Writing my way through the school year!

I don’t care what you call your Reading  group, they know. You can come up with the cutest, funniest, adorable names you’d like, they know.  In my building, our students are divided into the Red, Blue, and Green groups, and they know. How could they not know? When the Red students have to leave the room every day to meet with the interventionist, what do you think the other kids are thinking?  When the Green group’s homework is different from the Blue and Red group, they know. When the Red Leveled Reader has a larger font and fewer words, they know.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a choice in the manner of grouping, it  is mandatory in my district.

 I was reading an  email that listed the discussions posted in my LinkedIn Teacher’s Lounge group, and  this caught my eye,  “School Forces Children to Wear Different Coloured Uniforms Based on Ability”.  Seriously? I had other things I could be doing, but this was a must-read. What could be the rationale for this? How demoralizing! The students are divided into different buildings at the age of 11. The brightest students wear purple uniforms , the other kids wear blue.

 But isn’t that what we do with Reading groups?   When I was a kid in New York, I went to the ” Gifted” school, and after that I was always in the “Gifted” classes. I don’t remember feeling superior to anyone else, but how did the other children feel about me and the other “gifted” children? How did they feel about themselves compared to us? If we were “gifted”, what were they?

 I always attempt to sugarcoat it for those students who have to leave the room. “Well, you’re just going to get extra help so that you can become a better reader” or some inane statement like that. I usually get the, “I know I’m a dummy and can’t read” look when I make these statements.  I believe they feel that’s how I think of them.  Many of them become so invested in moving “up’ a group, are disheartened when they don’t, and they give up, remaining in the same group, year after year.

In order to combat the grouping, I like to give assignments where the students can work on their own level. The assignments or projects require higher-order level thinking, but each child adds their own spin to it. Same project or assignment to all students, and guess what?  Blue and Red students can do work that exceeds the work of the Green group. But, day after day,  I have to go back to calling the groups, by color,  and it begins again.

I read somewhere, I wish I could remember where, that our society needs a work force. Everyone can not be brilliant, because someone has to clean the toilets, sweep, etc. They felt this is why we separate our children, and create a class system  within our schools based on a child’s reading ability.

 I am glad that I am participating in  the Global Read Aloud project this year! My entire class will read “Tuck Everlasting”. I have a class set of books, funded by  DonorsChoose.org, so each of my students will have their own book. And no matter what “color” my students are , they will all participate in the fun we have with this book!


Comments on: "You Think They Don’t Know? Grouping Readers By Ability…" (3)

  1. Dug this post. Shared it on our FB wall ( http://www.facebook.com/TheBizWorldFoundation ) and with some of my old teaching colleagues. Cute group names didn’t work for us, either!

  2. notswallowedinthesea said:

    I feel your frustration. I don’t exactly know in detail how Reading Groups are coordinated in the USA. But here in Australia, particularly, Melbourne, where I come from, I believe they do it in a more “subtle” way. Some teachers argue that kids still know, and I’m sure in their heart of hearts, they would have a sense. I really don’t have a solution for this, but I can tell you how it works in schools down under, and it sounds like a “fairer” way then what you outlined.

    We call it Literacy Rotations (you might have the same thing in USA). Basically, there’s a spelling group, a reading group (with the teacher), a computer group (media literacy) and a partner reading group (pairs reading their own books aloud to each other). So basically ability groups will be rotating each day, so every group gets to do one activity. I think, in this way, it’s not so “obvious” which group is the higher group, although the teachers themselves know. Because every group get s fair chance at an activity.

    • Thanks for sharing. I don’t know if this system exists in the US, I have never seen it. I like the idea, especially because it gives the students a chance to work with students of varying ability. I do make a point of random grouping, when they work on group projects, so it gives my students a break from their leveled group.

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