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How to Differentiate with Tear-Out Groups

tear-out group strategies

Differentiation will look different in every classroom each year. Additionally, the strategy used for differentiated instruction may need to change as the year progresses because our students all learn at different rates. That is why it is important for teachers to have a variety of instructional strategies that can be used to meet the needs of all students. Making differentiation work with tear-out groups is a flexible way to meet the needs of students and avoids your students getting stuck in pre-set groups! 

What Are Tear-Out Groups?

During small group time, a tear-out group may change from day-to-day. For example, there may be 3-4 different groups in the classroom. These may include the teacher group, computer group, and one or two independent groups. While students work on various assignments or activities, the teacher will “tear-out” students to form a new group at his/her table.

The teacher will plan direct instruction or guided practice for the tear-out group that will address the specific learning needs of that group of children. Hence, this is not a flex group that may change by the unit of study. This is a constantly changing group. This is done to best meet current struggles or misunderstandings of students from one day to the next. Essentially, tear-out groups are an incredible way of helping the students who currently need it. 

teacher working with students

Ways to Form Tear-Out Groups

When planning differentiation in the classroom, there are different options to use when forming your tear-out groups.

Exit Tickets: Exit tickets are so popular in all classrooms! Students even have fun working on their get-out-the-door ticket. Therefore, using the results and feedback is a great way to form tear-out groups. For instance, students may solve a math problem or provide a quick rating for how well they understood the lesson. Then, the teacher can review and form groups for the following day. A good teacher friend of mine uses this strategy to plan for her differentiated math flex groups. It’s worked for her (and her students) for years!

Quick Checks: Any type of quick check is a strong way to form tear-out groups. For example, students may all put their heads down and then give a thumbs up or thumbs down. Or, there may be a short worksheet for understanding. It could even be a quick few questions on a Google Form with auto-grading! As above, the results can be used to form groups based on who needs extra help. 

Informal Assessments:  From assignments to conversations, there are endless informal assessments to help you form tear-out groups. Teachers can use their knowledge and know-how coupled with observations of student learning to determine who will benefit the most from being in the tear-out group. 

Quizzes/Formal Assessments: Typically, content builds on top of each other. Consequently, it is very important to ensure students know the content before moving on and becoming more confused. Therefore, using the data from quizzes and assessments will be a great way to build groups for further intervention.

What About the Rest of the Class?

While the teacher is working with the tear-out group, it will be essential to have learning activities ready for the rest of the class. Whether working in small groups or independently, students will need to be focused on the task at hand in order to ensure you, the teacher, can stay focused on the group needing more instruction or guided practice. 

Must-Do/May Do List: If students are missing any work, this will be on the must-do list. Furthermore, this list could be anything that students may be a bit behind on, such as morning work or journal prompts. Additionally, the May Do list can include extra options for students, such as games, review sheets, or extra practice.

Choice Board: Based on the content and grade, the choice board can have a variety of options. Since all students are different, it will be important to include a variety of options. For example, students may work on a book report or build a STEM project. 

Task Cards: Task cards are always a great way to address different skills. For instance, this 4th Grade Math Task Card Bundle is filled with a variety of math content, such as multiplication and equal expressions. Best of all, this bundle is 50% off

No matter what you select as options, the key is that students have to have work to do! Idle time is no good in the classroom. Before starting work with your tear-out group, make sure all students know exactly what they are working on and what is expected for behavior. By doing this, the teacher will have fewer interruptions from students having questions on what to do. 

Differentiation is so important in the classroom. However, it can be challenging to ensure every single student has assignments at his/her level. For that reason, it is so important to develop a technique that works for you and your classroom. Tear-out groups are a fantastic way to ensure students are receiving much-needed intervention!

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