The Nebraska Department of Education and the Iowa Department of Education (1994) describe grouping patterns at the primary level:
"In grouping for learning, teachers consider the needs of both individuals and the group. Teachers organize children into various grouping patterns--for example, whole class, large groups, small groups, triads, pairs, and/or children working individually.
Teachers choose a grouping strategy which is appropriate to the situation and facilitates optimum learning. The composition of groups affects not only how and what children learn, but also the way children feel about themselves and the way they relate to each other. Heterogeneous (mixed ability) grouping is the most effective way to maximize student success. Long-term, static ability grouping affects children negatively.
Although long-term ability grouping is not acceptable as a constant, grouping children for short periods of time to meet specific instructional needs is appropriate. This type of grouping provides for individualization in that it focuses instruction on the needs of each learner. Individualized instruction does not mean teaching the same lesson over and over again to each child in isolation; it means focusing on the learning needs of the individual, recognizing that more than one child may have similar needs at the same time.
Flexible grouping allows the teacher to instruct children on the basis of interests and learning needs. When children are grouped according to interests, not ability, the opportunities to learn from each other are maximized. Children need opportunities to learn cooperatively and to experience the value of collaboration. Ultimately, social interaction leads to better understanding and a consolidation of learning." (p. 30)