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October 13, 2015

Small Group Instruction in Reading Workshop

By Rhonda Stewart
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    I am in the midst of assessing reading levels in my classroom. Like many of you, I use an assessment tool for this purpose. In my district, we use Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project Running Records system. I use data from the running records to determine how I am going to group my students for small group instruction in reading.

    Grouping can be formed from anything from bands of text (reading levels) where students are grouped by similar reading ability, or strategy based, where the focus is strategies readers use to improve comprehension. I also find that I will have moments of impromptu small group instruction. Sometimes, after the mini-lesson has been taught, if I notice that some students are struggling with a concept, I will gather them at either the kidney table or in our meeting area to re-teach.

    One common thread resonates with the small group instruction process: this only works well if classroom systems and procedures are in place and practiced regularly. The expression "when the cat's away, the mice will play" says is all. During small group instruction, spidey senses or teacher super powers must kick in: eyes behind your head, long distance vision, lip reading, supepower hearing, and the ability to transport anywhere in the classroom in a split second. You need a good sense of what is going on in the classroom while working with a small group.

    Small Group Instruction Tips

    Rhonda’s Rules to Live by:

    • Plan and prepare: This is essential. My resources for small group instruction are readily available and easy to access. Keeping them in an accordion folder ensures that I am able to teach without stopping and looking for something. It takes some time to put it together on the front end, but it is so worth it!

    My Handy-Dandy Tool Kit

       

    New Additions to My Tool Kit

      

    You can upload these forms and other resources by going to fellow blogger Beth Newingham's post on reading workshops. I was also able to personalize some of her forms (Independent Reading Self-Checklist) for my classes.

    • Have a clear vision: Communicate your expectations with your students. Make sure that they understand their responsibilities during small group instruction. Directions should be clear and concise. 

    • Set manageable routines: Procedures that are in place in the classroom should foster independence; use the class space (walls, bulletin boards, windows) as reminders for what the students need to do while working independently. Anchor charts are a great way to reinforce routines in the classroom without saying a word. Check out fellow blogger Genia Connell's post on using anchor charts for classroom management for some great ideas.

    • Create cozy reading nooks: This allows for students to “read around the room.” Students rotate their seating in the different reading nooks in the classroom. I have several in my classroom. Students get it that in our classroom, with reading you Open a World of Possible!

      

      

    • Easy access: Students should be able to access materials needed without interrupting your teaching. Placed in the center of each of my groupings is a basket of materials that are needed for assignments. Students are able to work more efficiently having easy access to supplies. 

    • Be flexible: If you notice that something is not working, make adjustments. I often ask my students for input if something is not working well. It could be as simple as, “Where should the reading workshop anchor charts live in the classroom?” or “How can we tweak our library book sign-out system?” Last year, my students gave me some feedback on IDR rotations in the classroom. Although there was a chart that lived in the classroom, they did not adhere to it. This year I am trying a different approach: using images along with words. The student's names are written on clothespins and indicate where they should be during small group instruction. I am hoping that this chart will be more successful than last year.

     

    With my tool kit in hand and rotation chart and management systems in place, my class and I are ready to enter the wonderful world of small group instruction on our way to becoming powerful lifelong readers!

     
     

    Pearls of Wisdom Keep your managment systems simple. I have learned over the years to not overthink and overdo it. You end up making more work for yourself. Remember to work smarter not harder!

     

    Do you have small group instruction tips that work in your classroom? Please share! I love hearing ideas that make all of our lives easier!

    I am in the midst of assessing reading levels in my classroom. Like many of you, I use an assessment tool for this purpose. In my district, we use Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project Running Records system. I use data from the running records to determine how I am going to group my students for small group instruction in reading.

    Grouping can be formed from anything from bands of text (reading levels) where students are grouped by similar reading ability, or strategy based, where the focus is strategies readers use to improve comprehension. I also find that I will have moments of impromptu small group instruction. Sometimes, after the mini-lesson has been taught, if I notice that some students are struggling with a concept, I will gather them at either the kidney table or in our meeting area to re-teach.

    One common thread resonates with the small group instruction process: this only works well if classroom systems and procedures are in place and practiced regularly. The expression "when the cat's away, the mice will play" says is all. During small group instruction, spidey senses or teacher super powers must kick in: eyes behind your head, long distance vision, lip reading, supepower hearing, and the ability to transport anywhere in the classroom in a split second. You need a good sense of what is going on in the classroom while working with a small group.

    Small Group Instruction Tips

    Rhonda’s Rules to Live by:

    • Plan and prepare: This is essential. My resources for small group instruction are readily available and easy to access. Keeping them in an accordion folder ensures that I am able to teach without stopping and looking for something. It takes some time to put it together on the front end, but it is so worth it!

    My Handy-Dandy Tool Kit

       

    New Additions to My Tool Kit

      

    You can upload these forms and other resources by going to fellow blogger Beth Newingham's post on reading workshops. I was also able to personalize some of her forms (Independent Reading Self-Checklist) for my classes.

    • Have a clear vision: Communicate your expectations with your students. Make sure that they understand their responsibilities during small group instruction. Directions should be clear and concise. 

    • Set manageable routines: Procedures that are in place in the classroom should foster independence; use the class space (walls, bulletin boards, windows) as reminders for what the students need to do while working independently. Anchor charts are a great way to reinforce routines in the classroom without saying a word. Check out fellow blogger Genia Connell's post on using anchor charts for classroom management for some great ideas.

    • Create cozy reading nooks: This allows for students to “read around the room.” Students rotate their seating in the different reading nooks in the classroom. I have several in my classroom. Students get it that in our classroom, with reading you Open a World of Possible!

      

      

    • Easy access: Students should be able to access materials needed without interrupting your teaching. Placed in the center of each of my groupings is a basket of materials that are needed for assignments. Students are able to work more efficiently having easy access to supplies. 

    • Be flexible: If you notice that something is not working, make adjustments. I often ask my students for input if something is not working well. It could be as simple as, “Where should the reading workshop anchor charts live in the classroom?” or “How can we tweak our library book sign-out system?” Last year, my students gave me some feedback on IDR rotations in the classroom. Although there was a chart that lived in the classroom, they did not adhere to it. This year I am trying a different approach: using images along with words. The student's names are written on clothespins and indicate where they should be during small group instruction. I am hoping that this chart will be more successful than last year.

     

    With my tool kit in hand and rotation chart and management systems in place, my class and I are ready to enter the wonderful world of small group instruction on our way to becoming powerful lifelong readers!

     
     

    Pearls of Wisdom Keep your managment systems simple. I have learned over the years to not overthink and overdo it. You end up making more work for yourself. Remember to work smarter not harder!

     

    Do you have small group instruction tips that work in your classroom? Please share! I love hearing ideas that make all of our lives easier!

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