5 Apps for Effective Small Group Instruction {with For a Love of Teaching}

Over the past two weeks, the amazing teacher-bloggers here at The Elementary Entourage have shared many incredible ways they manage and monitor effective small group instruction. Let me just tell you, we have some rock star teachers in this group!

I am an Instructional Technology Facilitator, and I'm always looking for new and innovative ways to bring technology into the classroom. Today I'm going to share with you 5 Fast & Effective Apps to Use in Small Group Instruction. Some of these apps are free and some you have to purchase, but all are very effective! You can easily use any of these apps to enhance your small group instructional time.

#1 Stick Pick ($3.99)

Oh, how I love Stick Pick! This app lets you pick a student at random with a tap, swipe, or a shake, but that's not the best part! Stick Pick is unique because it suggests question starters for learners at different levels and also records how well students respond to the questions and small group discussion. The questions are based on Bloom's Taxonomy, and you can easily change the question level for each student. Stick Pick is also a great app for building and recording formative assessment data on students. It's definitely not your average student picker app!


#2 Popplet ($4.99 - free for the lite version)


Popplet is getting a lot of buzz in the world of educational technology right now and if you've ever used Popplet then you know why! This is one of the best customizable and interactive graphic organizer apps I've found. It is very simple and engaging to use which makes it the perfect addition to your classroom or any small group setting. Popplet will allow you and your students to capture and organize ideas in a visually appealing way - perfect for your visual learners! Create graphic organizers in a snap, illustrate a story, arrange the main idea with details, compare and contrast stories...the possibilities are limitless!

Popplet Lite is FREE! It offers many of the same options, but you can only work on one popplet at a time. Unless you plan on keeping your popplets stored on the device, the free version works great!


#3 Grammar Jammers (Free for Primary Edition - $2.99 for Elementary Edition)


Grammar Jammers is such a fun app full of catchy animated songs and rhymes that make learning exciting! This kid-friendly app teaches a variety of grammar concepts such as parts of speech, punctuation, and capitalization. Each animation unlocks a quiz. If students answer the quiz questions correctly within the Grammar Jammers topics it will unlock an interactive reward. This app is the perfect tool to use in a small group setting to introduce or review new grammar topics. There is also a reset feature that allows teachers to clear the data and reset the game for another group or the next user. 

Grammar Jammers was created by Pearson and is available as a series:
Primary Edition - FREE
Elementary Edition - $2.99
Middle School Edition - $2.99

#4 Learn Sight Words (free)

If you need to practice sight words with your small group of students - then this is the app you need! This app has over 300 flashcards with high-frequency words and easy-to-read print for students. Students can hear each word pronounced clearly or you can opt to turn the sound off. Learn Sight Words is a simple to use app that allows students to swipe through the cards of a 25-word mix. There's also a category for any words you flag to review for later. Students power through all 300+ words with 25 cards at a time. It's the perfect app to quickly review sight words within small groups.


#5 Running Record Calculator (free)

Why not make the most of your small group time and throw in a running record! This fast and accurate app makes testing literacy easy! It combines the standard running record calculator and stopwatch into one convenient app. It even has an audio recording playback option. The easy to use flagging function allows you to quickly refer back to the audio and it automatically counts errors and self-corrections. This running record calculator gives you immediate feedback. You will see the student's scores for words per minute, self-correct ratio, and accuracy percentage.

After you complete a running record with this app, press the email button to send a report of the running record to yourself, administrator, literacy specialist, or parents.


Students need a variety of opportunities to work with different classmates in different ways, and students love using technology! So, don't be afraid to incorporate it into your small group time. Students always surprise me at how much they can do and how quickly they learn how to use a new app or piece of technology. Even if you only have one iPad you can still incorporate many of these apps into your classroom or small group instruction.

Making the Most of Small Group Instruction....Pre K Edition!

Hey Y'all! 
This is Lisa from ALL Y'all Need and I'm going to share a few tips and tricks that I use in my small-group instruction. Pre K small-group instruction looks a little different than any other grade level. Basically, I have 3 rounds of small group a day. After morning greeting and calendar time, I work with half of my class at my table for what I call "Play Planning." Once the kiddos are at my table, they choose a center they would like to go to. My centers include home, sensory, puzzles, light table, iPads, dramatic play, blocks, etc... Once they have chosen a center, they must write a sentence and draw a picture of themselves at the center. Play Planning gives me time to reinforce correct pencil grip, letter formation and one to one correspondence with my kiddos. It's completely differentiation. Some kiddos are tracing the sentence, some are writing the sentence independently, and others are extending the sentence and labeling their picture. Here's what my play plans look like: 

A little while later, I work with my reading small group. With some kiddos, I am focusing on letter identification while other groups are doing Guided Reading. After lunch, I work with my math groups. During those times, we play games to focus on our weekly concept and use our iPads to practice writing our numbers. My Pre K kiddos' absolute favorite writing app is called Doodle Buddy. The kids love being able to change the background picture. It's the little things, people! haha 

Happy Teaching!

Making the Most of Small Group Instruction {with Core Inspiration by Laura Santos}

About 60% of our second grade day is spent in small group instruction. Although this teaching approach is highly targeted and differentiated, it is also intense to plan and deliver. Over the past few years, I have evolved from a teacher who hated small group instruction to one who fully embraces its undeniable benefits. 

The driving force behind my growth is organization and the development of unique small group instruction management routines. The tricks below have helped make the management aspect of small group instruction more...manageable. But first, here is a peek at the two small group instruction areas in my second grade classroom:

Our reading aide meets with small groups four days a week in at the reading table. During their time with her, students are currently participating in scaffolded literature circles. Each day, they read a chapter, work on their Guided Reading Journal (filled with reading response activities that give them practice with reading concepts they have mastered), and then participate in a guided literature circle discussion and activity. These are the supplies my students use at the reading table. 

I meet with small groups in our Mini Lesson Zone. I don't mind sitting on the floor and the kids love it so we sit side by side during our reading conferences, use the table if there's anything we need to write down, and refer to our mini lesson notes/posters on our easel. Anyone who's waiting for their turn to meet one on one with me reads at one of the placemats so they can quickly join me when it's time. 

My small group instruction is more like individualized instruction, therefore students are required to bring their own book bins and journals. 

Whiteboard markers, highlighters, and pencils are provided so students don't waste transition time gathering these supplies. 

Okay, now that you have an idea of where small group instruction takes place in my second grade classroom, here are the details on how I keep our small group instruction time running smoothly. I’ve set these details up as solutions to common small group instruction problems or roadblocks.

Problem: My students do not transition quickly during small group instruction.

Solution: PowerPoint Transition Slide Deck

Use PowerPoint to create visual reminders for students. Saving these reminder slides on your computer and displaying them specificlly during the instructional time they are needed reduces the need for posters and clip charts that are only used for a short time during your school day.

I use this slide deck during Daily 5 and have a similar deck for Math Workshop. It is my absolute favorite classroom management tool. The deck is filled with slides that are connected by a series of timed transitions and sounds effects that signal when it is time for a brain break or for a new round of Daily 5 to begin. At the start of Daily 5, I simply click play and the slide deck keeps track of time, makes peaceful noises that signal when it’s time to transition (so much better than having to say it...the less we talk...the better), gives a visual countdown, and shows who should be working in the small group areas.  I’m not going to lie, creating this originally took me more time than I’d like to admit...but now that the templates are created, it takes less than five minutes to change small groups based on assessment results.

Problem: I work on different activities during small group instruction time each day and my students forget what they are supposed to bring to the small group area.

Solution: Visual Reminder Posters

Post a sign that informs students which activity they will work on each day, the supplies they need for that activity, and what they should do while they are waiting for their instruction to begin. Once again...save your voice for the important stuff...the less you have to use it for silly verbal reminders, the less likely you are to sound like the teacher from the Peanuts cartoon.
I hang these signs on the whiteboard behind me near our mini lesson zone because each time my students meet with me, they need different supplies.
  • Their own Word Pocket (for Words Their Way instruction on Monday)
  • Their personalized book collection (for reading conferences on Tuesday, Wednesday) 
  • Their personal Word Collector’s Notebook (for collecting words in context and their weekly mini assessment on Thursday, Friday). 
In honor of this blog post, I created a sign for the reading table where my aide hosts her small group instruction. This sign is simply a reminder that students should work in their Guided Reading Journal while they wait for other students to finish their reading in preparation for their group reading response activity. She uses guided reading books and literature circle books so students don’t need to bring anything with them when they visit her.

Problem: My system of using bins to store supplies for reading groups isn’t working.

Solution: Get smart with your classroom furniture. 

Find furniture that reduces classroom clutter and keeps you organized. This 5 Bin Storage Tower from The Container Store is an easy way to keep supplies together for your reading groups without having to deal with overflowing bins that create visual noise in your classroom. Each day, you can gather the supplies for the small groups you will be instructing and tuck everything out of sight once small group time is over.

In my classroom, this tower is used solely by my reading aide. To keep our storage tower optimally organized, I added a group label to each bin and have each group’s literature circle books and Guided Reading Journals inside. I keep student work out of folders because it removes an extra step when I need to quickly assess student work. If work is tucked inside a folder, I tend to forget about it…#teachertruth.

I would love to hear from you about any additional roadblocks you may be facing during your small group instruction time. Please also share your unique solutions to the roadblocks mentioned above. Can’t wait to hear from you!

Small Groups {Lauren from Mrs. Thompson's Treasures}

Homeschooling with 5 little ones (yes....#5 was born last week!) is kind of like working with small groups all day long. There are a few things we work on together, but for the most part, my 3 that are in school are at such different levels that I work with them individually.
There have already been so many great posts about effective small group instruction this last week on our blog, so I just have one simple tip to share: set expectations!
I think as with most things in the classroom, setting expectations can be the make or break of successful small group instruction. You must be clear about the purpose of small groups, and let the students know what is expected of them when they are in the small group, and when they are not.
I love this poster from Lyndsey from A Year of Many Firsts which shows students how to be a 4 star active participant in a small group discussion. You can get it free HERE along with other helpful resources for small groups.
This lets the students know exactly what it should look like for them to be successful during your small group time. Of course there are different expectations for those students who are doing other work while you are with a small group.
Some of these might be:
**Work quietly
**Move to the next activity as soon as you are finished
**Do not disturb the teacher unless there is an emergency
I think it's important to make sure they know that you are not just trying to keep them busy until it's their turn to be in small group, but that this is a purposeful time for them to read, practice skills, or do whatever it is that you have set up during that time.
Having your expectations posted somewhere in the room, and reminding students of them often is a great way to reduce frustrations for yourself and your students!
And just to leave you with a smile today, here is our sweet little treasure, Caleb, born February 16!

Making the Most of Small Group Instruction {with Mrs. Decatur's Little Gators}

Hey y'all...I have to say small group is my FAVORITE time of the day! I absolutely love being able to work with just a few of my kiddos and really get some valuable conversations going. I'm going to give you a run down of how I manage and run my small group area & schedule! I have my small group table right next to my desk to minimize how often I have to get up between groups if I need to check on something!
Student Set Up
Each (all five) kid has a pencil basket with supplies that I swap out as needed. It most often has an expo & eraser, letter tiles,  a seasonal pointer, & some sort of counters. I only teach ELAR/SS but I use the counters to count sounds/syllables/words and to play word work games!
This is my cup of seasonal pointers... really important but I LOVE THEM so I wanted to share! We are currently using the sparkly shamrocks! :)
My Supply Shelf Area
This is my shelf where I keep my most used supplies, I wish it was cuter but it is FUNCTIONAL! On the top shelf I keep markers, pointers, and word work items.
 The middle shelf has a magazine holder for each group's books for the week, lesson plans, and any word work items I selected for this group. This helps me with preparing for a group to work with an aide too! I just send the box out with the group & done! The HUGE black binder is where I store individual student files by #. The white tub is extra word work games for the month/season.
Extra books from the literacy library in the white tub, my teacher binder, intervention binder, & other teacher items not related to small group.
  My Guided Reading Binder
This is my weekly schedule. Each group has a column for me to write what day I am meeting with them & what book we will be working with that day. It just helps me to be able to glance at it. 
Small Group Documentation forms. I use these forms to record who is there for each session, what book/level we are reading, points I want to make, questions I want to ask, and what skills or HFW we worked on for word work. To read more about these forms click here.

I store blank forms in a folder in the back of my binder for easy access. I keep both extra guided reading schedules & running records here.
Once a running record is complete it needs to go into the HUGE black binder. Since I don't want to waste small group time filing, I have a "To File" folder in my guided reading binder right behind the "Blanks" folder. The graph sheet has each student's name (covered by divider) and their file number in the huge black binder. I jot the date down I took a record on that child in the graph & record the number in the top corner of the running record so its easy to file later.
I use this table top easel to teach word work lessons & small group reading lessons.
I use this VERY well loved book's routine for introducing new sight words. I have used it for four years now & I just can't say enough good things about the book for all aspects of guided reading! IF you are struggling with {Making the Most of Small Group Instruction} I highly recommend purchasing this! Click here to check it out on Amazon.
The students use the letter tiles to build sight words, mix & fix them, and swipe spell them! I run my guided groups based off Jan Richardson's recommendations with modifications I have made to the routines to fit my kiddos!
This mess is all my teacher stuff that I stick between my easel! My fancy hand sanitizer, strategy sticks, pencils/pens, prompting/questioning cards, stickers and other fun stuff!

 I hope this was helpful for you! Happy Teaching! :)