As you start implementing your small group reading instruction in the classroom, there are a few things you will want to consider. Your small group instruction is not only a time to practice word recognition and reading fluency but to build on students reading far beyond the words in front of them. Different reading comprehension strategies will allow students to build on prior knowledge, overcome reading difficulties, study unknown words, sort out key details, and so much more.
Ask Critical Thinking Questions
While sitting with your students during small group lessons, take the time to ask questions that make them think. Instead of asking yes or no questions, ask questions that require students to answer in full sentences. You may want to provide them with sentence stems to get started in those early weeks.
Here are some of my favorite questions to ask during small group times. They get the students thinking on a deeper and more meaningful level and build on prior knowledge. Ask some of these questions at your small group reading table.
- How do you know…?
- Find words that make you think that…
- Why do you think…?
- Where do you think…?
- What might happen if…?
- Do you think…? Why?
- What do you think…?
There are tons of other questions you will be able to form as you read texts, questions that relate to specific readings. If a question comes to mind as you work with your students during small group reading times, roll with it and see where it takes your conversation. Students will learn so much from this type of small-group instruction.
Hopefully, with practice, your students will begin asking themselves these questions as they do their independent reading time. It sets them up to find text evidence as their reading material gets more complex and is a wonderful way to make teaching reading fun and engaging.
Encourage Students to Ask Questions
Every teacher takes the time to ask questions during small reading groups, but I think it’s equally essential for students to learn how to ask them. Part of comprehending a piece of text is dissecting it and learning about the deeper meaning. Sure, in lower grades, the questions are very simplistic, but as they get older, their questions can become more complex. Close reading activities allow students to take what was learned in whole group instruction and apply it to their small group reading lessons.
Encourage students to ask clarifying questions. Model this type of questioning for your students as you read through the text. Then, as they get better at it, let them read in pairs. One student will be the questioner, and the other will be the one answering. When students are more involved in thinking and questioning, they will understand the text deeper and retain the information read.
I know I forget something quickly after reading if I don’t emerge myself in the text through questions or an added activity. Students work the same way and will retain more information when asked to think about it on a more meaningful level.
Prioritize Social and Emotional Learning
Now more than ever, it is important to prepare young students for the complexity of the real world. One way to do this is by relating their reading and experiences in the classroom to real-world emotions and social situations. Small group time plays an extremely important role in a child’s social and emotional development because they observe scenarios and can evaluate them from afar. Teach students to broaden their social-emotional learning by paying attention to what the characters are going through.
Consider a character in a story going through an emotional time or experiencing a social situation. The reader will most likely navigate their way through the feelings and emotions with their peers or the teacher as their guide. Through critical thinking skills and questioning, they will solve the problem with the character.
This is a minimally intimidating way of introducing students to uncomfortable situations. Engage them in the text to solve the problems and teach them how to react should they ever encounter the situation in real life. This is an effective way to teach problem-solving, emotional regulation, and appropriate behavior in certain social situations.
Applying it All to Small Group Reading
The main takeaway here is to use your strategy groups or small-group time to get to know students and to help them understand reading skills by emerging them in the text. The reading process should be more than reading the text and then sending the kids on their way. Work with small groups of students to meet their individual needs as they navigate word work, a new reading skill, and even print concepts.
There are so many teachable moments to utilize during intervention activities, so take advantage. Students will become more confident as they read challenging texts and reading passages in the classroom. Through more meaningful small group reading lessons and fluency practice, students will gain a deeper understanding of what they are reading. You will see their reading level jump as you apply these best practices in your lesson plans.
For more Simple Tips for Small Group Reading, check out this blog post. You’ll find more ideas, including resources you can utilize in your classroom. You will also enjoy this Small Group Reading Success Professional Development Course! I will walk you through everything you need to know to get started with small groups.