What Are You Grouping For?, Grades 3-8
How to Guide Small Groups Based on Readers - Not the Book
- Julie Wright - Consultant
- Barry Hoonan - Bainbridge Island School District
Foreword by Mary Howard
Literacy, K-12 | Reading (Middle/High School) | Reading (Primary/Elementary)
Bring out daring readers with dynamic small groups!
Like many educators in intermediate classrooms across the country, you may be using guided reading principles to teach reading. Whether you’re following targeted reading levels or sticking with your school’s established routines, chances are that guided reading has become synonymous with small group reading for you and your students. But . . . are your students getting the most out of small groups? Are readers of all ability levels experiencing the dynamic learning that can occur in small groups? Do you feel confident that the way you’re grouping kids is based on their wants and needs?
Intermediate grade readers don’t need to be guided as much as they need to be engaged—and authors Julie Wright and Barry Hoonan have solutions for doing just that using small groups. What Are You Grouping For? offers the practical tools, classroom examples, and actionable steps essential for starting, sustaining, and mastering the management of small groups. This book explains the five teacher moves that work together to support students’ reading independence through small group learning—kidwatching, pivoting, assessing, curating, and planning—and provides examples to guide you and your students toward success.
From must-have beginning-of-the-year strategies to step-by-step advice for implementation, this guide breaks down the processes that support small groups and help create effective instructional reading programs. Based on more than 45 years of combined experience in the classroom, this resource will empower you with tools to ensure that your readers are doing the reading, thinking, and doing—not you.
“A few years back, after visiting Barry Hoonan’s classroom and experiencing his teaching and his students’ learning, I looked squarely into his reflective eyes and said, ‘Please write a book about what I just saw.’ Educators, welcome to Barry and Julie’s classrooms. Their most important thinking and learning has been poured into this book for us, the virtual visitors to their rooms. They invite us into their joy-filled classrooms, engaging us as their colleagues. We learn alongside them by listening in to their conversations with their students, and kidwatch by joining in their thinking and discovering students’ next steps. We lean into their questions and inquiry as the authors share their reverence for teaching, respect of all students, and above all, how we are doing this together because ‘exquisite things that happen when we are inquisitive together.’”
“ This book is a fresh reminder that the best teaching is responsive—that kids are much more likely to flourish when they have a teacher whose primary focus is on teaching students rather than on teaching stuff. Julie Wright and Barry Hoonan effectively argue that the one of the best ways to be responsive to your students is through small-group learning experiences, and the five teacher moves they outline in this book—kidwatching, pivoting, assessing, curating, and planning—are moves that should be woven through all K–12 classrooms. I highly recommend this book.”
“ In this nimble and invigorating profile of small group settings, Julie Wright and Barry Hoonan offer practical tools and actionable steps that lift small group instruction from a static focus on reading levels to one of setting learning in motion. They outline five critical teacher moves—kidwatching, pivoting, assessing, curating, and planning—that work together to help teachers take a flexible stance while elevating learner responsibility.”
“ The authors reframe, redefine, and refresh the notion of small group reading instruction. In doing so, they remind us that small group instruction is not only for our ‘struggling’ students, but rather that it’s about leaning in and meeting all students where they are so that we can move them forward. This gem of a book includes strategies for engaging students as readers, encouraging voluminous reading, and finding joy in our reading instruction. It’s a must-read for any elementary teacher of reading.”
“ Wherever I go, teachers ask me about small group instruction and how to do it. At last, there is book with systems and structures that make small group instruction manageable and meaningful. Julie Wright and Barry Hoonan provide lots of examples to show how to honor and meet the individual needs of students.”
“ These teaching moves are just what I needed to refine my flexibility and problem-solving sophistication in small group instruction. The strategies and examples read as the encouraging voices of the authors over my shoulder, grounded in powerful beliefs, inspiring me to open up my classroom practices in the quest for empowering and joyful student-centered learning. With specific, easily implementable steps to bridge the gap between the formula of best practices in differentiation and the heart and soul of giving each student what they need today for powerful learning, this book is an essential handbook for new and experienced teachers.”
“ For anyone who is looking to lift small group instruction to make it more meaningful, efficient, and joyful, this book is for you. Whether you are someone who is just embarking on utilizing small groups or are looking to breathe new life into this structure, the authors hold your hand and walk you through innovative, practical, and student-centered approaches to reading instruction. Because of this book, there is no longer just one way to hold a guided reading group or a coach book club. The roles a teacher can assume are now dynamic and flexible within small groups and the authors show us how to customize instruction with confidence and insight, adjusting for the readers in front of us. This book is the next generation of small group instruction.”
“ Julie Wright and Barry Hoonan’s insistence on JOY at the heart of every instructional decision ensures that a teacher’s focus is not on the structure, but on each child—what they know, what they can do, and what they need next to grow—which is as it should be. One of my favorite lines is, ‘Students’ curiosity and interests are more trustworthy and energizing drivers of grouping decisions than anything else.’ What Are You Grouping For? will energize YOU as you plan worthy work for your students and focus on compelling reasons for them to read, write, and talk. Trust Julie and Barry when they say in the first pages, ‘Together, we’ll figure it out.’ Thanks, Julie and Barry, for being our wing-people. Kids need us to work together and model courageous risk taking in our classrooms. Together is the best way forward.”
“ It’s pretty rare these days to find a book that fills both our minds and our pockets. But Julie Wright and Barry Hoonan’s What Are You Grouping For? does just that. It meets us exactly where we are as teachers, with all our questions and concerns, about time and organization and materials and strategies, and helps us not only understand what’s possible, but how to enact it too. This is the book to keep in our laps as we teach. Thank you, Barry and Julie!”
“ Barry and Julie have produced a must-read book for teachers of reading. This work is a practical guide to the use of small group instruction as a means of improving reading skills. These two master teachers provide clear, focused techniques from their own practice while making a case for ‘less is more’ relative to taking on too many initiatives in schools. This is thoughtful and provocative.”