How Does Small Group Instruction Help Students
I’m sure you’re wondering: how does small group instruction help students? Is it really worth my time and energy? Surely it’s just as effective to teach everyone at the same time. It sure saves my planning and makes life way easier. I mean it’s how I was taught and I liked my education….right?
There are many fallacies surrounding small group instruction. While many consider small group instruction to be the newest “trend” in modern education it actually has been the foundation of education since the inception of public schools in the early 1900s. Think back. One-room schoolhouses used to have one teacher for students aged 6 to 16. These students were taught their appropriate skills through, you guessed it, small group instruction. So, how does small group instruction help students?
Now, a lot has changed since those one-room schoolhouse days (although, some teachers still teach in a one-room schoolhouse! We have one not too far away in Northern New England, USA). But, one thing that has remained the same is students benefit most from personalized instruction delivered in a small group. One major difference is now we have the research to back these statements along with the data demonstrating the most effective teaching strategies for our small groups. Grab your VIP Guide to effective K-2 small groups and learn the most effective, research-backed strategies for your small group instruction
What Is Small Group Instruction?
Small group instruction is when a teacher is working with a group of 3-5 students. Ideally, the instruction is responsive to student needs. The groups are constantly changing based on the teacher’s data collection and observations surrounding student growth. Notice I said the teacher is working with a group of 3-5 students. One of the benefits of small group instruction is the teacher can be a guide for student learning. By asking probing questions, posing a different scenario, or pointing out a flaw a student may have missed, small-group instruction
Benefits of Small Group Instruction
Did you know that by consistently teaching small groups in your K-2 classroom student engagement and learning both increase 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 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!
Why Is Small Group Instruction Important?
Small group instruction is important because it allows the teacher to focus on teaching rather than management. When working in a group of 5 or fewer, teachers can more readily adapt the curriculum to meet the individual needs of each student. Data shows that student participation more than doubles in a small group when compared to whole-group instruction. Small group instruction needs to be a crucial component of every K-2 classroom. Quality small groups balance guided discovery with the explicit instruction to support student growth. Unsure if you’re getting the most out of your small group instruction in the classroom? Grab this guide and realize the importance of small-group instruction!
Why Is Small Group Instruction Effective?
Teachers often ask: is small group instruction effective? The resounding answer is YES! Study after study for the past 20 years has shown that both student academic skills and participation increase through small-group instruction when compared to working in a whole group. The main theory (Wasik, 2008) is that in small groups students are more comfortable participating and taking risks, which increases academic growth. Also in small groups teachers are able to collect more accurate data and gain better insight into their students’ strengths and weaknesses. This allows teachers to provide more targeted instruction, again increasing overall student growth.
Teachers may say “..but running small groups is so challenging! I don’t have time to teach the same lesson 5 times” The truth? Teachers don’t have time not to run small groups. When relying solely upon whole group instruction students are left behind, or the teacher ends up teaching the same lesson multiple times regardless. Behaviors increase as students become bored and disengaged with the material. Differentiation is challenging! By teaching in groups of 5 or fewer, teachers are more intentional with their differentiation engaging students. There are many reasons small group instruction is effective – read more here about all the reasons you should run small groups in your K-2 classroom
Purpose of Small Group Instruction
The purpose of small group instruction is to meet students at their individual level and support student growth. Small group instruction often uses Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development when planning and delivering lessons. The idea is that each student is in their own zone for optimal learning – where they are appropriately challenged with new material. This zone is a delicate balance between material that is mastered and skills that are too hard or inaccessible at the time. Small group instruction allows teachers to hone in on each student to provide targeted instruction for optimal growth. This allows teachers to scaffold an overarching lesson appropriately to ensure each student is accessing the curriculum.
How to Implement Small Group Instruction in the Classroom
Teachers know teaching in small groups is effective but that doesn’t answer how to implement small group instruction in the classroom! So often, teachers are given the knowledge behind best practices but rarely are they given actionable strategies they can actually use. Teaching is a balance between science and art. There are many different theories and strategies for how to implement small group instruction in the classroom. You may need to try several before you develop your own style that will morph with the unique group of students that enter your classroom each year. Some teachers utilize a centers approach where students float through independent activities while teachers pull groups at a table. Others have a list of activities to complete then students can read or write. Regardless of what is happening, students should be able to work independently while teachers pull small groups. Grab this step-by-step guide to find a strategy for small group instruction that works best for you in your K-2 classroom!
Small Group Instruction Helps Our K-2 Students
Small group instruction helps our K-2 students. It is easily personalized, students are more engaged, and the benefits are numerous. Start increasing your time spent in small group instruction and track your student data. You will see the growth and you’ll never go back!
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