How to Schedule Small Group Instruction

Small group instruction has been shown to be one of the most effective practices we have to improve student achievement. Scheduling small group instruction can be a challenge for some teachers. In this post, I share small group routines you can try.

Small group instruction has been shown to be one of the most effective practices we have to improve student achievement. Scheduling small group instruction can be a challenge for some teachers. In this post, I’ll share small group routines you can try.

Small Group Routines

My preference for small groups is to go with a workshop approach. Last year, it worked best for me to begin with writing. I always base our writing on a mentor text that models the trait I want my students to practice. I model for them through a shared writing example, anchor papers, and through their writing (with sharing time). The majority of the time should be spent writing and revising. It’s important that we stress:

Revisions are the icing on top of the cake. Without revising, you just get a plain cake. Revising allows you to add rich words, improve your sentences, and add detail. This is what gives your paper it’s unique flavor like a yummy piece of cake. 

This post includes framework ideas for structuring your ELA block and  includes ideas for fitting in all of the key components.

Scheduling Small Group Instruction for Reading

Once I have completed my writing block, I move into the reading block. If you find that you need additional writing time, you can also include writing as a station when you are working with small groups IF you follow a rotation schedule. I also encourage writing throughout my lessons in all other areas. Writing deepens comprehension of concepts and allows practice with composing sentences, using vocabulary, and grammar.

This post includes framework ideas for structuring your ELA block and  includes ideas for fitting in all of the key components.

My reading block has been structured similar to the writing block, but there are a few options you could try depending on your confidence with management and time allotment. In the past, I’ve run my small groups with a small group | center | seatwork rotation similar to this plan:


The Timing

Whole Group-15 minutes

Small Group Rotations-60 min.

20 minutes x 3

Sharing Session-15 minutes

Total-90 minutes

Using the Daily Five Approach

This post includes framework ideas for structuring your ELA block and  includes ideas for fitting in all of the key components.

I love the Daily Five approach and recently saw this model where the small groups run simultaneously with the teacher floating among them. Students have specific responsibilities and groups are differentiated. With this schedule, the teacher can cut down on off task time since there is less movement within the room for transitions IF materials are organized well.

Whole Group Mini Lesson 

(Comprehension)-15 minutes

Guided Reading Groups-20 minutes

Sharing Session-5 minutes

Word Study-15 minutes

The key is teaching expectations, organization, and group norms.

Deciding Your Small Group Routing

Remember, no schedule is perfect.

At the end of the day, no schedule is perfect. There are so many factors that can make or break a schedule, but as in life, you have to just work to find the best working situation.

Key Points to Remember

In order for your schedule to be the best it can be, keep these things in mind. First, keep the focus on meaningful instruction. If you make reading a priority and focus on solid modeling, your kids will learn. Another point is to keep times equitable and the time slots will not be as big of an issue as we think. Focusing on your most needy kids will help. Some students have the ability to work more independently than others. Finally, if you have small chunks of time, make the most of them by using them to practice fluency, review concepts previously taught, and by all means, reading to your students. Reading aloud to your students models fluency rates, phrasing, and expression. It grows vocabulary, and allows you the opportunity to THINK ALOUD comprehension of the text.

Scheduling is not easy, so if you have questions, I am glad to help you. In the meantime, remember to keep the main thing the main thing and keep your kids moving along the reading continuum.

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