"SNOW" Much Fun Blog Hop!

Monday, January 26, 2015
I have recently been getting to know some fellow blog friends and am excited about a blog hop that we have decided to put on! Thanks so much to Alyssa, from Teaching in the Fast Lane for putting it together! 

Going along with our Winter theme, I wanted to try a little experiment. I was thinking to myself, would providing high-interest reading passages at the level of my struggling readers motivate students working at and above grade level to work with those struggling readers and guide them through the close reading process? I wanted to try something that would get all of my students working together in groups, no matter what their reading level was.  Sometimes, the articles or text that we are reading are far too difficult for my lower readers (although I try to use varied lexile levels, that doesn't always happen!!!) 

I thought that implementing heterogenous groups would encourage peer support and ENGAGE my students that need that extra push.  Unfortunately, when students are grouped homogeneously by the same level ALL the time, the students just know it.  It can really effect their self esteem.  AND, to top that off, many times when students are working together in heterogeneous groups, the text is unreachable for the strugglers.  

In order to provide the struggling readers with an experience where they could participate with the stronger readers (without the higher readers becoming bored and thinking the text was babyish), I actually wrote close reading passages that are at the level of some of my struggling readers on some HIGH-interest topics in my classroom, WINTER SPORTS! We are talking SNOW BOARDING, SNOW MOBILING, ICE SKATING, ICE HOCKEY, WINTER SLEDDING, BOB SLEDDING, AND DOG SLEDDING!  Many of my students have NEVER seen snow since we live in Southern CA.  (NOT complaining on my end, I grew up in Chicago and had MORE than enough time playing in the snow!) So, when I grouped my students heterogeneously into groups and told them the topics that they would be researching, they got SUPER excited! 

The students started their first close read by taking turns reading sentences.  I only gave each group 1 paper, so they literally had to pass the paper around with each student reading one sentence aloud.  They annotated on this round by focus on only 2 annotations.  First, they highlighted their sentence if they felt like it was important information and next, they circled vocabulary if it was new or complex.  It was fun to see some students debating wether or not to highlight a sentence AND good that some students can recognize that some details are extraneous.  
(There is always 1 or 2 that highlight every sentence!!!)  

On the 2nd read, the students chorally read together with the paper situated in the center of the group.  Their next task was to extract evidence from the text regarding the main idea.  One group really blew me away when I saw that they were taking turns writing bulleted points.  I was thrilled because all students were participating.  Sometimes, the students pick the student with the BEST handwriting or the student that can get the work done the quickest.  Of course I made a HUGE deal of the way this group was working and the method quickly spread to all of the other groups! 
See some of their amazing GROUP work below!

I felt extremely successful in that all of my students of different levels were working together! 
How do you incorporate heterogenous grouping into your day?
How do you incorporate homogenous grouping into your day? 

If you would like to try this out with your class click on the 
Winter Sledding passage below for the freebie!  
Hop on over to "Teaching in the Fast Lane" to hear some excellent strategies 
about indoor recess ideas (when it is tooooo cold or rainy to go out with your kiddos!) 


  1. What an excellent way to mix up the groupings in your classroom! We get tons of snow but the kids still love reading and talking and writing about winter sports.

    The Math Maniac

  2. What a great idea to use winter sports to teach informational text and close reading! I know your students have had a blast with them! Thank you for the freebie!

  3. I just wanted to comment that I love how you formatted your close read. I just made a set for Arctic Animals, and I included lines down the margins. I think the box at the bottom looks sharp. I just love Close Reading, and my students are beginning to embrace it. It was tough at first because it was so much more work for them. However, I firmly believe that it will eliminate "word callers" by making them engage in the reading process. Thanks so much for the freebie. I am glad to be able to try it out and see how the kids respond. If you all hop again in the future, I'd love to join you.

  4. I really enjoyed reading your post. I think your idea of forming groups without their reading level in mind was such a great idea. When this is done, the students are able to offer so much more than they would be able to if they were formed homogeneously. If we form groups based on their reading level, the students will have the same struggles in the group. I feel like this is such a disservice to the students. Whereas, if we form our groups heterogeneously, we are able to observe what each student has to offer. Last year, during my formal observation, I formed my groups based on each student's strength rather than their reading level. Each member had a specific strength that supported their group tremendously. For example, in one group, I had one student who had wonderful handwriting, but was a striving reader. Another member of the group mastered the idea of thinking critically, but did not like to write. Although this cannot happen all the time, when we are able to, we need to form groups without the reading level in mind.

    Thank you for sharing and for the freebie!

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