Divide and Conquer

 After my post yesterday on Struggling Readers I had several emails asking me to give more information on how we were able to divide and conquer. As I said yesterday we made a list of all of our students who needed help. This list mostly came from our mid-year benchmark results. But there were a few students who had done fine on the benchmarks, but that we still had concerns about. With seven teachers and our students particular needs last year we split our kids among each teacher.

Teacher 1: fluency
Teacher 2: fluency
Teacher 3: decoding, nonsense words
Teacher 4: decoding, nonsense words
Teacher 5: comprehension
Teacher 6: comprehension
Teacher 7: math- review of key concepts and reteach of new concepts.

Some students struggled in more than one area so the teacher chose the area that they felt they needed the most help with. Each group had four or five students. We tried hard NOT to have our own homeroom students. This was for two reasons: 1) sometimes hearing it from someone else makes "it" click, (2) so that you have another teacher's opinion and you can tell parents in a conference that you aren't the only teacher seeing certain behaviors.

We met with our groups for twenty minutes Monday through Thursday during our "enrichment" time. (We are the tigers so we called this Tiger Time) Tiger Time is about 40 minutes long. We used the second half of Tiger Time to meet with other students in our class who needed small group instruction or one-on-one help with math, reading, etc. We used our Tiger Time on Fridays to progress monitor any students who was attending a group for small group instruction during our  Tiger Time.

Each week during our team meeting we discussed briefly each student that we had in our groups. We added this to our team notes so from January on we had information about all the students we had concerns on. Great documentation! As a team we discussed what we planned to do with our students in our Tiger Groups the next week. If a students was extremely successful for a couple of weeks we would decide as a team whether or not they needed to continue to go to Tiger Groups. Sometimes we would add a student to a group based on things we had seen in class.

So what were my other students doing during Tiger Time?
Students can finish anything they haven't completed, they may read, they may write in their journals, they can do a partner game or puzzle as long as they aren't disruptive. Most students choose to read or write in their journals. Many students choose this time to add detail to the pictures in their journals too.

Small Groups and Work Stations
During our reading time we have work stations. I do work stations four days a week because we have computer lab and library one day so that takes a significant chunk of our time. I split my students into four groups. At the beginning of the year I had one high group, one on-level group, and two below level groups. Each group has two stations to go to each day. Stations are fifteen minutes each. I meet with two groups each day. I meet with my low group or groups the first day of stations. I usually re-teach the letter/spelling pattern/reading skill for that week. With this system I am sure to meet with each group twice during the week. I can meet with any of my groups again during Tiger Time. Most weeks I was able to meet with my below level group at least four times.

Although this sounds like a lot of work it wasn't too bad. Remember I was only coming up with activities for the kids that met with me during Tiger Groups. It was the only way were able to meet RTI requirements and get plenty of documentation. Our final reading results were all but a handful of students on or above grade level and only one student unable to meet math requirements. We have already decided to do this again in the new school year.


  1. GREAT post! Thank you for sharing. We do something similar, but this is awesome. I am definitely going to talk to my team about it!!
    Live Love Laugh Everyday In Kindergarten

  2. I love this idea! I am forwarding it to my reading coach right now. We were just trying to brainstorm intervention strategies for next year, since we will not have any interventionists to help us.

    Thank YOU!!!!

    Faithful in First

  3. You are marvelous – with such enthusiasm for teaching, and first grade! Congratulations!

    I’m retired now but taught for many years. I taught all early childhood classes but my favorite were combined first and second grades. So I taught beginning readers for many years. Below are some blogs I’ve written about beginning readers: