Small group lessons are an extremely important piece of a student’s reading success. Through efficient small group reading lessons, students will improve their independent reading skills, but how do they get there? It’s up to you as their teacher to implement best practices as you organize small groups of students and cater those groups to their individual needs. Help students improve their reading level using some of these tried and true ideas for the classroom.
What Are Small Groups or Strategy Groups?
Small groups are instructional techniques that involve a smaller group of students than whole group instruction. Typically, these groups are 2 to 6 students with varying skill sets or similar areas they need to work on academically or socially. Students might work on sight words, study a chapter book together, discuss unknown words in the text, take formative assessments, and go through shared text. Each piece contributes to more fluent reading across all grade levels.
Usually, small group reading instruction follows whole group instruction in that the teacher reinforces the skills taught earlier but on a level each group understands. There are many benefits of small group instruction, one of which is that the teacher is focused on the needs of the students and growing their individual academic skills.
How to Introduce Small Groups at the Beginning of the Year
The first step to creating small groups and running them efficiently is to decide what the other students will be doing while you work with your strategy groups. Will they work with partners to play games while practicing the skills taught? Will they be doing an independent activity and need to stay quiet? Will they rotate through centers using a timer or the sound of your voice?
Think about these scenarios and which will work best for your classroom and this new group of students. It may take some trial and error before you get into a groove with small group reading sessions.
The next step is to decide how long your small group time will last every time you meet. This small-group instruction time may vary daily, but be sure to have a rough estimate of time to keep things on track. A good chunk of time might be about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the grade level and how much time you have carved out in your day for math or literacy.
Try these Digital Small Group Reading rotations! These easy-to-use digital rotations will make your life easier as you navigate your small groups and centers. All you do is slide the boxes over when it’s time to switch or to prepare for the next day.
Model Small Groups for Your Students
No matter which grade level you teach, students always need reminders. While they may have learned how to act during small group times and center times, your classroom might run a little differently. Take the time at the beginning of the year to go over rules and expectations in the classroom while you are working with different groups. Tackling this will help with the success of your small reading groups.
Why Not Just Do Whole Group Lessons?
You might be wondering why you can’t just teach all of your students simultaneously and call it a day. Think about it. If you have a classroom of 20+ students, each one has their own instructional level. Some may know things others don’t, and some may need extra support on certain skills. It’s like asking a group of different animals to climb a tree. They may all get to the top eventually, but they will each take a different path and use different tactics to get there.
Reading instruction is much the same. Some students will grasp it right away and climb right to the top of that tree, while others may need a boost and some extra tools to get them there. This is where small group reading times come into play to work on each child’s needs.
How to Schedule Small Groups
This may be one of the trickiest parts of teaching reading and small group reading time. Time management isn’t for everyone, and at first, I needed someone to tell me exactly what to do. Over the years, I found a better way of doing things, and I want to share that with you. The instructional day can easily slip through your fingers, so make sure you map everything out, assess your students, so you know what to include in your intervention literacy kit, and use a timer.
Learn more by reading this blog post about How to Schedule Your Literacy Instruction.
Small Group PD Course
If you still aren’t sure where to start and need more guidance, try taking this Small Group PD Course! This self-paced video course will give you the knowledge, tools, and confidence you need to successfully launch and run small group reading times in your classroom.
- How to set yourself and your classroom up for small group success
- How to simplify your planning process by using my five must-have centers
- My simplified system for grouping your students and scheduling small group time
- How to launch small groups with a proven 3-week launch plan
- How to prevent & handle behavior problems during small groups
If your school has implemented The Science of Reading, these tips are perfect for this school year as an elementary teacher. Throughout my teaching career, I have learned that it takes practice, and you have to adapt often to your student’s needs. Use a few of these pointers and enjoy your small group reading times again.