Think about it….most of the time, your whole group instruction is usually your chance to expose students to grade level standards, strategies, or skills. When you have students who are below grade level, this exposure… although necessary… will pretty much go right over their heads. This in turn will require you to reteach the skill in small group. But meanwhile your whole group will probably include checks for understanding and guided practice…of which your struggling students would not be able to contribute…which effects their confidence…which effects their motivation…which perpetuates their struggle.
What if you used some of your small group lessons to expose your struggling students to upcoming standards, skills, and strategies. You would be building their background in that area- so to speak- which will cause a shift in their position when you introduce it to the class. They will be prepared to contribute during checks for understanding and guided practice with their peers. Imagine their motivation when they have the secret keys before their classmates!!
Motivation is a huge factor for accelerating learning…so try a little pre-instruction intervention…you may find it to be an effective way to bridge the gaps of struggling learners!!