Wednesday, June 29, 2016

How do you PLAN and ORGANIZE for your small groups?

Welcome to week 1 of my book study on Debbie Diller's 'Making the Most of Small Groups: Differentiation for All'. I've read through chapters 1 and 2 to be able to share some great information AND (not 1, not 2..) several freebies!

Without further ado, Chapter 1! Debbie began her book talking about what we know is one of the most common hurdles for teachers: TIME. It's definitely a 4 letter word ;)

Some of the most important tid-bits that I got from the brilliant Debbie are these:

** There is no such thing as a perfect schedule**

We all have something about our schedules we might not like. But we always make it work. So, keeping that in mind, think about what you need to fit in AND what does your county require. My county wants me to do a core reading time and a supplemental reading time. On paper, that's what it is. In real life, it's all one big block where my core reading consists of a mini-lesson and literacy stations that turn into the supplemental time. While my students do stations, I pull for groups.

** Consider your kids and then the curriculum**

We are required to teach the curriculum and get it all covered. We always do BUT keep your kids in mind when scheduling. If you know that they can't handle assessments in the afternoon, rearrange and do them in the morning. If they need extra settle-down time before a lesson can begin, build in a review game that's calming or a read aloud.

**Make sure to break it down**

Your lessons should be broken down into: whole group, small group, and one-on-one. It's SUPER important to meet with every student 1:1 at least once a week if not more often. 

To help with thinking about how to do that, here's your first freebie:

Chapter 2: Organizing

**Make sure that everything is within reach! In the picture above I had my guided reading books, pointers, lesson plans, and more all right in reach!

**Slowly introduce small groups. It helps that in Kindergarten we start out the year teaching the letters. Since I do a condensed alphabet bootcamp,  I also introduce a new center each day. 
For example, day 1 half the students do a handwriting/coloring sheet and the other half does play dough letters.
Day 2, 1/3 does handwriting, 1/3 does play dough, 1/3 does letter sort.
Day 3, 1/4 does handwriting, 1/4 does play dough, 1/4 does letter sort, 1/4 meets with me for a letter activity.

We keep up this routine until we have done all the letters. By then we have made sure to instill our expectations about small groups, centers, and how to behave during both.

**Make sure to always have a plan!** 

I have used my planning pages for years now and they help keep track of SO much!

Look! Another freebie! This is one of the most important things you can have at your small group table: a notification to your students that they need to stay back because you have a group going on. In Debbie's book, she had teachers who used a certain stuffed animal that held a sign. I've also had a stop sign that was attached to a standing up pocket chart like this one:

Here's your very own sign for your table top! There are several to choose from:

Don't forget! Next Wednesday I'll share about Chapter 3: Grouping and Chapter 4: Comprehension. Make sure to come back!

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