Monday, July 1, 2013

An Apple a Day Linky - Small Group Instruction

Hey All -

I am loving this linky because I find it so helpful as a teacher and I hope you do too!  I'm linking up with Leigh from The Applicious Teacher to talk with you about Small Group Instruction.  You can read about Whole Group Instruction and Classroom Management which are also part of her weekly shares.

I try to incorporate small group instruction quite often throughout the day.  Usually this instruction happens at the good 'ol "curvy table"...

But it can really happen anywhere.  On one of our carpets, at a group of desks, wherever I can get a small group gathered.

Some times throughout the day I find myself engaging my students in SGI are:

*Guided Reading {Daily 5}
*Writer's Workshop {Table conferences}
*Math Workplaces

Guided Reading/Daily 5 is probably when most of us incorporate SGI into our classrooms.  In a first grade classroom we don't sit much, so when we do sit for any length of time, our rumps aren't quite used to it - so I suggest a nice chair.  You can't see mine in this picture...but it's on wheels and is pretty cushy. I also have a blanket over the back because right behind me is the air vent and no matter what time of year - it gets chilly.

At the beginning of the year I wear a hat - any 'ol hat and it can change daily - cowboy, Dr. Seuss, turkey, baseball...whatever I pull out of my closet.  This serves as a visual reminder that they should not interrupt me during SGI...I'm an uber stickler on this.  Blood?  Barf?  Then it can wait.  Eventually, I phase out the hats and only use them during assessments. 

I'm sure most of you have read... this book The Sisters mention how important it is to do what you'll do as a teacher while the kids are practicing what they'll do.  This was a major light bulb moment for me.  In years past, I walked around and managed behavior through proximity, redirection, tiny whisper reminders...not knowing that this type of management reinforces that your students will need you to help manage their attention and behavior during this independent work time. The first year I created an anchor chart that explained to my students that they have a job and I have a job and then PRACTICED it that SGI was transformed.  Of course, there are still small fires that have to be put out - but for the most part, my kiddos are able to monitor their own behaviors because that's how we practiced.

Speaking of monitoring - some of my readers may already know this about me, but I'm not a clock watcher {I'm notoriously late for specials} so running my Daily 5 the way The Sisters suggest just didn't work for me.  If you want to read about how my kiddos manage themselves when I working with a small group, you can {here} and {here}.

As far as my actual SGI goes - I think in order for it to be successful it needs to be relatively short.  I try to keep my guided reading groups to about 15 minutes...20 minutes tops.  It's pretty structured and I keep all of my materials close by {if you peak behind my table picture you'll see a tall cart - that's where I keep all of my materials for guided reading groups...white boards, markers, pencils, pointers, highlighter tape, magnetic letters...they are FULL of reading goodies}.  I also color code my groups: red, blue, green and yellow.  I keep the materials I need for that specific day in those same color bins from Really Good Stuff...

In each bin I keep a spiral bound notebook {of course it matches} this is where I write my plans and any notes from the guided reading group.  My parapro and I communicate in these notebooks as well.  She's a SUPER great note taker! {Note: I do have my Confer App set to use during guided reading, but I find it easier to jot notes/take running records in my good 'ol fashioned spiral notebook}

During writer's workshop I do both individual conferences as well as table conferences.  I use the Confer App to keep track {super techie, right?}but who I confer with is listed on a piece of chart paper {low tech...ha!}, kept front and center in my room.  I have each day of the week listed and divide my students between the five days.  Some days I meet with those kids individually or I call them all back to the table it just depends.  Other times, if I have a group of kids who need help with the same skill, I'll call those kids back to the table instead.  If I meet with individuals, I keep those conferences short {5 minutes tops} if I do a table conference - I'll usually keep those kids back at the table for the whole time {they like it back there} and do some re-teaching, then make the rounds, come back and do some checking in...

Math Workplaces are essentially math centers.  We use Bridges Math and much of our time is spent in Workplaces.  Much like writer's workshop, I either meet with individuals and confer with them or pull a group who needs help with a specific skill back to the carpet {my curvy table is being used}.

I hope you head over to Leigh's blog and check out what other bloggers have to say about small group instruction. If you have any questions - ask away! I love "talking shop"!


  1. I love to read about how other teachers manage their classroom routines and structures. Thanks for sharing!
    A Burst of First

  2. I love D5! It completely changed my life and classroom last year! I would recommend it to anyone who is struggling with classroom management during small group instruction or anyone who wants to start to implement small group instruction in their classroom. My teammate and I had very good success with the program but other teachers did not and gave up as quickly as they started. My biggest advice is to stick with it because it is totally worth it in the end! Thanks for sharing all the GREAT tips!

  3. Hi Holly!I just found your blog, I’m your newest follower!
    Science for Kids Blog

  4. I love Daily 5 as well (and I love those stools at your table)!! Are they the Ikea stools? I've had those in my shopping cart for a while now but keep going back and forth because I was afraid they'd be too tall for my kiddos! I'm checking out that confer app now!!

    That's So Second Grade!


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