Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Simple Strategies for More Turns in Small Groups!

Hi, it's Jennifer from Empowering Little Learners and Simply Centers again! 

We have talked a lot about increasing the rigor and shifting the talk time in class to be most for your students and not just you talking.  But today I want to talk specifically about providing more turns during small group instruction  by using a few simple strategies. 

We all know that small groups can be on any topic...  alphabet names and sounds, DIBELS skills, decoding, sight words and even math!  For today we are going to focus on reading decodable books because this is ultimately the goal.. teaching kids to read.  Once you have the strategies down, you can then apply them to any other subject area small groups! 

Set the stage:  Ideally you would want your students to be sitting a kidney shaped or horseshoe table.  With kinder I would focus on only 3 students to start.  Otherwise it may get chaotic and out of control.  For you decodable, you will want to have word cards created that have sight words and decodable words.  I personally like to color code these words:  red for stop and think and green for go ahead and sound out.  By color coding this helps my students to know what strategy to use (even though you will eventually want to scaffold them off of that.)  At the beginning I put these just on 3 by 5 cards with marker, nothing fancy!  If you are looking for sight words, I just updated our Sight Words Motions Freebie to include all the Pre-Primer and Primer list (click image to upload the update!)

During small group time:  Here are several strategies to get more turns for your students:

1.        It’s always a good idea to intro or warm up the students to the content being presented in the group.  With reading groups this consists of practicing those green and red words.  Typically, as teachers we would think to just flash the kids the same set of cards… but any half way coherent teacher knows that many students will just copy the child sitting next to them orally.  Even beyond that, we cannot assume that the kids are actually reading and not mimicking you!  The solution is simple, but scary!  Rotate the cards around the group so each student has a different card to read.  Then teach/cue them to pass to the right and read the word, pass to the right, read the word… and so on and so on.  Now each student has a different word and cannot copy the students around them… giving them MORE TURNS at reading!  This is a rapid review that should get going very fast with your students and prep then for the upcoming book.  As students advance, you can and should put more words on the cards, never in the same order though because you don’t  want them copying. 

2.       Use my turn – your turn.  Never just talk or present ideas.  Students learn better when they are actively engaged... the way around this is to constantly have students repeat you AND even add motions!  I use hand motions, hand on my chest for my turn, then hand out for your turn.

3.       Have students point.  We can’t assume that because they are speaking or because they are looking that they are following along with us.  Pointing will show you this and given them a strategy to be successful when they are reading independently. 
4.       Use partnerships in small groups.  Let this time be a time to reinforce what great partnerships look like.  In my class one person points, one person listens and corrects.  Both are actively engaged in the book.  Another great way to use this is the ask the ending comprehension questions to partners – partner A tell partner B where the setting is… or whatever.  Then you can call on partner B to tell you the answer so everyone has had a chance to state the answer.  Have you downloaded my free partnership names yet?  Of course, I also have a full set plus many more in printable partnership nameplates from TpT
After Small Groups:  Don't let the fun stop after you do your small group instruction.  Allow the kids to take the books (or whatever you are working on) back to their seats and read them to a friend.  Or allow them to keep them at their tables so they practice them during independent reading time or down time.  I personally like to connect my homework to my small groups.  This is the best way to differentiate homework and it is so simple!  All I do is look at what I am working with those students with and find something that connects to it.  Currently, I am sending home DIBELS practice pages (a freebie listed below) and/or my stories typed out (because the kids were destroying my non-replaceable books.)  My homework goes home Monday and is not due until friday.  I attach this page to the homework to ensure the students practiced a little each night. 

So... you are jam packed with freebies in this post!  Hopefully you walked away with at least one thing to try (I consider myself successful if I just walk away with one thing!)  Be sure to come by and see me... say you found me from PreKanKSharing! 



  1. this post is fantastic. extremely helpful tips... can't wait to try a few today in my small groups.

  2. Great ideas, Jennifer! I pinned your post to the Group Board: Professional Development in Early Childhood Education at http://pinterest.com/teachpreschool/group-board-professional-development-in-early-chil/


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