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    #174527 - 11/12/13 09:23 PM Cluster grouping?
    blackcat Offline
    Member

    Registered: 05/23/13
    Posts: 2154
    DD8 is in 3rd grade and in a "cluster group" with 3 other kids identified gifted via ability testing and achievement scores. There are 3 things that I have identified that happen w/ this cluster group. The cluster-grouping is district policy and happens in each grade at every school. But I'm not sure that this is what normally happens with a cluster group, or if this teacher is simply doing things poorly.

    1). They get 4th grade spelling words rather than 3rd
    2). The get to choose higher level books ("enriched" books) for free-reading time which look to be around 5th-6th grade level. Not sure if they have to report or write anything about the books. They do not meet with the teacher or talk about the books. There are no ability groups for reading. They still have to do the regular third grade reading curriculum and third grade level worksheets.
    3.) While the rest of the class is being lectured on regular math, the cluster group kids (at times) get to work on their "math enrichment packets". They do not get to talk to each other or ask the teacher questions. So today DD told me she couldn't figure out how to make her calculator work (the math is 5th or 6th grade level word problems with advanced computations needed). Plus there are a few terms in her packet that she does not understand or forgot like how to find an average--these have not been taught in the regular curriculum and I haven't been after-schooling her for math. The teacher marks questions wrong, gives the packet back, and tells the kids to keep working on it--does not help them.

    Does this seem odd? I can understand wanting kids to try to figure things out, but having a kid stare at something in endless confusion on their own when they have never learned the concepts, like how to find an average???

    When I heard DD was going to be put in the cluster group, I thought the kids would actually work together as a group and the teacher would instruct them on advanced level concepts, but this is not the case. I know it's better than nothing, but the kids are basically teaching themselves independently and that's what the "cluster group" is all about. Thoughts?

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    #174529 - 11/12/13 10:38 PM Re: Cluster grouping? [Re: blackcat]
    puffin Offline
    Member

    Registered: 12/11/12
    Posts: 2035
    Yes it sounds odd. If the cluster group were able to work together and discuss problems then ask the teacher to go over anything they couldn't work out between them that would be quite good but what you've described seems more punishment than anything else.

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    #174535 - 11/13/13 05:34 AM Re: Cluster grouping? [Re: blackcat]
    Loy58 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/11/13
    Posts: 816
    Blackcat, if they simply "cluster" them and then leave them entirely on their own, that certainly sounds like poor instruction. It is hard to imagine that decent teacher would even try to justify that arrangement. Hopefully, this is NOT the case. How many "groups" is the teacher instructing during this "clustering"? How does she instruct this "cluster"? How does she "instruct" them on their enrichment materials? Perhaps the teacher needs to consider these questions...hmmm (or maybe she can clarify).

    I do think working with multiple groups within a classroom is challenging (to say the least), but most schools have students with a range of abilities within a classroom. I think that, at the moment, my DD8's school is doing similar ability-grouping in reading within the classroom. (I actually hoping this is temporary. Although I do not love this arrangement for DD, she is currently going through the process for selection the school's G&T program, so I am trying to be patient until this is completed). DD says that the teacher spends time with each group (I believe there are 5!). For math, they change classes, and the classes are grouped and paced by ability (I think this actually works better from what I have observed - the group actually has its own teacher!).

    I sometimes dream of a self-contained magnet, though! wink

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    #174536 - 11/13/13 05:35 AM Re: Cluster grouping? [Re: blackcat]
    blackcat Offline
    Member

    Registered: 05/23/13
    Posts: 2154
    There is a girl in the cluster group who is getting over 99.9 percentile on the MAP-like testing because she has been extensively after-schooled. Her mom lent me her completed/returned enrichment packet #1 so I could see what they are doing. Even she got about half of the problems wrong at first. How she was able to go back and figure out the correct answers without help, I don't know. Or maybe the teacher was helping her but DD hasn't gotten help yet.
    One of the questions shows a table which shows there were 75 peppers picked and the total weight of items picked was 15 pounds. Question: what is the average weight of the peppers? How would a kid figure this out if they had not been introduced to mean/median/average, etc.?
    Another problem is
    "Five different varieties of flowers are growing in the garden: carnations, roses, mums, marigolds, and lilies. Peter and Juanita are responsible for picking flowers and arranging them in vases to sell. They use three different types of flowers in each vase. How many different combinations can be made from the five varieties of flowers?"
    If they could talk to each other and figure out a strategy for how to solve this (with teacher intervening if they can't get it), it would be fine, but the kids are just left to try to get it on their own. The teacher did write on the paper "There are more combinations than 6" when the kid got it wrong the first time. But DD got her enrichment pack back and says she still has no idea what to do on that problem. I haven't seen it because it doesn't come home until they get everything correct. She may be on packet #1 the entire year!

    I sent an email (with a return receipt since she never replied to the last email I sent) saying that I would be happy to come in and help the cluster group with math. We'll see if she replies.

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    #174537 - 11/13/13 05:40 AM Re: Cluster grouping? [Re: Loy58]
    blackcat Offline
    Member

    Registered: 05/23/13
    Posts: 2154
    Originally Posted By: Loy58
    Blackcat, if they simply "cluster" them and then leave them entirely on their own, that is simply poor instruction. Hopefully, this is NOT the case. How many "groups" is the teacher instructing during this "clustering"? How does she instruct this "cluster"? How does she "instruct" them on their enrichment materials? Perhaps the teacher needs to consider these questions...hmmm (or maybe she can clarify).

    I do think working with multiple groups within a classroom is challenging (to say the least), but most schools have students with a range of abilities within a classroom. I think that, at the moment, my DD8's school is doing similar ability-grouping in reading within the classroom. (I actually hoping this is temporary. Although I do not love this arrangement for DD, she is currently going through the process for selection the school's G&T program, so I am trying to be patient until this is completed). DD says that the teacher spends time with each group (I believe there are 5!). For math, they change classes, and the classes are grouped and paced by ability (I think this actually works better from what I have observed - the group actually has its own teacher!).

    I sometimes dream of a self-contained magnet, though! wink


    There is no ability grouping at all, even for reading. DD says the teacher never meets with her individually or in a small group. So for reading, she just chose the book "The One Eyed Cat" and read it on her own. The other girl in the group chose Harry Potter. But they never had to talk to the teacher or anyone else about the books. Now DD is onto the next book (not sure what she chose). The entire class has to do reading comprehension worksheets at a third grade level, and they all have third grade level reading textbooks. Not sure what else the reading curriculum entails.
    For math, there is no grouping either. When the teacher is lecturing on certain math topics, she tells the kids in the "enrichment group" to work on their packets on their own.

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    #174538 - 11/13/13 05:43 AM Re: Cluster grouping? [Re: blackcat]
    Sweetie Offline
    Member

    Registered: 06/05/11
    Posts: 669
    I think a teacher can effectively manage up to three groups (this is being said by a former teacher) depending on how much time you are given for the particular lesson. I have seen teachers who start with whole group instruction (over all topic), then the groups rotate through centers for the remaining time (one center being small group with teacher). I do think once you have 5 or more groups it is a little hard to deal with.
    _________________________
    ...reading is pleasure, not just something teachers make you do in school.~B. Cleary

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    #174540 - 11/13/13 05:55 AM Re: Cluster grouping? [Re: blackcat]
    Loy58 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/11/13
    Posts: 816
    OK, I think I perhaps misunderstood your original post. I am sorry if I did. You mentioned that your DD is in a "cluster group" with 3 other kids identified gifted by ability testing and achievement scores. So does this "cluster group" just all share some similar level materials for certain classes? Is it just for math? That is all I meant by ability grouping - so maybe we are talking about the same thing. DD's school has many, many 3rd graders, which I suppose makes whole-class ability grouping more possible. Are the students in your DD's school just grouped together all of the time? The grouping has little benefit if it completely lacks instruction. Surely the goal of the clustering is not for the identified kids to "figure things out on their own" (or is it??? That would certainly be a poor arrangement!).

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    #174542 - 11/13/13 06:04 AM Re: Cluster grouping? [Re: blackcat]
    blackcat Offline
    Member

    Registered: 05/23/13
    Posts: 2154
    They don't even sit with each other and they never meet as a group, for either reading or math. I was told at conferences a parent was coming in once a week to pull them out for math, but DD says this has never happened. So they are in an "ability-group" but only in terms of getting the same spelling words and the same enrichment packet for math. They read different books independently.

    Oh, I should also add that the kids in the cluster would move from grade to grade with each other and always be placed with the same teacher. There is a possibly that other kids would be added to the cluster if they are identified as gifted later on.

    I am really hoping that the district accepts DD's WISC scores and she can go to the gifted magnet. This cluster grouping sounds good on paper but in reality it seems rather ridiculous. I'm not sure what the point is of even putting them in the same class.

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    #174545 - 11/13/13 06:20 AM Re: Cluster grouping? [Re: blackcat]
    Loy58 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/11/13
    Posts: 816
    OK, so I'd start with the positive that your school has over some other schools - they are clearly recognizing that the students do not all learn at the same rate or in the same way. Also, I am impressed - we have no such gifted magnet!

    Still, it sounds like the "execution" is poor. The school is on the right track (I always like to start my requests for change with pointing out what they are doing right!), but grouping/"cluster" is worthless unless they follow it up with some differentiated instruction. I would definitely approach the school on how they "differentiate," perhaps armed with what might be excellent school policies on how gifted children should be instructed (check your school/district/central website or directory). Is this school following its own policy? wink

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    #174546 - 11/13/13 06:34 AM Re: Cluster grouping? [Re: blackcat]
    epoh Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/31/11
    Posts: 954
    Loc: N. Texas
    That's not "poor instruction" that NO INSTRUCTION. I would have a meeting w/this teacher, STAT. Just because your child is gifted doesn't mean they learn things via magic.
    _________________________
    ~amy

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