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!


22 comments:

  1. Ok...this is incredible! I'm so envious of this plan you ALREADY have in place! I've been teaching for almost 15 years and it's time for me to make a major shift...declutter, organize, and move away from whole group....and add in much more small group instruction! I've wondered how to do this and often thought I would love to keep a timer running with alerts/alarms to stay on track...but I didnt know how to do....and here you've done it!! I'd forgotten all about PowerPoint!! I'm sorry for the long post, but I just had to tell you that this is exactly what I've been looking for and I would love to try what you've done! Thank you for posting your ideas!! Very inspiring! ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for the comment! I am so happy to hear you are feeling inspired. Wishing you all the best as you embark on your small group instruction journey. :)

      Delete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. All of these ideas are terrific and inspire me. I've been struggling with teaching reading groups since it's my first year and on top of that was in a math and social studies only classroom for student teaching. I think some of these ideas will really help in my classroom!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So happy to hear this was helpful. :) You are a rock star for jumping into small group instruction during your first year. I definitely took me time to develop my routine, but once you've got it, it feels great!

      Delete
  4. Sooo many fantastic ideas! Thank you for this super post! Keep them comin'!!!
    iTeach 2nd

    ReplyDelete
  5. I love your classroom! Can you please tell me how long your small group instruction lesson (like the one in your post) would go for? Also, how many transitions would you have in one lesson? And what are the other students be doing while you and your reading aide are with the small groups?
    Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lalena,
      Thanks for commenting. :)

      I teach a whole group reading mini lesson for ten minutes before recess (10:00 - 10:10). As a follow up, my Daily 5 small group instruction time lasts for 1 hour each day (10:30 -11:30). The format of this hour long block is as follows:

      18 minute small group meeting (6 students with me, 3-6 students with reading aide)
      2-4 minute GoNoodle brain break
      18 minute small group meeting (6 students with me, 3-6 students with reading aide)
      2-4 minute GoNoodle brain break
      10-15 minute small group instruction (1-3 students with me)

      While we are meeting with small groups, the rest of the class is working on one of the Daily 5 activities (Work on Writing, Read to Someone, Read to Self, Listen to Reading, Work on Words). If you want to learn more about the Daily 5 model, you can read my series of posts, starting with this one: http://coreinspiration.blogspot.com/2014/10/implementing-daily-5.html

      Let me know if you'd like any additional info.
      Warmly,
      Laura

      Delete
  6. This is awesome! Do you have the PowerPoint Transition Slide Deck available on your TpT store or at least some tips on getting started with such an undertaking?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Morgan,
      This summer I am going to figure out how to get this uploaded to my TPT store because its a bit complicated to explain. If you are a follower of Core Inspiration on TPT, you will be notified when I've uploaded it. Thank you for letting me know you are interested. I've heard the same from others so now I'm motivated to get it uploaded. :) Here's a link to my store: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Core-Inspiration-By-Laura-Santos
      Laura

      Delete
    2. Hi Miss Morgan!
      I just added my Reading Block Transition Deck to my TPT store if you are interested. Thank you for your patience while I finished this project. :)
      http://bit.ly/ReadingBlockTransitionManagementDeck
      Warmly,
      Laura

      Delete
  7. Would love to know if you make the powerpoint available! I think it would make a great addition to my new classroom come fall!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you are a follower of Core Inspiration on TPT, you will be notified when I've uploaded it. Thank you for letting me know you are interested. Here's a link to my store: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Core-Inspiration-By-Laura-Santos

      Delete
    2. I just added my Reading Block Transition Deck to my TPT store if you are interested. Thank you for your patience while I finished this project. :)
      http://bit.ly/ReadingBlockTransitionManagementDeck
      Warmly,
      Laura

      Delete
  8. Your first commenter, "girlonpark" sounds like me. I love your PowerPoint idea especially because it will keep ME on track, more so than the students. I tend to run long with small groups and this will hold me accountable! I've barely dipped my toes into small groups with math (our reading program doesn't use small groups). Are you able to make GoNoodle start right up on it's own as part of the "deck?" And if not, do you have specific ones chosen ahead of time?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Terri,
      I do not have GoNoodle start as part of the deck. I have it set up so I can click out and play GoNoodle, click back in and resume the show so it still keep us on track. I am going to be posting the slide deck in my Teachers Pay Teachers store this week and creating a YouTube video about how to edit the deck to fit your unique schedule. This year I am adding a class job called "Go Noodle Scheduler" who will be in charge of selecting all the GoNoodle brain breaks for the entire week so I know exactly what to click into without wasting time or hearing students shout what they want. :)
      Laura

      Delete
    2. Hi Terri,
      I just added my Reading Block Transition Deck to my TPT store if you are interested. I am so excited to share this tool with other teachers!
      http://bit.ly/ReadingBlockTransitionManagementDeck
      Warmly,
      Laura

      Delete
    3. Woohoo! Thank you; it is on my wish list NOW! I don't have PPT on my home computer but I sure do at school! Thanks so much for letting us know.
      Terri

      Delete
  9. Hello, LOVE your setup! My school has always leveled for reading and math. This year we have decided to keep our homeroom and level within the homeroom. I was wondering what your reading block looks like daily. I am a second grade teacher like you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used to work at a school that leveled for reading too. One of the best things about keeping your homeroom students and leveling with them is that the class community is that much stronger. :) I use daily 5 for my reading block and our schedule looks like this:

      10:10-10:30 Recess

      10:30 - 11:30 Reading Block (Daily 5)
      10:30 - 10:45 ROUND 1
      10:45 - 10:50 Brain Break
      10:50 - 11:05 ROUND 2
      11:05 - 11:10 Brain Break
      11:10 - 11:30 ROUND 3

      11:30 - 12:00 Writing Block

      Delete
  10. Hi Laura, I was just looking at the preview on TPT and I'm wondering if these can be edited to use for math groups as well or if the non-editable parts specify reading. I'd also need to use them during our integrated content lit time, when we are expected to work with small groups on reading and math skills while other students are working in groups, on computers, etc. I really want them to work for my situation.
    Thanks,
    Terri

    ReplyDelete