Before we dive in, here is a peek at the two small group instruction areas in my second grade classroom:
Setting The Stage: Small Group Meeting Spaces
Our reading aide meets with small groups four days a week in at the reading table. During their time with her, students are currently participating in scaffolded literature circles. Each day, they read a chapter, work on their Guided Reading Journal (filled with reading response activities that give them practice with reading concepts they have mastered), and then participate in a guided literature circle discussion and activity. These are the supplies my students use at the reading table
I meet with small groups in our Mini Lesson Zone. I don’t mind sitting on the floor and the kids love it so we sit side by side during our reading conferences, use the table if there’s anything we need to write down, and refer to our mini lesson notes/posters on our easel. Anyone who’s waiting for their turn to meet one on one with me reads at one of the placemats so they can quickly join me when it’s time.
My small group instruction is more like individualized instruction, therefore students are required to bring their own book bins and journals.
Whiteboard markers, highlighters, and pencils are provided so students don’t waste transition time gathering these supplies.
Okay, now that you have an idea of where small group instruction takes place in my second grade classroom, here are the details on how I keep our small group instruction time running smoothly. I’ve set these details up as solutions to common small group instruction problems or roadblocks.
Tip #1: PowerPoint Transition Slide Deck
I use this slide deck during Daily 5 and have a similar deck for Math Workshop. It is my absolute favorite classroom management tool. The deck is filled with hundreds of slides that are connected by a series of timed transitions and sounds effects that signal when it is time for a brain break or for a new round of Daily 5 to begin.
At the start of Daily 5, I simply click play and the slide deck keeps track of time, makes peaceful noises that signal when it’s time to transition (so much better than having to say it…the less we talk…the better), gives a visual countdown, and shows who should be working in the small group areas.
Tip #2: Visual Reminder Posters
Most likely, you work on different activities during small group instruction each day. Also likely… your students tend to forget what they are supposed to bring to the small group area.
Post a sign that informs students which activity they will work on each day, the supplies they need for that activity, and what they should do while they are waiting for their instruction to begin. Once again…save your voice for the important stuff…the less you have to use it for silly verbal reminders, the less likely you are to sound like the teacher from the Peanuts cartoon.
I hang these signs on the whiteboard behind me near our mini lesson zone because each time my students meet with me, they need different supplies.
- Their own Word Pocket (for Words Their Way instruction on Monday)
- Their personalized book collection (for reading conferences on Tuesday, Wednesday)
- Their personal Word Collector’s Notebook (for collecting words in context and their weekly mini assessment on Thursday, Friday).
In honor of this blog post, I created a sign for the reading table where my aide hosts her small group instruction. This sign is simply a reminder that students should work in their Guided Reading Journal while they wait for other students to finish their reading in preparation for their group reading response activity. She uses guided reading books and literature circle books so students don’t need to bring anything with them when they visit her.
Tip #3: Get Smart With Your Classroom Furniture
Are you frustrated with your system for storing math and reading group supplies?
Find furniture that reduces classroom clutter and keeps you organized. This 5 Bin Storage Tower from The Container Store is an easy way to keep supplies together for your reading groups without having to deal with overflowing bins that create visual noise in your classroom. Each day, you can gather the supplies for the small groups you will be instructing and tuck everything out of sight once small group time is over.
In my classroom, this tower is used solely by my reading aide. To keep our storage tower optimally organized, I added a group label to each bin and have each group’s literature circle books and Guided Reading Journals inside. I keep student work out of folders because it removes an extra step when I need to quickly assess student work. If work is tucked inside a folder, I tend to forget about it…#teachertruth.
I would love to hear from you about any additional roadblocks you may be facing during your small group instruction time. Please also share your unique solutions to the roadblocks mentioned above in the comments below. Can’t wait to hear from you!