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Whole group instruction anyone?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

I was just curious if anyone else has a child in a school that uses whole group instruction. In other words, they don't do any ability grouping. The class moves through the curriculum as a whole group.

 

When I first heard about it, I was very skeptical. My first thought was, how do they meet the needs of the kids who are above or below grade level. I liked everything else about the school and it was a lottery to get in so we accepted the spot and figured we would try it out and see how it goes. I was assured that no one had ever complained that school was too easy.  

 

My son is in 1st grade now (so we're still wet behind the ears when it comes to school) and so far I really like it. The kids are pretty much oblivious to the academic capabilities of their friends which I like. It seems to minimize competition between students. The curriculum moves pretty quickly and so far my son has not seemed bored in school despite the fact some of the material is pretty easy for him. If a child falls behind or is out of school for an extended period they receive 1:1 tutoring until they are caught up to the class. Usually within a few days. It just seems like the school as a whole expects each and every child to meet or exceed the expectations for their grade level and that they have a plan to make that happen.

 

So does anyone else have any experience with this model? Any thoughts? 

post #2 of 12

It's also called direct instruction.  When used appropriately, as a one of many tools, it can be a great means of instruction.  As a former elementary teacher, I used direct instruction for short periods of time (5-10 minutes), in conjunction with guided practice and small group instruction followed afterwards.     

 

BUT, as a mother of a struggling 3rd grade boy, whose teacher's main mode of instruction is ONLY direct instruction... this mode of instruction has been hell for both of us.  His lessons consist of a 20-25 minutes of direct instruction followed by 5-10 workbook pages, which he can never complete and then gets held in at recess (or miss his media time) to finish them.  There NO guided practice, NO small groups. 

 

Every child is different and to expect all of them to learn the same way is both naive and bad practice.  Unfortunately, with class sizes growing and resources being severely limited, I'm afraid this is going to become more commonplace and, in some schools, mandated.  It's one of the reasons why I resigned from my teaching position this year.  Now, I just have help my son survive this horrific system. 

post #3 of 12
Our school uses a mix. Some subjects, like science and history, are taught that way.

Other subjects, like math and foreign language, are grouped by ability.

Younger students still learning to read and write are grouped by ability, but older students who have the basic skills down have a wide variety of classes in those subjects to choose from -- they can chose to improve in those subjects by taking Science Fiction, or Classics, or Poetry for example. Those classes are group instruction, which works quite well.

Some students at our school who are either very far ahead in a subject, extremely challenged in a subject, or interested in a topic no one else is, do the subject one on one with a teacher. (Which is a truly wonderful option for some students.) It isn't a social issue at our school because so many students have at least one subject that meet a teacher for.

I think that group instruction is great, but I don't think it meets all students needs all the time.
post #4 of 12

My kids were involved in waldorf and this was the model for instruction.  It was terrible.  Kids who were able to move faster, couldn't, and kids who needed more time didn't get it.  I think if it is used to introduce concepts, and then kids are appropriately instructed with regard to their ability level, it can be OK.  In public school my kids have a mix of direct instruction and then ability groupings to either reinforce concepts or move ahead, as needed.

post #5 of 12

having volunteered a lot at dd's K classroom which had a variety of abilities, i am not sure how that could ever work successfully. a little behind or ahead is possible. but if the divide is huge i can't possibly see how it works. 

 

no the teachers can't do it where i am. for instance in the classroom were kids who only knew the first 5 alphabets and others whose readingly level was at 2nd or 3rd grade. 

 

the behind kids did a lot of tutoring but it didn't mean they were caught up. 

 

 

post #6 of 12


 

I haven't replied because I don't have any experience to relate. I hoped someone would explain more about how this method works with students who are above or below grade level. It sounds like it doesn't work well for students who are struggling. I'm wondering about students who are far above grade level.

 

Are these schools more likely to allow subject or full grade acceleration instead of differentiating in the classroom? I can see that would have advantages. 

 

 

 

 

 

 
post #7 of 12

I'm curious about this model too. In particular I'm curious why the school would be so popular as to be subject to a lottery. Since it's a "school of choice" I suppose there would be a fair amount of self-selection for high-average kids who learn well in a traditional top-down large-group learning situation. Like ollyoxenfree I wonder how they would deal with kids like mine who are way ahead of grade level and are intuitive low-repetition learners in some areas, yet closer to grade level in others. I honestly see strict grade-levelling as one of the great ills of the school system, and am thankful that our public school takes a diametrically opposite approach with multi-grade classrooms and tons of self-pacing. 

 

Miranda

post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hmmm...it seems like the effectiveness depends on how it is implemented. I suppose that is true with any model of education. I am just surprised how well it seems to work and how much I am finding that I like it.

 

There is no particular accomodation made for kids who are above grade level. I suppose it probably wouldn't be a good fit for a truly gifted child in all areas. However, there are lots of kids above grade level in one area or another and they just learn what everyone else is learning. As I type this I am reminded of how crazy that sounds, but it is effective. The goal is to make sure that every child meets grade level expectations in every area. Not to make indivdualized accomodations for every child.  I don't know of anyone complaing that their kids are bored and need to be challenged more. It seems like the curriculum moves pretty fast so there is always something new to be learned. I'm not an educator, but from my point of view it seems to be working.

 

If a child is struggling or falling behind, the issue is addressed as soon as it is recognized. Parents are contacted and the child is given one on one instruction until they are caught up to the class. I think this works really well. There is no "waiting to see" before trying to address the problem.  Talking to other parents, it seem like pretty much every kid will be pulled out for this type or tutoring at some point.

Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post

I'm curious about this model too. In particular I'm curious why the school would be so popular as to be subject to a lottery. Since it's a "school of choice" I suppose there would be a fair amount of self-selection for high-average kids who learn well in a traditional top-down large-group learning situation. Like ollyoxenfree I wonder how they would deal with kids like mine who are way ahead of grade level and are intuitive low-repetition learners in some areas, yet closer to grade level in others. I honestly see strict grade-levelling as one of the great ills of the school system, and am thankful that our public school takes a diametrically opposite approach with multi-grade classrooms and tons of self-pacing. 

 

Miranda


Miranda - the school is the top elementary school in our state. Aside from the phenomenal test scores, it has a long history (nearly 40 years and long before NCLB) of academic excellence. It has always had a long waiting list. Typically they have about 25 spots available for kindergarten and about 350 applicants. To be honest I went into the information session wanting to not like this school, but by the end they had me sold. I'm not the competitive type and it seemed to me that this type of environment would be a breeding ground for competitive parents. In reality, the opposite is actually true. The parents are way less competitive than my son's play-based preschool. The school has high academic expectations, but they also spend more time in specials (art, music and PE) and have more recess time than many of the other schools I looked at.  They also offer tons of enrichment activities throughout the year and the kids just seemed happy to be in school.  In theory, I like the idea of multi-grade classrooms, but around here I really wasn't able to find anything like that to even consider.  At least not in the public sector. 

post #9 of 12

NZJmom is there an entrance exam to sign up for lottery? how do they kinda get such even kids?

 

i cant imagine any of the behind kids being able to 'catch up' and then rejoin the class.

 

in dd's present school this is possible (where there are no really behind kids or really ahead kids and even if there were they left the school after first or second and came back a couple of years later) only because the school has an entrance exam before they do the lottery. 

post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by meemee View Post

NZJmom is there an entrance exam to sign up for lottery? how do they kinda get such even kids?

 

i cant imagine any of the behind kids being able to 'catch up' and then rejoin the class.

 

in dd's present school this is possible (where there are no really behind kids or really ahead kids and even if there were they left the school after first or second and came back a couple of years later) only because the school has an entrance exam before they do the lottery. 



No, there is no entrance exam.  Most students start with the basics in kindergarten and move up together from there. I think the difference in abilities sort of evens out over time. Perhaps some choose not to attend because they don't feel it is a good match for their child. But legally, they can't turn anyone away from the lottery.

 

I think the trick for the behind kiddos is to catch the problem before it becomes a real issue and they are so far behind that they can't get caught up. If a child is out of school for a week because they are sick, they will receive this type of 1:1 to get caught up. One of DS's best friends got about two weeks of help at the beginning of kindy to help him with letter sounds and hasn't needed any help since. IDK really, but it seems to work.

post #11 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by NZJMama View Post

I think the difference in abilities sort of evens out over time. 


I think you'd expect that when the kids are been taught identically. There would be a strong homogenizing effect.

 

What you describe makes me think a little of our French immersion schools here in Canada. While there's no pre-screening, there is a self-selection bias for kids who are a little brighter than average and who are felt to be keen on school-like challenge. There's an assumption that the additional challenge of second-language learning will be enough to satisfy gifted children (though it really works best for the high achievers). There's little differentiation compared to English schools. And, most troublingly, there's a fair bit of attrition between 2nd and 4th grades. Kids who are not keeping up with the class, who are having reading difficulties, who are not "catching on" or "catching up" with extra help, or who have attentional and behavioural issues that create management problems in the classroom, are quietly redirected into regular non-immersion schools. It's not always evident within the school culture, because the kids just disappear at the end of a school year not to return the next, but from hanging out on parenting message boards in Canada I know it happens a lot.

 

Miranda

post #12 of 12

My kids' school uses direct instruction. The only grouping I'm aware of in Elementary school is the English speakers program. Once they start learning English in 3rd grade, there is English for English speakers, and English for Israelis. Within the English speaker class it is individualized instruction. So far it seems to be working well for my kids.

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