Sunday, March 20

Building Strategy Groups - Keeping it Simple

For many years I have bought into the idea of strategy groups, yet have struggled with the planning. I've tried sticky notes, notes in composition notebooks, class grids and who knows what else, in my efforts to capture all the thoughts I have about students as I'm looking over their work.

But then I had my instructional thoughts all over the place and it was more challenging to plan and follow through. Having it on one document has really helped!

About two or three years ago, as I was going through student writing and my head was filling with potential teaching points (and celebrations) for each writing piece I read, I started building what would ultimately become this:
Growing Firsties

Here's one for math that I've kept going for three units so I could track progress. I used different colored pens for each unit. When someone is crossed off, they've showed mastery of the skill. When someone is circled, they're circled in the more recent color to show that they still need practice.
Growing Firsties do I do it?

I start with students - sometimes their paperwork, other times I'm adding student names/numbers and teaching points as I confer, observe or work in small groups.

I keep the form (yes, of course, you'll be able to download it as a freebie) on a clipboard with a different clipboard for each content area - Math, Reading, Writing.

These clipboards are super cute! They are made of paperboard, not plastic, so make sure you don't set them down in something wet. Not a bad price for a 6 pack of cuteness! Other patterns, like damask, are available, too.
(Affiliate Link)

If you prefer plastic clipboards, these neon ones might do the trick for you!
(Affiliate Link)
I store my clipboards tubs from the dollar tub per content area. Here's a picture of my Math & Writing tubs on one of my counters. Ironically, neither clipboard is in their rightful tub...they were in my bag to take home for planning. Typically, they're stored right in the front of each tub for easy access.
Where do my teaching points come from?

I get these from my district curriculum (we are a Teachers College Reading & Writing Workshop district for Literacy and we use Everyday Math). I also get them from what I know about working with first graders. Teacher discretion counts, right?

What do I do with students that fit in most (or all) strategy groups?
Sift and winnow...since these students need their independent work time, too, I pick the one or two teaching points that are most important and where mastery would make the most impact onto other areas.

In my math sample above, the most important teaching points priority-wise are the two on the left..Find Rules/Extend Patterns with +/- 2s, 5s, 10s & Before/After between 1-100. Lower priorities are counting mixed coins and telling time to the hour and half hour.

How often do I meet with strategy groups?
As often as possible! Each day, I plan to meet with two groups in reading, writing and math each day, with individual conferring in reading and writing in between each group. In math, I aim for three, but usually get to two.

If you'd like to download the freebie file, click {right here} or on the picture below.

I would LOVE to know what you think! Is this helpful? 

What do you use to build your strategy groups?


  1. I love this system, Lisa! Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. I will keep visiting to see more interesting posts.


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