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Posts Tagged ‘small groups’

 While at Westwood Primary in Greenwood, Arkansas, I worked with teachers on getting the most from small group instruction. They are reading and studying my book, Making the Most of Small Groups. Look at what they’ve already put into place!

Hats off to Dr. Sarah Turner, Principal, and Suzy Wilson, Assistant Principal, for the amazing collection of guided reading books they’ve provided for teachers at their school. They set up their bookroom in the teachers’ lounge to make the books easy for teachers to access. This is one of the loveliest bookrooms I’ve ever seen! Don’t you agree?

Kindergarten small group alphabet work

A well-organized small group area in second grade

The word wall is easily accessed in this small group area in another second grade classroom

First grade small group teaching in our "classroom makeover" room

Small group in second grade

Teachers' lounge/book room for guided reading books

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Downtown Flagstaff

Downtown Flagstaff

This past weekend I gave the keynote address at the Arizona Reading Association conference and enjoyed meeting so many wonderful educators from this beautiful state. I was fortunate to have in-depth conversations with many attendees about their classrooms and concerns. Everywhere I go, I’m touched by the caring of teachers no matter what their circumstances. I met teachers working with Apache children, folks with overcrowded spaces, educators that spent their fall break attending this conference– people who care deeply about their students.

 
My keynote address was titled, “Getting and Keeping Their Attention.” Here are a few points from my presentation:
1. Three ways to get students’ attention– emotion, novelty, and meaning.
2. Ways to keep student attention- proximity, technology, telling a story, movement, all-pupil response.
3. Small-group instruction holds students’ attention if the tasks are at the cutting edge of students’ development (and the group isn’t too big- no more than 4-6 students)
4. Literacy work stations engage students because they have ownership and peer interaction.
 
The brain doesn’t need to constantly pay attention. It needs downtime to process new information, too. The brain needs “white space.” So, we did some resting and rejuvenating while in Flagstaff, too. If you’ve never been here, take the trip! Tom and I flew to Phoenix (an easy trip on Southwest from Houston) and drove about 2 hours from the desert into the mountains (a lovely drive) to reach Flagstaff. I loved the historic downtown and found some great jewelry and greeting cards at a little shop called Zani. Great dinner at Mountain Oasis, too. We also drove to Sedona to see the sights. Amazing red rocks along the way!
 
Ollie Archambault, president-elect of ARA gave me an Apache "burden basket" or tats'a

Ollie Archambault, president-elect of ARA gave me an Apache "burden basket" or tats'a

Posing with Stenhouse rep, Lisa York, and a literacy coach who encouraged me to write a book on middle school work stations!

Posing with Stenhouse rep, Lisa York, and a literacy coach who encouraged me to write a book on middle school work stations!

The winding mountain road we took from Flagstaff to Sedona

The winding mountain road we took from Flagstaff to Sedona

Amazing red rock formations

Amazing red rock formations

Horse statue in Sedona

Horse statue in Sedona

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Sign up sheets for students to choose books for literature circles on Harriet Tubman

Sign up sheets for students to choose books for literature circles on Harriet Tubman

Recently I received an email from a 4th-grade teacher about using novels in guided reading. It’s a question I get quite a bit, so thought I’d share it here. Here’s the question and my reply:

QUESTION: I am an elementary teacher who is a tremendous fan of your work.  My question is when working in guided reading groups in fourth grade, is it appropriate to read the same novel with each group?  My lowest level group reads much slower and I don’t know if I will have time to finish it with them.  What is your advice?  It’s Sarah, Plain and Tall.  Thank you in advance!

MY ANSWER:  I would not use the same novel with each group. The purpose of small group instruction is to differentiate for students. Choose a book for small group that is at students’ instructional level. This means that each group is reading a different book. If you have the resources, you could try to find books that tie together in some way. But that is not necessary. The important thing is to teach the children, not to teach the book.  As for Sarah, Plain and Tall, some children could read that book as an independent read. Others could read it in guided reading. For still others, it will be too hard and they will need too much support. It would be best to read aloud and discuss the book to the whole class, I think. Or read aloud some of it and leave it out for kids to finish on their own, if they’d like.

Another option is to use this book for some children in a literature discussion group. For more information on these, I like Harvey Daniels’ site (but it appears to being rebuilt at this time). Another source is www.litcircles.org. Yet another (for ELL students) is at http://www.eflliteraturecircles.com/

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A group of 5th graders read short text and use graphic organizers on main idea to deepen comprehension

A group of 5th graders read short text and use graphic organizers on main idea to deepen comprehension

I love Mainers! I worked with such a great group of teachers in Waterville, Maine last week. We studied the power of small groups. If we can remember why we teach in small groups, it’s easier to carve out time for this important part of the day.

Teachers in 4th-6th grade brainstormed these as their top reasons for using small groups:

1. Increases comfort level for students

2. Immediate feedback can be provided to students

3. Students can’t hide

4. Allows the needs of groups of students to be targeted 

5. Helps teachers observe student learning more carefully

6. Provides opportunity to individualize instruction

7. Instruction can be more easily differentiated

8. Allows teachers to match reading levels and interest levels to students

What are some of the reasons you use small groups? Leave your ideas in the comments section!

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I am so excited about this new DVD! We filmed it in the primary classrooms of Estella Perez and Maria Diaz-Albertini at the EA Lawhon Elementary School in Pearland, Texas. We explore how to form small groups, organize for small group instruction, choose books, write lesson plans and support student independence. Watch this short clip from the introduction.

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