How To Make Small Group Instruction Work In Your Classroom

I love small group instruction! It can be so rewarding OR so much work…maybe even both. But it doesn’t have to be hard. Can you answer these 5 questions when planning for your small groups? Check it out and see…

Where Will You Meet?

When planning your small group instruction you need to think about where you will meet. Will you meet at a table? How about on the floor? Where will your small group supplies live?

I prefer to meet at a table to the side or back of the room. It’s important to place my teacher chair to the back of the wall so that I can see the rest of my class when I meet with my small group. I place my kids in color groups and put each group’s materials in the same color folder. Then I have a shelf behind me where I keep the books, folders, flashcards and writing materials.

You could also do the same thing even if you prefer to meet at the carpet. Make sure you can see the entire class and pick a convenient spot to put student materials.

My biggest tip is to pick a place where you can minimize distraction!

How Will You Plan Your Groups?

Think about how to best arrange your small groups. Do you want groups that focus on the same skill or do you want mixed ability groups? Either way you will first need to test them. I love ESGI! You use an ipad, create the tests you want (or use already created tests from ESGI) and test them right on the ipad. You might have a letter identification test, a letter sound test, a sight word test and a rhyming test and then you can play around with the data and see what kind of groups you would like to create.

When I give those 4 tests (plus many others over time) it allows me to see which students need to focus on letters and/or sounds and which students know them and are starting to read. I often found that I had 4 groups: two beginning letters and sounds groups, one who needed a few letters and sounds but are ready to start short vowels and one really high group who is already reading. Some years they might ALL be working on the alphabet at the beginning of the year and no one is reading yet, which is normal in kindergarten. The goal of these groups is to meet the needs of the kids where are currently performing and move them forward.

What Will You Teach?

I love this question! Since I teach kindergarten I start with the alphabet. I teach the letters and sounds then move them into short vowels. If they are ready for long vowels we will work on those too. I begin the lesson with phonological awareness skills (which I also do during whole group instruction). Then I move into teaching or reviewing letters and sounds. I work on sight words (with all groups) and we read from the basal (if that’s required) or short passages or readers that focus on what each group needs. The following resources can give you some support and structure as you lead your students into a world of reading.

alphabet intervention cover and link which is great for small group instruction
short vowel intervention cover and link

How Will You Minimize Distraction?

This is the hardest part…what is everyone else doing while you are holding small group instruction?

In my classroom, centers keeps the rest of my class busy while I work at the back table with small groups. I have a few blog posts that explain how I run centers.

Check out this blog post if you want to see how I run centers.

Check out this blog post for more details on how I organize center time.

However, even with centers running smoothly, there are hiccups along the way. Kids get stuck and need help (especially with the technology center). Sometimes they forget what to do, sometimes they are upset with someone not playing fairly, sometimes things don’t work as well as it should (you know…technology).

Solution? If you have parent volunteers during this time the problem is easily solved. But does everyone have trusty parent volunteers? I had some great ones (but not everyday) and I often had other things I wanted them to do.

So, now what? Have student leaders who can help! Spend the beginning of the year training your class on what to do and how to do each center – this is THE key. Then assign a different student helper from EACH small group to help kids when they get stuck. Give them the job for an entire week and rotate that job weekly (or daily if needed but weekly is easier). This way you have 4 student helpers and kids could go to any of them (as long as they are not at small group). This way, if one student is absent there are 3 from which to choose. Before they can interrupt your group they must ask at least one student helper before going to you.

Have a visual bathroom signal to ask to use the bathroom and that will solve many of the other interruptions.

How Will You End Small Group Time?

When small group instruction and centers are over, have a signal for clean up time. My signal is starting my clean up song. Have a short clean up song (no more than 2 minutes) and see if they can beat the song and be at the carpet before the song is over. Clean up consists of putting the small group books and materials away (some of that will be your job), putting work in the Finished Work Basket or Unfinished Work Basket, putting table materials away, cleaning up scraps of paper off the floor, putting center materials and technology back in the correct tubs and on the center shelf. It sounds like a lot but I assure you…it only takes 2 minutes to do this. Every student is focusing on their own space. When the song is over they are at the carpet ready for what comes next (although longer at the beginning of the year – this takes training too).

If you are looking for a fun Clean Up song I’ve got one in this resource.

There are many ways to set up small group instruction. This is just one way but, it has worked for my students. Experiment and see what works for your students. Have fun!

Do you want a FREE song to check out? Click the picture below to download this FREE song:

Similar Posts