrated.
One technique to adjust complexity is the small group: pull 3-5 students over and work directly with them.
I would imagine that most teachers have used this technique with struggling students. Identify the kids who need a little more help, and call them to the table.
This reduces complexity since you can spot problems quickly, answer questions, and keep them focused. Struggling students get a chance to increase their skill since you have lowered the complexity. Once they’re getting it, release them back and the complexity will increase since they’re independent.
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But, teacher-led small groups are not only for reducing complexity. They can also add complexity for students with high skill.
I know that I almost always let my advanced students just “work on their own.” But think about the power of bringing your five top kids together (even for ten minutes a week) and pushing them a little.
In a small group, you can facilitate a deeper discussion, ask probing questions, tease out better responses, and push your expert students further. Is it a math lesson? Give them a couple “tricky” problems and see how they do. Reading a story? Ask about more advanced ideas: ethical dilemmas, similarities to other stories, theme, or author’s tone.
What Will We Talk About?
Will this “advanced conversation” be incredibly awkward? Maybe at first! But here are a few links to help you prepare:
- Think about asking creative questions.
- My tool Respondo! is fun for literature questions.
- Some more techniques for upgrading your questions.
Teacher-led small groups are powerful for both ends of your skill spectrum (as well as everyone in between!).