Getting Started with Small Groups

You’ve started school and are excited and ready to jump into your routine!  I get it – we all are eager to get the merriment going and establishing your day to day schedule.  But..  there is such a thing as jumping the gun, especially when it comes to rolling out your small groups.  Getting started with small groups is a meticulous process that takes time, so let’s break down this process together so when the time comes, you’ll be ready!

The best way to get started is to work backwards.  Think about your ideal classroom where centers & stations are all working beautifully without interruption and then map out your plan of how to get there.  What do you need to teach your students how to do in order to achieve that vision?  What date do you want that vision to be in place by?  This post is all about identifying things that could go wrong when launching and trying to prevent them all from happening, allowing you and your class to have the best small group roll out you can!

Make sure you have everything you need to get started with small groups. Read all about these important parts of small groups to teach before getting started! Plus grab your awesome small group roll out plan template freebie!

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Here is a list of items to think about teaching and/or preparing your students for when getting started with small groups.  Some of these might be items that you’re already used to teaching to launch your small groups and others might be new!

#1 – Transitions:

     This is an obvious one, but a rather important one as well.  Make sure you show and teach your students how to transition to and from their small groups, how to transition between each individual small group, & how to transition with materials in hand.  Also make sure to discuss the timing of your transitions so students know their expectations on how long these transitions should take.

#2 – Expectations:

     This is a large concept to make sure to break down and teach to your students for small groups.  What do you expect of them while they are in small groups, working with partners, working with an adult in a small group, etc.  This may overlap your ‘normal’ classroom rules but you will find that there are changes that are made to accommodate the small group setting – so be sure to be specific and lay these expectations out for your students

#3 – Workload:

     When preparing students for small groups – make sure to explain to them what their workload will look like at their stations.  What are the students being expected to do or work on?  What is their role?  Do they have must do activities and then may do activities?  What should they do when they get frustrated?  Be explicit and explain this to better your chances to avoid needing to redirect students later.

#4 – Schedule:

     This is one of the biggest hurdles to get through when getting started with small groups.  Do students know their schedule?  Make and display a student friendly visual for them to refer to to help avoid them asking you questions about when and where to go. Take time to practice reading through the schedule and practice where to go.
Make sure you have everything you need to get started with small groups. Read all about these important parts of small groups to teach before getting started! Plus grab your awesome small group roll out plan template freebie!

#5 – Your job:

     Make sure to take time to explain what you will be doing during centers and stations.  How will students know when to approach you?  When your job is clearly communicated to students, they take more care and understanding of you and your time with other students.

#6 – Accountability:

     When students are working independently or with others without an adult, accountability is important to be upfront about!  How will you be checking in on students and their work?  How will they turn in completed work?  Will their work be graded?  Letting your students know about their accountability will help keep them responsible from the start.

#7 – Objectives:

     This is one that, over the years, I’ve found to be very important to explicitly explain and teach during my small group roll out.  When I plan out my centers – I make sure to write out and explain the objective of each center to the students.  Meaning – if I have a listening center where they listen and complete a graphic organizer, I make sure the students understand that that station is to increase their comprehension.  If I have a technology station where they are playing a grammar app, I make sure that they know that they are working to better their understanding on grammar concepts.  Be very upfront about what the students are to be learning in each center to help create more buy in and connection to the learning process.

#8 – Materials:

     This is another one you’re probably used to explaining – the use of your materials in centers.  What are the expectations when they use materials in small groups?  How are they to take care of them?  Where do they find them and return them?  What do they do with them when time is up but they are rotating to another center.  Make sure to break this one down as it can consume a lot of time after you launch if you haven’t been as clear as you should of been.

#9 – Early Finisher:

     Very important to think through prior to launching small groups!  What will you students do if/when they finish their work at their center?  Where will their completed work be turned in and what are they and are they not allowed to work on when done?  This is a great chance to throw in some differentiated work as well for your students!

#10 – What If’s:

     This is something I HIGHLY recommend doing at least once in your roll out plan before launching.  Have a ‘what if’ conversation with your students.  If you’re anything like me, you hate ‘what if’ questions..  But for students, those questions are important to them.  When you’re close to launching, take time to allow students to ask as many what if questions as they can think of!  Go through some ‘what if’ scenarios yourself with them – like, what if students are absent or what if the schedule changes?  Having a ‘what if’ day can help lessen some anxiety for many students!
     So what now?  Grab your free calendar template above (or create your own in your lesson plan book!) and map out your roll out plan.  Pick your launch date and work backwards thinking of all of the items from this list (and your own list) that you need to teach and put them on your calendar!  Then teach your roll out plan to your students during what WILL be small group time.  By the time your launch date arrives, they will be pros and you’ll have the smoothest roll out to small groups you’ve ever experienced!  I promise!
Too much to read now?  Make sure to pin this article to read later!
Make sure you have everything you need to get started with small groups. Read all about these important parts of small groups to teach before getting started! Plus grab your awesome small group roll out plan template freebie!



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I’m a wife, a mommy of 3, blogger, and a full time teacher author and presenter. I love to read, shop, and spend time with my family! My hands are always busy, but my heart is so full!

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