Typically there is a significant range of ability in the majority of middle and upper primary classrooms.
Some students will present with junior primary skills, while others will be above their age-related peers. Catering for this wide range in ability is central to the PLD process, however, many teachers find it challenging to meet recommendation of three targeted groups only.

CAN THREE GROUPS WORK WITH A WIDE RANGE?
Absolutely!
We can always find a way to group students into three targeted groups. Rather then a narrow focus, widening the parameters of each group can assist.
Students who participate in intervention and focus support groups (i.e. Tier 3 students) may not fit with your whole class grouping.

HOW DO I GROUP STUDENTS WHEN I HAVE SUCH A LARGE RANGE OF ABILITY?
It is important to remember that students are constantly being exposed to, and are learning above their level/stage, as well as revising down the previous levels, while the teacher reads and sounds-out each of the phonic-based word lists to the whole class. Yes, students have their own allocated stage/lists, but they should be absorbing learning beyond that allocated level.

You may need to combine groups and use split lists. See example below of two grouping options for the same group of Year 3 students:

6 Groups Vs 3 Groups
WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT I ONLY HAVE THREE GROUPS?
Most importantly, three groups makes explicit teaching of phonic concepts, a manageable process. Additionally, three groups helps:

classroom teachers to cope with different ability groups within their class, without streaming, cross setting etc.

maintain PLD's core message is that ALL primary school teachers should never be delivering one level of instruction. Whether it is an Early Years or Year 6 class, all classrooms teachers should be delivering differentiation. From PLD's perspective, 3 levels of differentiation are likely realistic.

effective dictation delivery. Athough some teachers can manage the teaching and delivery of spelling tasks to 4 - 6 lists, rarely will these teachers be able to deliver 4 - 6 phonic dictation passages within the 30 minute SSP session.
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