Hey friends! I'm here today to tell you how I get through the cringe worthy small group. I have to be honest and say that small group instruction used to be one of my LEAST favorite things to do.
I did NOT like it at all. It seemed pointless. I felt like I wasted a lot of time preparing for it. I didn't feel like it was meaningful at all.
Well, that was until I figured out that I was doing it ALL wrong. Small group should be fun for the kids and for the teacher. They don't only have to read books. They don't only have to do what's in that "teacher's guide".
After I figured out how to make it fun and engaging, I had to manage my time wisely. Here's what I do and it's so easy, you can do it too!
My first tip is how I save time during transitioning and getting to where they need to be. However, let me show you this first and then I'll explain.
I got this idea from Tara West. I changed it to work for my class. This is how I decided to do our Daily 5 rotations. Since we're a 1:1 school, I added in Technology and took out read with someone. At the beginning of the year, I had these in-between every mini lesson. Our routine looked a little like this:
Whole group for 10-15 minutes
Daily 5 for about 12 minutes
Whole group for about 10-15 minutes
Daily 5... and so on.
This is what it looks like on my actual Smartboard. As the the slide changes to this, they immediately know where to go and what to do since the expectations are already set for each area. I had a wireless mouse over on my table and I would click it about 2 to 3 minutes BEFORE I was ready for my group to leave my table. This allowed everyone else to clean up, but I still worked with my group for those two to three minutes as they cleaned up and put their things away. They came back to the rug and sat in their spots for the next mini lesson. I did about 15 minutes or less of phonics/phonemic awareness, our comprehension skill, sight words, our letter for the day and whatever else. As I finished the mini lesson, the next one of these came up.
Now, I do whole group first for about 25 minutes and then we do Daily 5 back to back. I now see all of my groups for 20 minutes every day. I have this set on a timer and it chimes after 18 minutes. My kids know to clean up and it automatically goes over to the next slide. They know immediately where to go next. It cut down on A TON of transition time and time being wasted.
When my kiddos get to my table, I pull their personal group's bucket. This group has since changed, but this is what the side of it looks like.
I have one of these behind my table on a shelf for each one of my 5 groups. Inside of the bucket holds highlighters, dry erase markers, that groups' book and games for that group if they're the only ones that will be playing/doing a particular skill.
I also have these small cups with letter cards inside of them. This is for our letter/word making time. It's usually the first or second thing we do one to two times a week. This is mostly our warm up for Mondays and Wednesdays. They build words depending on the letter we are working on. For instance, this week we're focusing on beginning blends. We start with the l blends. Two of my groups are ready to actually write l blends independently. Their cups contain letters that helped us make these types of words.
The other cups hold letters (in other buckets) that will make cvc words with a particular vowel.
They're just little letters that I laminated full sheets of and cut out.
Quite possibly, the smartest thing I've ever made in my room was another one of these toolboxes for those letter cards. I only wanted the top part since it had at least 26 letters. I already have a toolbox, so the bottom was just extra. I house the letter cards above for each of these. Clean up and preparation for the cups is SO easy. On Mondays, they have empty cups and I just pull from each drawer to make new cups for the week. These usually last us a few weeks until we're ready to change out some or all of the letters.
My last tip is to have everything in arm's reach. You're more likely to want something and more likely to use that something if it's in an arm's reach. Clean off your shelf behind your table or that is closest to your table and house ALL of your small group things there. I don't have any binders or things that will take up space. I have everything that I will need for small group sitting directly behind me.
When we're daubing sight words, I just reach back and grab this bucket.
If I need an extra highlighter or dry erase marker, it's next to that.
I have two baskets full of writing strips, small group games, and cards. All of it is stored inside a zip baggie, pencil bag or something that closes/zips.
These writing strips are amazing. Like I said earlier, two groups are working on blends so they've been using these writing strips.
I have a bag full of sight words, upper and lowercase letters, and word families.
I keep extra cards inside for when I'll need to write something.
The basket also holds my fluency reader. My highest two groups know how the cvc portion works. I just taught my lower three groups how to work the cvc portion. The higher two groups worked on blends.
This is another time saver. You're working on various skills, but it's all one resource. I just flip over to the skill that I need. I keep this in a bucket that can be used for all of the groups. This type of resource doesn't go in the group's bucket since it can be used more than once.
I also keep cards for them to read. If everything is within an arm's reach, I promise you will utilize it much more often than you think.
I hope this post helps to wrap your brain on managing your small group time wisely. Sometimes, I think it's the only time when some of my kids actually hear me speaking and I want them to have ALL the attention that they can get from me. I want to use their time to the best of my ability and not waste their time. Easily ask yourself how you can cut back on transition time and maximize the time your students are sitting at your table with you. Your kids will benefit tremendously.