As with everything I say, write, blog, and speak about- I firmly believe that you have to have organization routines in place BEFORE effective teaching can happen. I want to share with you how to organize a small group teaching area so you can maximize your time with your students.
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During my last year in the classroom, I needed some serious change to help keep me motivated. I invited our district math coordinator to come in and model a lesson for me on fractions because fractions are hard to teach (for me).
She did this amazing lesson in a small group format and I was convinced I needed to change my math routine immediately. It challenged me to rethink how I was teaching and, in turn, motivated me in the classroom.
Steps to Organize a Small Group Teaching Area
Listen to this in podcast form, if you’d like!
Small group teaching is a great way to meet your kids at the level they are on and give them the instruction they need. But first you need to get your resources and materials in place. Typically, a small group lesson is only 15 to 20 minutes. That isn’t a lot of time and you need to make the most of it.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you organize a small group teaching area in your classroom.
1.You need a home for everything
Bet you didn’t see that one coming! But for real, everything needs a home so you know exactly where to put things and where to find things.
If you look at the white shelves behind the u-table, that is where I store all of my small group materials. The white trays on top are where I put my reading and math small group plans. And the big piece of fabric below hides my plastic drawers with my manipulatives.
This free list shares my Top 10 Recommended Organization Tools for Classroom Teachers. Many of the things I use in small group teaching can be found on this list.
2. Use boxes and bins to store things
Utilize the space under your Utable to organize small group teaching materials.
As you can see above, there are just two big, white, plastic drawers. One drawer was math manipulatives and the bottom drawer was guided reading materials or manipulatives.
Within the drawer, I gave things homes by putting them in plastic baggies. It’s best to give everything multiple homes. Meaning, my unit cubes are stored in it’s “main home” of the math manipulatives drawer underneath my desk. But then they are in their mini home which is a plastic baggy within that main home.
3. Create a binder to hold all of your small group teaching plans and notes
For small group teaching, I typically took my whole group plans and modified them up and down for each group. That way I was still teaching the same topic, but tailoring it to each groups’ needs.
I used a small group teaching binder, and recommend you do too, to house all of your small group teaching lesson plans. This is especially nice for guided reading because you can reuse some of those plans and having them already written out is really helpful and a strategy you can use to help manage time in the classroom!
Shop the Small Group Resources I Recommend
While you are busy teaching kiddos in the small group setting, you need the rest of your students to be occupied. Enter stations! Stations are a great way to give students freedom in the activities they are doing as well as keep them engaged.
When it comes to actually teaching in small groups, the best way to teach in this setting (especially in math) is to take what you had planned for your whole class and bump it up AND bump it down.
What I mean by that is, whatever you would normally teach whole group- set that as what you are going to teach your middle groups. Then scale back for your lower group- spend two days on one topic instead of just one.
With your higher group, do a quick intro and then more independent practice at your u-table so you can monitor and reteach.
Small group teaching is different than intervention. I think small group teaching can be scary because you feel like you have to work on the groups level- and you do.
But you also have to keep moving, even if they don’t get it. The kids who aren’t getting what you are teaching because they don’t have the foundation…those kids get pulled during morning work or some other time you can find to intervene with them.
Want to learn more about differentiation in the classroom? I have a whole lesson on it inside The Organized Teacher Framework course.
Here are my final thoughts of encouragement to you:
1. Start Small: Figure out a routine for managing your students and implement it. But instead of meeting with every group every day, meet with one group. And then spend the rest of your time monitoring students until they have the expectations down.
2. Create an Implementation Plan: You don’t have to start right away. Look at your unit planning documents, when do you start a new unit? Put that date on the calendar and then work backward. Create a plan of what you will work on to roll out your small group teaching and then put it into action.
The Organize Your Utable Resource is a great resource you can use to help you walk through the steps of organizing your small group teaching desk (or really any desk in your classroom).
Until next time,