Using Rotational Groups for Student Interaction and Engagement

By Eric Antuna on November 19, 2009

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.

Download Math Practice Pages 


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!


Happy Thanksgiving!




Hi Eric, I recently went to GLAD (Guided Language Acquisition Design)Training, where I learned about ways to work with larger groups. One way to manage your class better is to pick a couple of students to act as "scouts" during direct instruction (or during independent practice). They are in charge of watching for good behavior (like showing respect, looking at the teacer the entire time, etc) while also doing their work at the same time. At the end of your lesson, the scouts nominate other students who demonstrated the specific behaviors to receive a "prize". Both the scout and the other student(s) are given the "prize". The "prize" usually consists of a paper photocopy that connects with your lesson/unit (like a copy of a butterfly life cycle). Students can use their prize as a bookmarker or to help them on a quiz. By doing this, positive behavior is reinforced at the same time as increasing literacy and empowering kids to make good decisions. Good luck with all those kids!


Thanks for the great tip! I did go to GLAD at RCOE but only Day 1, I think I need to get back there! Thanks for the tip!


I have 2nd grade after school reading club twice a week. We use AIMS web testing/bi-weekly monitoring and TPRI for testing to determine student needs. I have 12 students that stay and work on computer and small group instruction. My students really enjoy and which I have purchased. Both of these programs help the students with vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. The second program has a phonics set that the students like to use. I even used it with 8th grade students during summer school and they loved it. If your school is like ours, you have several students that need extra help in reading. If you have access to a few computer, they will enjoy both of the programs. They have reading from k and up.


Thanks for the comment! I do have and love it! Myself and another teacher were able to convince the principal to purchase it for grades, 1, 2, and 3, so students can use it in and out of school. I'll check out Thanks for the tip!


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