Small Groups and What To Teach

As teachers, we all know that teaching in small groups is a vital part of our job.  We simply cannot reach 25+ students during whole group all day long.  Breaking up our day and providing small group opportunities in all subjects allows us to differentiate, support, and help meet the needs of all our students.  But when it comes to small groups, what exactly are we supposed to be doing?  There are many questions teachers have about small groups, what to teach, how to teach it, and where to find materials.  Let’s break down our understanding of what to teach in small groups!

What to teach in small groups blog header

The first thing teachers need to figure out when preparing for small groups is the purpose.  What is the purpose of meeting with these students?  Are you teaching a new concept?  Or maybe you’re reteaching?  You could also be assessing, conferencing, or goal setting.  There are many reasons why teachers would want to meet with students in small groups and it’s important that teachers know the purpose as well as vary the purposes throughout the months/year. Create a balanced schedule that allows you to get in all that you need.

Small Group Tip #1

Small groups should only come after solid whole group instruction.  Think of it this way – small groups should be tier 2 instruction, meaning it should come AFTER Tier 1, which is grade-level instruction.  If we are not providing adequate grade-level instruction then our tier 2 groups can’t truly grow and learn as best as possible.  Make sure you’re giving your students access to ample grade-level Tier 1 instruction begore diving into small groups.

Tip #2

Small group material should never be repeated from one group to another.  The only exception is if you have two groups on the EXACT same level needing the EXACT same things.  Teaching the same lesson multiple times in small groups just means that you need to teach it in whole group.  Small groups are where you identify specific students’ misconceptions and needs and tailor your teaching to that intentionally.  It should never be copy/paste.  small group activity

Small Group Tip #3

In the small group setting, the most important thing you can do for your students is model.  Take note of WHERE those specific student misconceptions lie and model them correctly.  This is your students’ chance to SEE the skill or strategy being done again. If your model didn’t click the first time, they need to see it again in a different light. use 2-3 minutes of EACH small group to take time to model.  Don’t jump into students applying right off the bat.  Check out my article on tips for modeling for teachers!

Tip #4

Concepts taught in small groups should be mirrored from what has been taught in whole group.  new concepts shouldn’t be introduced in a small group, with the exception of high-ability students.  What I teach in week #1 whole group should turn into what I teach in small groups in week #2.  Try to be a week behind yourself to give students ample opportunity to learn the skill in whole group and then refine the skill in a small group.

Small Group Tip #5

All small group times should include the following concepts in order to be successful:

  • modeling
  • tailored feedback
  • hand on practice with the teacher
  • independent practice

This is basically the gradual release model but in small groups.  This allows the students to hear the objective and see if being done correctly through modeling, hear from the teacher what she/he needs to correct through feedback, and practice both with guided help and independently to see if improvement has been made.

I hope these small group tips have helped!  Teaching in small groups can transform your instruction and guide your students towards mastery.  If you are looking for help on rolling out small groups, make sure to check this out!  To save this post for later, pin the image below!

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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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