How to Consistently & Easily Teach Small Group Instruction Elementary
Are you wondering how to consistently and easily teach small group instruction in elementary? As a K-2 teacher, you are juggling so many plates. Many of your students are still learning how to be a student! How could you possibly add small group instruction into your elementary classroom? Let me show you some easy, foolproof strategies to consistently and easily teach small group instruction in your k-2 classroom!
Real talk: my first few years of teaching were rough. I taught almost exclusively in whole group. My class would work on the carpet as a group, then to the tables, then back to the carpet. I was doing so much leading and not enough listening. Few of my students were engaged. The task was either too challenging, or not challenging enough. I could never get my lessons just right, and I wasn’t going to by using whole group instruction.
When I started digging into what each child needed, my instruction changed. My whole group lessons became shorter and shorter, while my small group instruction and worktimes began to dominate our day. As our classroom shifted an amazing thing happened: behaviors were decreasing and I was noticing significant academic and social growth in my students. The research is clear: the most effective way for K-2 students to learn is through effective and collaborative small group instruction. Not sure where to start with your effective small group instruction? This FREE workbook will guide you through 7 parts of small group instruction.
Why You Should Teach Your Elementary Students In Small Groups
Did you know that by consistently teaching small groups in your K-2 classroom student engagement and learning both increases by more than 50% and disruptive behaviors decrease by nearly the same amount? It turns out small group instruction is exactly what your elementary classroom is missing. By running small groups for every subject, you can scaffold each student’s learning experience. Working in small groups provides instant feedback for students along with opportunities for collaboration. They are easier to manage for teachers (I swear! Grab these tips to help manage small groups in your classroom) and students grow more confident. Small group instruction should be done 70% of the day in your elementary classroom. Use your whole group time to review expectations and introduce an overarching lesson or theme then break out into those small groups and get to work!
Small Group Instruction in Elementary Math
Regardless if you are using a boxed curriculum or not, small group instruction is perfect for elementary math. The collaborative nature of small groups allows students to form and test hypotheses, explore each others’ ideas, and cement their learning through meaningful exploration. Now, don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t happen overnight! With clear, consistent expectations along with building relationships with your students, you can foster an environment for small group instruction during your math block.
How to Teach Small Groups in K-2 Math
Often, teachers find math the best place to start their small group instruction. It often tends to be more explorative than reading by nature and children, arguably, are more comfortable and confident in their number sense to 10 then their phonological or phonemic awareness – at least at the Kindergarten level. Math small groups can easily be game based, allowing for groups to collaborate independently while you strategic level instruction with the group you are working with. Read more about how to manage small groups in the elementary classroom here. There are a variety of ways to teach small groups in math – you can have a center rotation, independent centers, group rotation, whole group activity while you pull small groups…the possibilities are endless.
Small Group Instruction in Elementary Reading
Elementary small group instruction is crucial to student success in reading. Teaching small reading groups of 3-5 students allows the teacher to accurately collect data on students strengths and weaknesses. This way the teacher can isolate any missing phonemic concepts, lead a guided conversation to support reading comprehension, or focus on students transferring their knowledge from reading to writing. There are so many benefits to small group instruction in elementary reading. Learn about how small group instruction can help your struggling readers here.
Creating a Small Group Routine in your Classroom
Like many aspects of the K-2 classroom, successful small group instruction thrives on a consistent routine. Your small group instruction should be routine and predictable. When children know what is expected and understand the routine, it elevates common anxiety and questions. Have clear expectations for students that are not working with a teacher. Provide time for students to practice these expectations.
Learning the routine
The first step to learning how to manage small groups in your classroom is to create a predictable routine and stick to it. Even if it’s challenging, even if you want to do something else, it is really important to stick to your routine for the first 4-6 weeks. After you can get a bit more flexible but initially try to make each small group time the same. This allows the students in your classroom to learn the routine and follow the expectations. Additionally, the more comfortable your students become with the routine the more “brain space” is freed up to focus on the academics. Grab this free guide to learn how to structure a predictable routine in your small group instruction!
Placing your Students in Small Groups
It’s all about that data, ‘bout that data, ‘bout that data – no faking! (I hope you sang that in your best Meghan Trainor voice, I know I did!). To successfully place students in the appropriate small groups you have to collect accurate data! As soon as you have a small group routine start that data collection! Your data should be collected one on one with individual students. There are a variety of ways to collect information about a student’s academic knowledge: standardized assessments, curriculum-based measures, anecdotal notes, checklists… find a system that works for you.
Once you have data on each student look for trends. Do a few students need to work on digraph sounds? What about addition? Writing conclusions? This data is also extremely informative for your whole group instruction. If you notice that 50% or more of your students need support in a particular area, you should add it to your whole group instruction. Otherwise, try to pair students in groups of 3-5 based on similar skills or goals. Student input is key! Go over the data with the students, and talk about strengths and weaknesses in an age-appropriate manner. When students are invested, the growth can be tremendous.
Virtual Small Groups Elementary
The toughest days of virtual teaching are hopefully behind us but virtual small groups are still useful! Here in New England, many schools are turning to virtual days rather than snow days. Personal feelings about that decision aside, smaller groups of children are much easier to engage and encourage participation than 20 first graders!
Teaching Small Groups in the K-2 Classroom
To consistently and easily teach small groups in the k-2 classroom you need to have a plan. Can’t think of one? That’s where I come in! Grab this free workbook that walks you through mapping out your K-2 small group instruction. From classroom management to data collection and implementation you don’t want to miss this goody!
Make Your Small Group Instruction A Non-Negotiable
To consistently teach your small groups, they need to be embedded in your day. At the beginning of the year, structure each academic block (writing, math, reading, etc..) around the small groups. If you have a class of 20, imagine 5 small groups with about 10 minutes each. I see you doing the math – 50 minutes?! How much time do you think we have??? I get it – time is precious in the K-2 classroom but keeping small group instruction the focus of your academic time will make differentiating instruction to your students easier. Work smarter, not harder!
Have A Data Collection System
You read earlier about the importance of data collection for small groups. Data is the backbone of effective small group instruction. The only way to make sure you collect data is to have a system that you can follow! Whether it’s a clipboard, sticky notes, or checklist find a system that works for you to ensure you are checking in on student learning daily, and reflecting on your group instruction weekly. Check out this post to learn more about data collection systems as you create an inclusive classroom where all learners can thrive!
Use the Same Routine for All Small Groups
Your small group instruction should be routine and predictable. When children know what is expected and understand the routine, it elevates common anxiety and questions. A visual checklist can be a helpful classroom management strategy for small group instruction. This allows students to easily see what they have accomplished, and what activities they have left to complete. An effective routine for small group instruction follows a guided learning approach. Often, small groups begin with a warm-up of a previously learned skill. This may look like quickly naming letters or sounds, counting, or performing simple equations. After a warm-up, the group is led through direct instruction or guided discovery, finally concluding with a group or independent activity.
Don’t Be Afraid to Change it Up!
When teaching small groups, you are going to have a strong pulse on student growth and progress. As soon as a student is ahead of their peers, move their group! As you are reflective in your practice, don’t hesitate to change your small group routine, a student grouping, or even the whole class activity. Not sure how to manage the rest of your class? Check out these 5 Easy Steps for How to Manage Small Groups in the Classroom. Change is good! Especially when it is thoughtful and intentional. Students thrive on structure but it is also important to teach flexibility and self-reflection when a strategy may not be working.
Effective Small Group Instruction in the K-2 Classroom
Looking for more great tips on how to teach small groups in your K-2 classroom? Grab all the tips and tricks in this FREE guide and start looking forward to teaching your small groups. From classroom management strategies to data collection systems, and even games you can use in your groups this guide is the best way to ensure your small group instruction is effective!
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