This strategy takes assessment and preparation before grouping or pairing students. The teacher should consider the language and content abilities of students and group them according to strengths and weaknesses.  When English learners work in small groups, they will have a better opportunity if they are grouped with a “more capable peer” and are provided with a strong model to learn from and to work with.

Depending on the task and the desired outcome, teachers need to plan for “Strategic Grouping.” If the task is language based, such as a small group discussion, the teacher needs to make sure there will be a student with the strongest language skills in each group. We can still allow for student choice by choosing group captains or leaders. We can create "mixed-ability" seating charts to ensure that there will be students available to support each other whether the class moves quickly into groups or turns to speak to a neighbor during a think-pair-share activity.

Adolescent learners need multiple opportunities to work with and process new information, but English learners need the extra step of the teacher providing assistance from multiple sources. If the school has the resources, the teacher could provide college-aged tutors and/or adult paraprofessionals to assist with groups. If not, the teacher could use the students to help each other and to check for understanding. Students learn from teaching and tutoring each other, so grouping them in a way to offer each other support is a benefit to all students.  English learners need more opportunities to to speak to each other, clarify misunderstandings, and practice English in a safe environment which can be accomplished using small groups and pairs.

Take a few minutes to explore the different features on this page. The "Literacy TA Process" and "School-wide" sections provide important details about how to teach the strategy. Once you are familiar with the content, think about how you might use the different elements provided on this page to enhance the teaching of this strategy.

Checking In: What do students know about the reading strategy?

When introducing or reviewing any strategy, it is a good practice to check-in with the students. We want to assess how much they know about the strategy so that we can build on their prior knowledge. Here are a few ways to assess students' prior knowledge of "Strategic Grouping."

Teachers could...

  • explain to students that they will be expected to work with every student in the class either as partners, small groups, and peer tutors.
  • explain that as the teacher, you put a lot of thought into how to best support their language needs. Explain that the seating arrangement was designed to support their language development.
  • ask students to share their experiences of how working together in pairs and collaborative groups have helped them to learn content and English.

Assessing the Skill

When assessing students' ability to work in strategically grouped environments, teachers could...

  • walk around the room and listen to what students are saying, paying attention to their body language and level of engagement.
  • provide group leaders with questions they could ask the other students in the group. Explain that they should ask the group members questions that will lead them to the answers instead of just giving them the answers.
  • assess how well students carry out their individual group roles.



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  • Strategic Grouping Diagram

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College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards

Get moving with the Common Core Standards. The literacy resources on this page help educators implement the following College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards.

Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

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