What are the instances in a day where you might need to use small group instruction?
For me, there are two different key areas where I will have small group instruction.
The first is with language and small group instruction with both reading and writing groups.
The other area that is a focus in my classroom with small group instruction is guided math.
So with all of this small group learning happening what does the planning look like?
Step One: Group Your Students
Step one is planning out your groups. There are many ways to group your student and we discussed these in a previous blog post here.
Once your students are grouped you can begin to plan lessons that meet their needs.
Step Two: Make a Plan
Choose what expectations you are covering in a week. In a traditional classroom, you might plan a different lesson for each day. In this you will plan a traditional lesson for the whole group and then follow up lessons will be within small group instruction. So for the remainder of the week, you will plan a lesson for each group to be delivered to the needs of that group.
In a guided reading setting this might look like you doing some pre-teaching the week before then instructing students to provide them with additional practice of this skill.
In writing, perhaps you have a group of students that need additional reminders of how to write within a specific form or genre. A small group opportunity to review these skills may help students to move past an area that they are stuck.
In math, you may teach the whole group a concept. Start with modelled and shared learning, and then through small groups reinforce, reteach or extend the learning for students.
For this plan, you may want to stream your lessons. Providing more support and reteaching for those that need it will be crucial.
Step 3: Plan Independent Practice
if you are working with a small group then the rest of your students will need to be working on independent practice. Independent practice must be easy enough for students to complete but rigorous enough that they are actually learning and practicing skills.
For language, these activities can be together as students and respond to reading and craft a draft of writing that can be assessed as independent writing.
For math, there are opportunities for students to work through a variety of expectations that also highlight different process expectations. A variety of activities can include hands-on learning, application of skills, and key knowledge and understanding practice.
Step 4: Implement
Now that you have your lessons planned. Make a rotation for students to complete the independent practice while also providing opportunities to meet with you.
You may want to ensure that your group that needs the most support is provided with the most of your time; while the group of students that do not need your help as much get less support.
Sometimes this means I meet with my ‘high’ group first and then let them go off and explore concepts. While with my lower group I may meet with them more often or even daily throughout the week.
Step 5: Assessment
Since you planned at the beginning what expectations (or cluster of expectations) you were looking to cover with your weekly lessons you can assess students on their mastery skills on this topic.
The method of note-taking or data collection will be whatever works for you as a teacher. Here are some of my own favourite ways to collect data.
- Class list – Using colour coding or a numerical code I will write the expectation or cluster of expectations at the top of the page. Then, as I meet with students, I will make notes of what level or skill they demonstrated with me during guided reading.
- Tech – There are many apps that let you take notes and anecdotal notes on student performance. Apps like markbook, or Idocieo are all great options to record assessments of your students.
- A class list with open boxes that allow me to write a quick note about each student and how they are doing.
- A group book: if you are meeting with specific student groups you can have a different notebook or page for each member of the group and simply take notes based on just the lesson and students from that group.
At the end of the day, small group instruction does involve a bit more planning and organization at the beginning of the week. However, this is generally at the beginning of the week. This growing pain is also reduced the more you do this. With more practice, it becomes easier.