Small Groups: One Tool with Many Uses

By Doreen Wolfgram | May 19th, 2021 | No Comments

Wondering how you can use small groups for targeted instruction in your digital classroom on Edmodo? Check out these five strategies shared by five teachers in our community.


Small Groups on Edmodo

It’s spring, and my mind has turned to gardening. I appreciate how a master gardener can look at a yard and create a unique design that includes just the right flowers, shrubs, and trees to make it look its best. They can identify the right tools to use for both preparation and upkeep. That same master gardener also knows that a garden’s needs change with the seasons.

It’s the same for a master teacher. Classes change from year to year, and students’ needs vary from class to class. A master teacher knows how to identify the best class design and appropriate instructional tools to help their students bloom most beautifully!

One tool in Edmodo’s garden shed (as it were) is the Small Groups feature. There are many ways to use this tool in both a remote and in-person classroom.

 

Using Small Groups as Modules of Instruction

Educational curriculum is often divided into modules or sections of instruction based on chapter, unit of study, or topic. These modules can be taught in many ways, including using Small Groups.

David Ross, Music Technology Lecturer at Sandwell College in West Bromwich, Great Britain, uses Small Groups for each of his instructional modules. Some Small Groups are intended for in-class, synchronous instruction and include the day’s agenda, a recorded lecture, and opportunities for collaboration and discussion. These lessons can also be accessed by students who missed class or need a review before an assessment. Other Small Groups are explicitly created for remote learning. These are based on a specific lesson and can include a recorded lecture and other relevant resources.

Mr. Ross shared an additional benefit of using Small Groups as an instructional tool.

“I love using Small Groups in this way because as the year goes on, I am building my scheme of work for next year for each module. Once I’ve archived my class, I can then use it as a template for my new year, adding to and improving upon [what I’ve created already], a completely online working lesson that’s contemporary and realistic.”

This type of professional reflection allows for lesson modification based on data such as student assessments, feedback, the teacher’s professional observation, and holistic evaluation of the coursework.

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David Ross’ Small Group, “Composing Music (Solo),” in “Level 2 Music”

 

Using Small Groups for Scaffolded Instruction and Remediation

Frederick Amoaning, IT Coordinator and Lecturer in Professional Computing, at Synergies Institute-Ghana in Akweteyman, Accra - Ghana, also uses Small Groups with instructional modules. He begins by manually adding all students to the first Small Group. Students then need to score above fifty percent before adding them to the next module. Those students scoring below fifty percent are added to a Small Group called “Re-Sit,” designed for reteaching and targeted small group instruction. After receiving additional support, students resubmit assignments and retake quizzes to move onto the next module.

Mr. Amoaning finds the Small Group feature valuable for other reasons as well.

“I like Small Groups because of the flexibility it gives me with my course outline and student groupings. I also like the privacy aspect of small groups because when I make a post in one Small Group, only the members of that group see it.”

Privacy is essential for Mr. Amoaning when it comes to ability-grouping or retesting because of a failing score. Only students in that group can see the member list and access additional instructional resources created for reteaching or remediation. If needed, a teacher can create a Small Group consisting of only one student member, which would benefit students with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) or other special instructional needs.

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Small Groups List in Frederick Amoaning’s “Research Methods” Class

 

Using Small Groups for Enhancing Student Engagement

Dr. Niveen El Shawa, Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics at Islamic University of Gaza in Gaza, Palestine, uses Small Groups to organize and share all the student work associated with a specific assignment. Dr. El Shawa found that her EFL (English as a Foreign Language) students enjoy practicing their English while engaging in friendly conversation in the small group setting.

“Teaching fully remotely, I focus on SEL (Social Emotional Learning) to release my students’ stress. I choose an interesting topic (such as a recipe to prepare) as an application for writing a ‘Process / How-to Paragraph.’ By doing so, students are more engaged in the process of writing; they are able to chat with their colleagues, share some ideas, and involve their family members.”

All the student work for this specific assignment is collected in one Small Group, making it easy for Dr. El Shawa to provide focused feedback and instruction.

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Dr. Niveen El Shawa’s Small Group Assignment: EFL students practice the concept of “process writing” by posting recipes and interacting with their peers in the Comments section.

 

Using Small Groups to Differentiate Instruction

Aziz Soubai, EFL Teacher, English & Computer Skills, at Tighmert High School, in Guelmim, Morocco, uses Small Groups to differentiate instruction. He creates groups based on skills and experience: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. As students progress through the course, Mr. Soubai can focus on a specific task or skill with a smaller group of students, ensuring they receive the level of instruction they need.

Mr. Soubai stressed the value of differentiated instruction in this way:

“I can teach a certain grammar topic or have students complete a certain writing assignment by dividing the class into more manageable chunks. [...I can put] students who are struggling into a beginners’ Small Group with one or two high achievers. The instruction and the assignments here will be slightly different from the other groups (intermediate and advanced). I can also use badges and Edmodo certificates to gamify the classroom and push students to complete the task [before being] added to the next groups.”

Implementing Small Groups in the classroom design can be a powerful tool for meeting the various learning needs of students, especially as learning expectations grow throughout the term of the course.

“The Small Group is one of Edmodo’s most powerful features because it allows me to control what I want to achieve with the students [in each group]. This feature is great to differentiate instruction [...] It provides an opportunity for students to learn at their own pace and gives the teacher the chance to plan lessons based on the needs of students.”

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An Assignment in one of Aziz Soubai’s Small Groups

 

Using Small Groups for Elementary Level Instructional Methods

Ed Bonhaus, Grade 3 Teacher at Ryland Heights Elementary School in Ryland Heights, KY, USA, uses Small Groups for the Response to Intervention (RTI) tiers of support. Response to Intervention is a process of assessing the students’ skill levels, then identifying which specific skills need focused instructional interventions. Mr. Bonhaus describes the process this way:

“I use the Small Groups in Reading RTI for book studies. I use the assignments and quiz features to target [specific skills in] each group. As we read new books, I add new groups. When we read books as a class, I’ll make Small Groups for different levels and differentiate their questions that way.”

Response to Intervention also works well with Small Groups in math.

“For Math Core, I use the Small Groups to track multiplication fact mastery. I created a Small Group for each number 0-10, then created a master quiz for each set of facts. All of the kids start in 0, and as they master the facts (they have to score 90% or better three times to show mastery), they move to the next number. I award them a badge for each fact they master. I reuse the quizzes each time and randomize the questions, and don’t let them see the answers at the end. I also lock it out at the end of the day and give them a 10-minute timer to complete it. It’s worked really well for me, better than using [a math] program, and it’s been very easy to track.”

Mr. Bonhaus has found this so successful for reading and math that he is considering implementing Small Groups with the other content areas he teaches.

 

2021_blog_small_groups_screenshot_03-03Small Groups List in Ed Bonhaus’ Grade 3 Reading RTI Class

“Gardening” for Growth

Like master gardeners, each of these teachers considered the changing needs of their students, redesigned their “garden,” and selected the digital tools they found most effective for academic growth. Which Edmodo tools have you found to be most helpful in your classroom this season? Please share your ideas in the comments!

A special thanks to Frederick Amoaning, Ed Bonhaus, Dr. Niveen El Shawa, David Ross, and Aziz Soubai for generously sharing their Small Group strategies for this blog post! 

 

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About the Author: Doreen Wolfgram

author

Doreen is an Education Writer at Edmodo and a Veteran Educator, experienced in both elementary and secondary levels in the USA and Germany. In her career, she has served as an Instructional Coach, Professional Development Coach, and Curriculum Specialist. She is passionate about using technology to create and grow a community of engaged learners worldwide.

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