How to Group Students for Special Education Services

Progress Monitoring Data and Assessments

When I begin thinking about my small groups, I like to first make a list of common things that I am working on with my students. For example, in the area of reading, I have students working on letter names and sounds, decoding CVC words, decoding blends and digraphs, decoding words that contain vowels, fluency practice, students who are fluent readers but struggle with comprehension, and students who struggle with sight words. Some of my students need help in more than one area mentioned above. 
I like to start grouping my students by folding a blank piece of paper into eight sections. Then, I start adding names to each column based on assessments that I have completed with my students. This can be assessments that you’ve done informally or based on progress monitoring. Either way, take a look at some fresh data or collect it now that you are ready to begin grouping your students. 

Take a Look at Benchmark Assessments

I also like to look at benchmark assessments to see how my students are performing. More than likely, your school requires your students to take some type of assessment at the beginning, middle, or end of the year. It could be MAP, Star Reading and Math, or mClass. Whatever you are required to use, take time to comb through their scores and reports. 
Often times, parent reports from these programs can be very valuable to you as well. Parent reports often give a handful of things that you can work on to help them move to the next level or improve their scores. These suggested skills might be the same or different than the eight skills listed in the first section of this blog post.

Develop a Rough Draft of Your Groups

Once you have had a chance to identify WHO needs WHAT types of activities in your small groups, you can begin to draft a rough outline of what students would fit well together based on their needs. 
I have sixteen students who are identified for special education services in third grade. Just because those students are all identified does not mean they all need the same things. They are all over the place in their needs. 
By taking a look at my students’ needs, I am able to start mixing them up and placing them in groups that are most appropriate for their present level.

Check the Schedule

It never fails, once I develop this beautifully laid plan for grouping my students, there are always kinks. I have one second grader who really fit perfectly with the needs of a low group of third graders. And what do you know…that group met during his special time. Laying out your groups in this way is nice, but there are still problems. There are still kinks that you have to work through. Check for issues with lunch times, recess, specials, other special education services, and whole group instruction that your students can’t afford to miss. 

Test it! 

After I’ve drafted a schedule and had my general education teachers take a look at it, I test it out for a week or so. I often tell my fellow teachers that it is a tentative schedule and that I may make adjustments once I dive in. 
So far, I’ve LOVED my new groups for this year. I feel like I’ve been able to teach my students more efficiently because they working in their sweet spot for learning!