Effective tips to make small groups in your kindergarten classroom meaningful and useful to you and your students. Try these ideas to get started today!
With large class sizes, it can be hard to meet the needs of all the students in your class. Using small groups can be a very effective way to provide instruction tailored to a few students at a time.
I made a podcast discussing small groups in kindergarten, so if you would like to hear my thoughts, you can have a listen to the Creative Kindergarten podcast episode 25.
Why are Small Groups Important?
Some might call them guided groups, I use the term small groups, but they are the same thing. They are a select group of students that you pull based on their academic needs.
Your groups should be differentiated based on their abilities and interests, and will help you get a better sense of what’s happening with each child.
Since you are spending more 1:1 time with each child, they will be able to express themselves and share their thoughts comfortably. They may not be able to share as easily when they are in a large group environment.
Lastly, I have read in books recently that students from under-resourced communities benefit greatly from small groups. Since they are more likely to be exposed to less experiences, having a more direct mode of instruction helps solidify concepts for them.
Divide & Conquer
With the Full Day Kindergarten program that has an Early Childhood Educator and a teacher in each classroom, it is easy to divide up small groups so that each educator is responsible for a different group.
I’ve done writing groups, and my teaching partner has done reading groups. Divide it up based on strengths or preferences.
It’s also beneficial to rethink the time and spaces you have in your classroom. Bring in a small group of students in 15 minutes early from outdoor learning, set up an alternate learning space in the school (we had a space in the hallway at out school).
Think about the time and spaces you have, and use it to plan effective small groups.
You will need to be effective communicators as well. I would always talk to my teaching partner about our small groups and plan them together.
Documentation for Small Groups
In order to effectively use small groups, you need to know what is happening with your students. Having organized and adequate documentation will help you plan out what to do with students.
You will be able to see the natural small groups emerge from the documentation- all the students that need to work on the same skills.
Find a way that works for you and your classroom, using OneNote, paper and pencil notes, or whatever it is that works for you. Just make sure you are documenting the learning that is happening in your room!
Not Just At the Guided Table
One of my biggest pieces of advice: small groups do NOT need to just happen at a specific table.
You can do spontaneous small groups during centers. For example, a patterning activity is the perfect opportunity for working with a select group of students.
Meet your students where they are instead of moving them to a different space for every small group intervention.
Make Class Lists
Use a class list or write on a sticky note who you would like to work with on a specific skill. If you know a certain group of students are having a harder time with a skill, write it down.
I know I tend to get distracted or forget which students I want to work with, so writing it down makes it easy for me to focus on. Having a plan set out and written before-hand, makes it more likely that I will get to it.
Use Games During Small Groups
Your small groups can be used as a time to play educational games. BINGO can easily be changed up to match the needs of your students. Work on letters, sight words, numbers.
My post, Everything You Need to Know About Math Centers, is a great place to start to get ideas on what you can be doing with your students.
Manipulatives are another fun way to work on skills. Using these hands-on materials can make concepts meaningful to your students. Number sense skills and more can be taught with manipulatives.
What are your other students doing?
Now that you are all set up for small groups, what is the rest of the class going to be doing?
I’ve always have done self-regulated learning centers. This can take a bit to set up at the beginning of the year, but once your students are used to it, your small groups will be so much easier.
I wrote My Ultimate Guide to Kindergarten Centers to explain how this works in my classroom, and my Free Choice podcast episode delves further into this too.
Know that your small groups might be shorter at the beginning of the year as students get used to you classroom routines. You will be able to extend them and make them more in-depth as the year progresses.
Your small groups are not always going to go as planned, no matter how prepared you are. Remember to be flexible, and change things up as needed.
If a small group activity is not working, do something different. Have a few resources at the ready so that you can easily pull something if you need to.
If the rest of your class is having a hard time self-regulating, you need to pause your small group and reset the rest of the class. Restart the small group when the class is back on task.
Even though you are working with a select group of students, you still have to be mindful of what is happening with the rest of the classroom. You need to be able to respond to the needs of all your students.
Hopefully this blog post empowers you to try small groups with your students. They can be so beneficial, and help your students succeed. If you have never tried using small groups, take it one day at a time and try it out!
If you have any other questions, or tips to share, leave a comment!
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