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Managing Small groups

Updated on September 1, 2017
dbroomfi profile image

A teacher in Southeast Texas with three children, I graduated from University of Houston and currently completing a Masters at UT-Arlington.

In all grade levels small group instruction is becoming a standard expectation of teachers, solid procedures can help your instruction run smoothly.
In all grade levels small group instruction is becoming a standard expectation of teachers, solid procedures can help your instruction run smoothly.

What is a Small Group and how to use a procedure?

Kronowitz says: "Don't introduce all routines at once, especially on the first day. For example, movement to and from centers need not to be discussed right off". The main objective for the students will be to manage their own paperwork, by optimizing their learning time efficiently, through an effective procedure. The teacher needs to be authoritative and monitor students' work and behavior and show withitness; to ensure the routine is being followed. Students will be actively engaged in the closure of the small group activity, demonstrating organization by properly turning in their work in a particular manner (the routine). Note: Teacher should model expectations.

When conducting small group instruction, a small group should be composed of four to five students. Each student in the group should have a job such as : the Captain, Displayer, Reporter, Time keeper, Collector, and or Recorder. Teachers should predetermine before the class day which students should participate in which groups. Jobs should all be prepared and posted for students to see. The teacher should also keep a record so that each time the children revisit a group they can have a different job so that they experience handling different responsibilities.

Small group instruction can be very benefitual in today's crowded classrooms. Research suggests that children learn best when there are few students being taught. Teachers are able to give one on one instruction and group children in a way based on their strengths and weaknesses.

It is important to run your class with well thoughtout procedures. Especially for young children. You cannot expect them to always know what it is you expect them to do. Here I have a step by step simple procedure that a teacher can use in a small group.


1) Provided that you have introduced or discussed what it is your students are to practice in small group,

(early in 1st 6weeks), set a timer with the allotted amount of time, for example: 15mins. Instruct them to begin working.

2) When buzzer has gone off, students will stop working and remain seated at the small group area, until the Collector has picked up everyone's papers and materials.

Once the Collector hears the buzzer, he or she will quietly get up and walk to each student and politely ask them for their paper or material.

3) Students will quickly and gently hand work to the Collector. Who will then walk to the small group container, open it and place it and the materials, example job badges, inside and then close the lid. They are responsible for making sure that this task is done correctly. Teachers should model how this is to be done.

4) One Collector is finished, he or she will go back to their seat. All students will remain seated until further instruction.

Resource: The Teacher's Guide to Success by Ellen L. Kronowitz


General Lesson Scenario

The teacher reviews several sight words with students on the Smart board,four students who need extra practice spelling sight words are sent to small group table to do a student led assignment. The teacher distributes flashcards to the students. The students take turns quizzing each other over several words for 5 minutes. One student records how many words each of the other students get right, and another student watches the time to make sure everybody gets at least 3 minutes to practice. Once the buzzer on the smartboard goes off (that the teacher set before), the displayer will write on the whiteboard all the words they the group are now confident they can spell.The collector will pick up all the flashcards and place them in the right container. This might sound simple but to a 1st or 2nd grader this might be a hard task. Giving young students jobs helps them take ownership and and they are more focused on their lesson.

Some might say how hard should it be for a teacher to conduct procedures? How hard could it be to pull a few groups from whole group and expect them to do their specialized work while the rest of the class focuses on something else? These things can be very challenging for a teacher to manage in today's classroom when there are so many challenges. Student behavior has to be managed, differentiated instruction has to be integrated as well as routines. Teachers have to be smart about how they teach and prioritize. Also it is important that the atmosphere in the classroom feels safe. No child should feel like they are embarrassed because they are in a small group. All students should be in a small group at sometime. It is not right to pull out the behavioral problem students only or the students that are severely behind. Sometimes the groups should be mixed and other times the gifted students should be able to work at a accelerated level.

© 2012 Dominique Broomfield

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    • Missy Mac profile image

      Missy Mac 

      6 years ago from Illinois

      Informative and great strategies for classroom management. I utilized similar skills when teaching. Students enjoy having options and not being overwhelemed. This article remindes me of a teachers need to be prepared with learning resources and reflecting on how students will benefit. Preparation helped me to plan for the unknown.

      Thank you again.

      Misty McElwee (Missy Mac)

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