Using Rotational Groups for Student Interaction and Engagement
Working with students in an after school program? Teaching during off-track or summer school sessions? Sometimes it can be a bit challenging working with students in an after school or off-track program – especially when there are large amounts of students and a limited quantity of teachers or program personnel. Using rotational groups helps meet students’ needs as well as provide a structured opportunity to be creative.
Our school is a “Single Track Year-Round” school. This means we have three months of instruction followed by one month of “off-track” vacation time. Basically, the traditional summer are broken up and spread out over three months throughout the year: July, November, and March. During our off-track times the district offers an “intersession” just like summer school, but for only two weeks at each site that is off-track.
With budget cuts and the needs of students in such high demand, we were instructed to work with no less than 30 students per teacher! As you can imagine, working with 30 struggling students presents quite a challenge. As a result, myself and another teacher, Cristy Kokoszka combined our classes for a total of about 65 second grade students. We divided the students into four cooperative learning groups. Our groups ranged from students who still needed help with their letter sounds to students struggling with reading comprehension.
We decided to focus on a few basic skills, as opposed to a blanket off-track packet, as follows:
We started with pre- and post-tests from our math curriculum to get a baseline for students' ability. Then we had students practice adding with regrouping. Next we practiced rewriting the numbers vertically, then adding with and without regrouping. For groups that could master this skill, we focused on regrouping to the hundreds place.
Our pre- and post-test focused on identifying between complete and incomplete sentences. Then we practiced writing complete and incomplete sentences.
- We also focused on subject and predicate, and parts of speech. Any time we discussed nouns we wrote or highlighted in yellow or verbs we highlighted or wrote in red.
- In addition, we had students read a book at their level every day and take the comprehension check that goes with the book.
- Students practiced 30 minutes of an online computer intervention program our school purchased.
- Students also identified words that would be nouns and verbs in a group of words that they then arranged into a new sentence.
- Download ELA Pre and Post Test
By focusing on these core skills, we were able to successfully target students that needed help with specific skills. Also, because we rotated groups, there were minimal behavior problems and distractions.
We have found this to be really helpful strategy, also used with the after school program at our school site. We have 100 students in the After School Safety and Enrichment Program that is funded by the district and a grant from the federal government. Three times a week we divide the students into three groups to do a holiday/seasonal activity, practice comprehension using online computer activities and practice reading books at their levels.
Do you have any suggestions for working with large groups of students in an after school or off-track program? Please let me know so I can share it here!