Digital small groups
Are you struggling to teach PK-1 digital small groups? Read here how to keep your small group instruction focused and effective!
Teaching grades 3-5? Check out online small group tips here!
Leading digital small groups is a new challenge for all teachers. Engaging young learners in the classroom can be challenging enough but teaching digital small groups a brand new challenge for all teachers! Small groups are not only key to student achievement but are also a great way to build relationships with your students while getting to know them as a person and a learner.
Looking to make teaching digital small groups easier? Check out some of these resources below!
Regardless if you’ve been teaching for ten years, or if you’ve been teaching for one, everyone is starting from square one. Everyone needs new systems, new routines, new everything. While some of the tricks in your bag may still be helpful, many just aren’t as effective over a screen.
Unlike in the classroom, when you teach digital small groups, you have little to no control over the physical environment. That is ok. To teach effective small groups online, the first step is to accept what you cannot change (easier said than done).
Take a deep breath and let go of:
- Background Noise
- Where the student physically is (while you can suggest better environments, you cannot force follow through)
- Family involvement (again, you can encourage an appropriate level of involvement but its difficult to enforce)
Despite these challenges you can be successful when teaching digital small groups.
Small group instruction is crucial to student success, especially when learning to read. Explicit, direct phonics instruction dramatically improves young children’s reading and comprehension ability.
Small Group Lesson Plans Template
Make teaching small groups digitally easier for yourself! Find or create a template you can use day to day or week to week. It lessons your work and makes the sessions more predictable for your students, increasing their focus and success.
I like to follow this routine (M-Th) with all of my small groups, regardless of ability. On Fridays I complete running records to guide the next weeks instruction.
- Review letters/sounds/sight words
- Practice reading or writing words with the target phonics skill
- Read a story or write a sentence featuring target phonics skill and sight words
- Quick assessment of reading 5 sight words or decodable words, or writing 3
Keeping this lesson template when I teach digital small groups increases student participation and success because it is predictable. Kids know the expectations and know when the activity will end.
I also, either on a google slide or whiteboard, have a checklist of our activities. As we complete the literacy activity I cross it off so kids can see how much of the lesson is left.
Teaching Digital Small Groups Reading
There are so many pieces that must come together for a child to read successfully – it is easy to get distracted! Children learn best when the focus is on a single skill. Each small group lesson should target either a phonics skill, a sight word, or a reading strategy. While this is helpful in the classroom, it is vital when teaching small groups online.
The more focused and targeted the small group lesson plan is, the more focused your students will be. When you focus on a single skill, students become more comfortable and confident with that skill and, with consistent rote practice and instruction, will be able to generalize the skill across areas.
When teaching digital small groups reading, you should keep your lessons short and sweet. No longer than 10 minutes per group. This help keeps your students engaged and on task as you go through your 3-4 activities. A great small group example looks like this:
Target Skill: Applying short vowel sounds to CVC words
- Review vowel sounds (yesterdays target skill) (2 minutes)
- Practice reading CVC words by playing a game (5 minutes)
- Read a decodable reader featuring CVC Words (2 minutes)
- Read 5 CVC words for assessment (1 minute)
Keeping your online reading lessons short and focused on a single skill will help keep your students engaged and focused!
Teaching short vowel sounds? Check out how to keep lessons short and focused!
Digital Small Group Games
Who doesn’t love a good games? They provide valuable feedback for students and teacher while allowing practice for individual skills! Small groups are a great time to introduce games you want students to later play independently.
Digital small group games don’t have to be fancy.
Have a whiteboard? Play “eat the ice cream”! Similar to hangman, pick a word and have students guess letters to reveal the word. Each wrong letter, erase part of the ice cream cone. If there’s any left, the kids get to enjoy it! You can also share your screen and play this on google slides.
Another favorite digital small group game is “magic wand”. This is great for teaching phonemic awareness using word ladders. Start with a CVC word like cat, say “Who’s magic wand can turn cat, into bat?”. Choose a student and their “wand” to swap the sounds. You can use a camera and a white board, or you can have a shared google slides document where the kids edit the word themselves!
My kids love this self-correcting CVC Word Ladder game. We play it in our online small groups, then I assign it as an activity the following week. Using digital reading games is a great way to teach phonics skills while keeping student engagement!
Effective Digital Small Group Strategies
Teaching digitally can be overwhelming but simple strategies and consistent routines can help get rid of stress for you and your students! When teaching small groups online remember:
- You can only control what you can control. Try to let go of things outside of your ability, like the students’ environment
- Use a lesson plan template. Keeping consistent and predictable routines makes it easier for you to plan, and easier for your kids to follow along
- Focus on a single skill. Keep your small group reading lessons short and focused. Once children master the skill, then they can generalize it across content areas
- Use games to increase engagement. Games area a fun way for kids to practice different literacy skills! These games can be simple with a piece of paper or whiteboard, or can become more complicated using digital platforms.
You can read more effective small group strategies here.
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