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.
Small Groups Reduce Complexity…
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.
…But Can Also Add Complexity
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 often made the mistake of just having my advanced students “work on their own” constantly, but think about the power of bringing your five top kids together (even for ten minutes a week) and pushing them a bit!
In a small group, you can facilitate a deeper discussion, ask probing questions, tease out better responses, teach a more advanced concept, and push your expert students further. Is it a math lesson? Give them a couple of “tricky” problems and see how they do. Or teach them something from next year. Or from calculus. Reading a story? Ask about more advanced ideas: ethical dilemmas, similarities to other stories, themes, or authors’ tones.
Plus, pulling your most advanced students over regularly will help you to battle the Curse of the Kidney Table.