Child's face  MyRead: strategies for reaching reading in the middle years
explicit teaching
monitoring and assessment
classroom organisation
professional development
further readings


Classroom Organisation


Working in small groups

Group Size

Cooperative Learning Strategies

Learning Role Cards

Role of parents/carers in the classroom

Working in small groups

Small group work is one way of ensuring active participation of students. Group work may challenge many teachers as control of classroom knowledge and organisation is passed to the students.

Group work enables students to move more readily from receiving knowledge to generating knowledge. Through talk students are able to personalise this knowledge and scaffold their thinking processes and understandings.

It is important to change student groupings frequently. Many teachers group students according to interests and skills to be developed. Mixed ability grouping of students is also valuable in supporting the participation of underperforming students. Scaffolding of participation through, eg oral language activities and the use of graphic organisers, will facilitate equal participation of all students.

Group Size

The MyRead guides are intended for one or all of the following:

  • the regular whole class
  • independent small group work
  • teacher-guided small groups

When using small groups, four is the optimum size to manage student learning. It allows for a good range of experience and individual contributions.

Where students are organised into small groups, the groups may operate in the regular classroom or in another room. When a group is withdrawn from a regular classroom issues of transition are very important.

Underperforming students are often identified for ‘pull out’ in intensive needs based groups where their learning needs are targeted. If the pedagogy in this group is significantly different from the pedagogy operating in the regular class, then the transfer of the skills once the student returns to the regular class is minimised and the learning may not be retained. All of the gains made in the small group may be lost. There can be no vaccination against underperformance through such an approach.

The learning support teacher must work closely with the classroom teacher to ensure they have a common approach and transition issues are minimised. Communication between the two teachers is critical so that links to the regular class are made frequently.

Cooperative Learning Strategies

Cooperative learning strategies acknowledge recognition of difference as many students who do not ‘fit’ the middle class model of the student that schools and curriculum were designed for are supported to participate more effectively.

Working in small groups using cooperative learning strategies supports underperforming students to:

  • think aloud, take risks, and develop deeper understandings and higher order thinking
  • become more self confident as learners
  • develop oral language skills as student input into activities is valued
  • improve their relationships with other students and with their teachers
  • scaffold their learning through talk and the use of cognitive and graphic organisers

There are many publications which include a range of cooperative learning strategies (see references). A selection of strategies which have been referred to by writers in the MyRead guides are included here.

Think Pair Share

Placemat and Round Robin


Numbered Heads


Graphic Organisers

Effective Listening

Think Pair Share

Think Pair Share is a cognitive rehearsal structure that can be used to help students:

  • recall events
  • make a summary
  • stimulate thinking
  • share responses, feelings and ideas

Think Pair Share

The teacher sets a problem or asks for a response to the reading.

The students think alone for a specified time.

The students form pairs to discuss the problem or give responses.

Some responses may be shared with the class.

Explicit discussion about the rights and responsibilities of speakers and listeners helps to clarify the shared understandings of the partner discussions. To help the students establish effective speaking and listening skills, teachers model and refer to behaviours that are expected when people speak and listen to each other.

Teachers monitor the children’s interactions and draw attention to successful discussions so that students understand exactly what they need to do.

Placemat and Round Robin

This activity is designed to allow for each individual’s thinking, perspective and voice to be heard, recognised and explored.

  1. Form participants into groups of four.
  2. Allocate one piece of A3 or butcher’s paper to each group.
  3. Ask each group to draw the diagram on the paper.


  4. The outer spaces are for each participant to write their thoughts about the topic.
  5. Conduct a Round Robin so that each participant can share their views.
  6. The circle in the middle of the paper is to note down (by the nominated scribe) the common points made by each participant.
  7. Each group then reports the common points to the whole group.

Round Robin

Students give their opinions verbally around the circle or group. All members contribute equally.


This activity is characterised by participants within a cooperative group each becoming expert on different aspects of one topic of study.

  1. Before presenting and teaching to the cooperative group, students form Expert Groups, comprised of individuals from different cooperative groups who have the same assigned topic.
  2. Together, expert partners study their topic and plan effective ways to teach important information when they return to their cooperative groups.
  3. One way of teaching is for the expert group to display their information on paper.
  4. Participants return to their cooperative groups and then take their cooperative group on a Gallery Tour (walk around the room) to each display.
  5. Or participants can return to their cooperative groups and teach all members of their group as they are now the experts.

Expert & cooperative groups

Numbered Heads

Students are numbered off by the teacher, eg 1-6 or three or four or more different types of card are handed around the room and students are grouped according to the colour of the card. This is useful for organising cooperative strategies such as jigsaws.


A PMI (Plus, Minus, Intriguing) is used for affective processing to talk about the pluses, minuses and intriguing points felt about a lesson, concept or issue.

What I liked
Pluses (+)


What I didn’t like
Minuses (-)


What I thought was intriguing
Questions or thoughts


Graphic Organisers

Concept Webs

Concept webs encourage learners to visually record their learning through an exploration of issues or topic. The process establishes connections and helps the learner organise ideas and understand relationships between different concepts, problems and ideas.

The centre circle contains the main concept, problem or topic. Linking ideas or solutions are recorded in the outer circles through the use of key words. Lines may be added to link the connecting circles to each other as well as to the central circle. Images and colours may also be used to enhance the concept map.

concept web

T Charts

T Charts are used to examine a particular problem or issue.

T Chart (cause and effect)

Cause Effect


T Chart (problem/solution)

Problem Solution

T Charts and Effective Listening

To explore effective listening skills, ask students to complete a T Chart in table form. The charts may be displayed and used as a reference point during classroom activities.

T Chart

Y Charts

Y Charts are an extension of T Charts.


Venn Diagram (comparison)

Venn diagrams support students to identify similarities and differences between ideas, concepts or problems. The similarities are recorded in the intersection of the two circles. The differences are recorded in the outer sections of the two circles.

venn diagram

Learning Role Cards

For successful small group work:

  • organise students into groups of four to ensure participation
  • deal out Role Cards for effective role demarcation through assigned roles
  • each student is dealt a Functional Role card and a Learning Role card
  • the Learning Role cards are used to scaffold the discussion
  • note that every group member must take on the role of Encourager
  • explicit teaching and modelling of roles are important

These role cards are also available in printable Microsoft Word fomat.

Functional Role Cards



writes and reports group ideas;
is not a gatekeeper

Record all ideas

Don’t block

Seek clarification





locates, collects and distributes resources including informational resources like web pages and encyclopaedia entries

Get all the materials for the entire group

Collect worksheets from the teacher

Sharpen pencils

Tidy up

*Allowed to leave your place without teacher permission



reads instructions and directs participation

Read the instructions

Call for speakers

Take turns

Call for votes

Count votes

State agreed position



summarises findings and trades ideas with other groups

Check up on other groups

Trade ideas with other groups

Summarise findings


*Allowed to leave your place when directed by the teacher

Learning Role Cards (Based on the Four Roles/Resources of the Reader)



How do I crack this code?

  • What words are interesting, difficult or tricky? How did you work them out?
  • What words have unusual spelling?
  • What words have the same sound or letter pattern or number of syllables?
  • What words have the same base word or prefix or suffix?
  • What words mean the same (synonyms)?
  • What smaller word can you find in this word to help you work it out?
  • What words are tricky to pronounce?
  • How is this word used in this context?
  • What different reading strategies did you use to decode this text?
  • Are the pictures close ups, mid or long shots?
  • Are the pictures high angle or low angle?
  • Were there any word pictures, eg similes and metaphors? How did you work them out?



What do I do with this text?

  • What sort of text is this? (information, story/narrative) How do you know?
  • Is it fact or opinion? How do you know?
  • How can you find information in this text?
  • How did the author start this text? Did it suit its purpose?
  • Who would read a text like this? Why?
  • If you wrote a text like this what words and phrases would you use?
  • How is the language the same/ different from other similar texts you have read?
  • Could the text help solve a real life problem?
  • If you were going to put this text on a web page, how would it be different to the print version?
  • What is the purpose of this text?
  • Could you use these ideas in a poem, story, play, advertisement, report, brochure or poster?
  • How would the language and structure change?




What does this text mean to me?

What does this text mean to me?

  • Does the text remind you of something that has happened to you or to someone else you know?
  • What does the title/cover suggest that the text is about?
  • What might happen next? What words or phrases give you this idea?
  • What are the characters thinking and feeling? How do you know?
  • What message is the author presenting?
  • What are the main ideas presented?
  • What do the pictures (graphs, diagrams, tables, captions, illustrations) tell us?
  • Do they fit in with the text and do they provide more information?
  • What did you feel as you read this part?
  • Describe or draw a picture of a character, event or scene from the text.




What does this text do to me?

  • Is the text fair?
  • What would the text be like if the main characters were girls rather than boys and vice versa? Consider different race and cultural backgrounds too.
  • How would the text be different if told from another point of view?
  • How would the text be different if told in another time or place, eg 1900 or 2100?
  • Why do you think the author chose this title?
  • Think about why the author chose particular words and phrases.
  • Are there stereotypes in the text?
  • Who does the text favour or represent?
  • Who does the text reject or silence?
  • How does this text claim authority? (consider language, structure and content)
  • Who is allowed to speak? Who is quoted?


Role of parents/carers in the classroom

It is important for schools to foster a culture of two-way communication with their communities which recognises the needs and abilities of all members of their communities as resources. Effective parent partnerships are built through seeking input about what is important regarding their child’s learning, listening to their concerns, inviting feedback about classroom activities and where appropriate eliciting their active support both in school and at home.

Traditionally some parents/carers provide classroom support to the school as reading tutors. Teachers now acknowledge that when parental/carer help in the classroom is available, it is important that underperforming students are supported by the classroom teacher, the person who is most skilled to address their learning needs.

When schools involve parents/carers in the reading program teachers should ensure that texts are within the Zone of Actual Development (ZAD) of students or at their recreational rather than instructional level. Parents/carers can then concentrate on engaging students in the text and making reading fun by focusing on, eg the Text Participant role. When texts are within the ZAD, laboured ‘sounding out’ strategies may be avoided. The parents and the students will have more positive perceptions of the reading experience.


Bellanca J. & Fogarty R. (1994). Blueprints for Thinking in the Cooperative Classroom. Australia: Hawker Brownlow Education.

Bennett B., Rolheiser C. & Stevahn L. (1991). Where Heart Meets Mind. Toronto, Ontario. Canada: Educational Connections.

Education Department of Western Australia. (1997) First Steps Oral Language Resource Book. Melbourne: Rigby Heinemann.

Hill, S. & Hill, T. (1990). The Collaborative Classroom: A Guide to Cooperative Learning. South Yarra, Victoria: Eleanor Curtain.

Hill, S. & Eckert, P. (1995). Leading Communities of Learners. Adelaide: Management and Research Centre.

Reid, J. (2002). Managing small group Learning. Newtown, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association (PETA).

Shopen, G. & Liddicoat, A. with Fitzgerald, R. (1999). Meeting the Challenge: Supporting partnerships between home and school in the middle years. ACT Department of Education & Community Services.

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