Grouping Practices in the Elementary Reading Classroom

Topics: Ability grouping, Elementary school, Reading Pages: 11 (3900 words) Published: July 31, 2013
Grouping Practices in the Elementary Reading Classroom

Reading instruction has a long history of being one of the most highly debated topics in education. American teachers have been criticized for not producing effective readers. Teachers recognize the need to differentiate reading instruction and provide a balanced literacy program. In an effort to meet the needs of all students, teachers use a variety of grouping methods while teaching reading. In recent history, the type of grouping method that is the most effective has been under considerable debate. This mini-literature review will examine how and why elementary teachers group their students during reading instruction. Three major themes arose from the sampling of literature used in this review. The first theme discusses what types of grouping methods teachers use and why they chose that method. The second theme shows the academic and social-emotional implications of homogeneous ability groupings. The third theme addresses the academic and social-emotional implications of heterogeneous or mixed ability groupings. Keywords: within-class ability grouping, homogeneous ability grouping, reading instruction, mixed ability grouping, flexible grouping

Grouping Practices in the Elementary Reading Classroom
This mini-literature review will examine grouping practices in the elementary reading classroom. The state of reading instruction in our country is a widely debated topic. Teachers are under more and more pressure to make sure that all of their students are fluent, skillful, and motivated readers. Recently the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers came together to develop the Common Core Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics. The website for the Common Core ( indicates that the standards have been adopted by forty five states across the nation. These standards offer teachers a guide to the critical reading skills and strategies students need to be taught, as well as how these skills and strategies build upon each other from year to year (“Key Points in English Language Arts,” 2012). However, how to teach those skills and strategies is up to the districts, administrators, and ultimately the classroom teachers. In an effort to meet the standards and best address all of the reading levels in one classroom, teachers employ a variety of organizational teaching practices in their classrooms which includes whole class instruction and a variety of grouping practices. The intent of this review is to investigate two questions of interest: • What types of grouping practices do elementary reading teachers use? • What are the academic and social-emotional implications of using homogeneous ability grouping and mixed ability grouping methods? Search Procedures and Criteria

Using the ERIC (Education Resources Information Center) an initial search was completed using the term “ability grouping” AND “reading” AND “elementary” OR “primary.” From the initial search, 174 articles were identified. The search results were pared down when a time frame of 2000-2013 was imposed as well as a limiting to peer reviewed articles only. Of the 12 articles remaining, 3 were used. After an initial review of the search results, it was clear that the search needed revision. Using the Thesaurus option on ERIC, a new search was made using the terms, "Grouping (Instructional Purposes)" AND "Ability Grouping" AND "Heterogeneous Grouping" 64 articles were retrieved. To narrow the search, peer reviewed and a date range from 2000 until the present was selected. This search yielded 12 articles, 5 were used in this mini-literature review. A search using the same descriptors was done in Proquest and JStor, which yielded 2 more articles. There are a total of 10 empirical sources used for this mini-literature review. Review of the Literature

There are a variety of...

References: Baumann, J. F., Hoffman, J. V., Duffy-Hester, A., & Ro, J. M. (2000). "The first R" yesterday and today: U.S. elementary reading instruction practices reported by teachers and administrators. Reading Research Quarterly, 35(3), 338-77.
Boushey, G., & Moser, J. (2009). The CAFÉ book engaging all students in daily literacy assessment and instruction. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
Carbonaro, W. (2005). Tracking, students ' effort, and academic achievement. Sociology of Education, 78(1), 27-49.
Chorzempa, B. F., & Graham, S. (2006). Primary-grade teachers ' use of within-class ability grouping in reading. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(3), 529-541.
Elbaum, B., Moody, S. W., & Schumm, J. S. (1999). Mixed-ability grouping for reading: What students think. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 14(1), 61-66.
Fountas, I.C., & Pinnell, G. (2001). Guiding readers and writers grades 3-6. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Key Points in English Language Arts. (2012). In Common Core State Standards Initiative. Retrieved from
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McCoach, D. B., O 'Connell, A. A., & Levitt, H. (2006). Ability grouping across kindergarten using an early childhood longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Research, 99(6), 339-346.
National Education Association. (2013). Research Spotlight on Academic Ability Grouping. Retrieved from
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Serravallo, J., & Goldberg, G. (2007). Conferring with readers supporting each student’s growth and independence. Portsmouth, NH: Heinman.
Tach, L. M., & Farkas, G. (2006). Learning-related behaviors, cognitive skills, and ability grouping when schooling begins. Social Science Research, 35(4), 1048-1079.
Vaughn, S., Linan-Thompson, S., Kouzekanani, K., Bryant, D. P., Dickson, S., & Blozis, S. A. (2003). Reading instruction grouping for students with reading difficulties. Remedial and Special Education, 24(5), 301-15.
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