When there is a wide range of learning levels included in one classroom, providing quality academic instruction becomes complicated very quickly. Whole group instruction may not be an option. If you plan to the middle of the group, the content may be way too easy for half of the class and way too hard for the other half. When things are too easy or too hard, it’s not accessible. When things aren’t accessible, students get bored. When students get bored, problem behaviors are more likely to occur.

You need to focus your energy on creating systems for small group instruction. When you utilize small group instruction, you can create activities and plan your academic content at a level that is more individualized and appropriate for that group of students. 

Create Small Groups

Group together students based on their current skills and IEP goals. However there are other important considerations when creating groups. Look at the social and behavioral needs of each student. Ensure that the groups you are considering will give the student opportunities to practice and expand their social skills. Also consider behavior. If a student has high behavioral needs or frequent aggression or dangerous behavior, make sure that the other students can work independently. Plan for the worst case scenario right now. If you need to help that student de-escalate one on one, what will the other students be doing? Other considerations for creating groups are the students’ schedule, age, and grade. 

Setup Independent and Adult Direct Centers

Since students aren’t going to be working with you all day, they need other things to do. Create simple independent centers and centers that can be run by paraprofessionals. DO NOT GET BOGGED DOWN BY THIS. I have seen so many teachers simply pause this center based instruction process all together because they want to wait to get the centers *perfect. Just get something ready. Keep it simple. You can always upgrade and update later. 

Establish and teach the system for moving between centers. 

It all comes back to schedules! Ensure that there is a user-friendly way to show your students how to navigate between these centers. How do they know what is coming next? Then, teach that schedule. A schedule is a tool. And your students need to be taught how to use these schedules. Model, prompt, and fade prompts!

Plan for each group. 

It may initially seem like planning for so many different groups is harder but I actually think it’s the opposite. When you can plan activities that are appropriate for the skill set of each group, your planning will come much easier. I love a simple, monthly template for each group. Reference goals and curriculum maps, write down one or two activities per day, and be flexible as life gets in the way!

Sasha Long
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