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Forming Groups for Small-group Reading

Last Updated: Dec 22, 2016 09:53AM PST

How do I group students for instruction in Sets 6–12?
 We recommend that you use an assessment such as the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System, the Developmental Reading Assessment® (DRA), or the Teachers College Reading & Writing Project’s (TCRWP) Running Records Assessments. These systems will identify students’ “instructional” reading level.
For Being a Reader small groups, we recommend that students be placed where they are able to read a text with 98–100% accuracy. The rigorous instruction requires that they read with a high degree of accuracy and, starting in Set 9, that they read some sections of the text independently. Refer to the “Reading Levels Correlations” chart on page xiii of the Assessment Resource Book to identify appropriate placement in BAR Sets based on the results of your leveling assessment.
Keep in mind that day-to-day performance in an instructional setting is the best indicator of appropriate placement. After two or three weeks of instruction, you may want to reconsider any placements of students, if necessary.

All my students test into Set 1. How do I form groups?
It is not unusual for many or most students in a kindergarten class, or even in some grade 1 classes, to test into Small-group Reading Set 1. Set 1 is grade-level instruction for kindergarten.
To form groups in the situation where many students place in the same set, consider all the information available to you. The goal is to identify students who are similar on specific characteristics.

Placement Assessment
You might first look at the results of the placement assessment to support grouping decisions. Are there several students who know the same letter-sound correspondences? Are there several who did very well on high-frequency words and poorly on phonics, or vice versa? Look for patterns to help you decide.

Students Who Pass the Spelling-Sound Portion of Section B, but Fail the High-frequency Word Portion
The specific high-frequency words taught in small-groups are needed to read the weekly books. Some students may have a different high-frequency word base than the Being a Reader sequence. For this reason, some students may have more spelling-sound knowledge than they are able to demonstrate. If you suspect that this is the case, you may wish to further assess these students to see whether they know enough phonics to be placed in a higher set. You might assess these students on the spelling-sound portion of Section C, or even Section D if they pass Section C. If you discover that the students place in Set 2 or 3 based on their spelling-sound knowledge, rather than place them in Set 1, provide two or three sessions introducing and reviewing the high-frequency words from earlier sets before beginning instruction in the higher set.

After the First Four Weeks of Set 1 Instruction
Finally, after you have taught the first four weeks of Set 1, the mastery test may provide additional information about students’ knowledge. Consider regrouping if necessary after mastery test 1.


How do I form groups when my students don’t fall neatly into sets?
There are several possible scenarios, and suggestions for several of them follow:

  • A few students have reading levels beyond Set 12. Place the student in your highest reading group to give the student opportunities to participate in group discussions. Have the student read texts at his/her reading level and meet with him/her regularly to discuss the text and assess comprehension. 
  • Students who test into the same level have very different levels of reading proficiency. One student barely tests at that level; another is almost ready for the next level. When forming the group, use other observations you have made about the students’ reading proficiency. Ask yourself:

Is the student who is just ready for the set confident or reluctant? If so, you might give him/her a book from the previous set and evaluate the students' fluency and ease of  comprehension. Then decide whether the student is ready for a challenge or could benefit from placement in a lower Set.

Use a similar process of observation for the student who is almost ready to go on. Could the student move on if you worked with him or her individually for a few sessions? If not, the student will benefit from the instruction in the placed Set, even though the books may seem less challenging for  him/her.

For more information about forming and managing small groups, see pages xiii–xv of the Being a Reader Assessment Resource Book

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