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Making The Most Of Small Groups: Chapter 1

labeling writers workshop writing

Today we officially kick off our summer book study with the book Making The Most Of Small Groups by Debbie Diller!   So let’s jump right in!

Here are some of my takeaways from Chapter 1:

Takeaway 1:  Daily Schedule!

Here is my daily schedule from last school year:

daily schedule

In our class we have about 120 minutes or 2 hours for reading.   That includes whole group and small group lessons.  About 30-45 minutes is whole group (including singing and dancing, sight words, phonics, phonemic awareness and shared reading, and interactive read alouds) and over an hour for small groups.  This is done on purpose because I want most of my time spent in small groups and one on one!  I have worked very hard to make our whole group time efficient to cut down that time so we get more of that small group time!

Takeaway 2:  Planning

This might be the most powerful quote for me:

“considering kids and curriculum…I look at my state’s content standards AND the kids’ needs based on assessments.”  

We have a professional and ethical responsibility to make learning accessible to every child in our classroom.   I know there is a lot of debate and concern about developmentally appropriate teaching (and rightly so!).   With that being said, teacher’s don’t have the power to change those requirements/mandates/standards.  We have a voice and we can advocate for change and advocate (loudly) for our students.  However, our job is to make those standards/curriculum/mandates/benchmarks accessible to every child in our classroom every day.  We MUST meet each child where they are and meet their needs.

Takeaway 3:  Planning Small Groups Lessons

I was very reassured that Debbie Diller says she plans her small group lessons daily.   AHA!   This is something that has been a challenge for me this year because we are required to write and upload our guided reading plans each Monday.  I argued that I can plan for guided reading in a general way by choosing a book based on each group and planning a very loose framework for that group.  BUT so much of guided reading happens “on the fly” and depends on each child in that group and how they respond to the book!   So now I feel better that I was planning each day based on what my students need and how they responded to the books!

What will I be implementing from Chapter 1:

One AHA moment I had was setting a specific purpose for reading!!!   This is not something I do in my small groups but it’s something I will be doing from now on!

I will also make a more concerted effort to ask students what they read after listening to them for a bit.   Usually I will listen to them read, make some notes and move on.   I like building in a comprehension check after listening to them read.  This will give me more valuable information on their reading and comprehension.

I also like the idea of pointing out what they did as good readers!   I give general feedback when my groups are finished such as “great reading!” or “ya’ll did so good today” and sometimes I might say to a certain student something like “great job using your sounds!” but I want this specific feedback to be more common and systematic!

Some final thoughts:

There is no right or wrong way to do small group instruction (pg. 10).   We all find what works for us and that’s ok!!!  We don’t have to follow someone else’s plan or routine.  Are there things that aren’t effective?  Of course.  We are professionals and we know when something isn’t working and we fix it!   So you do you boo!   If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  If ain’t working, fix it!

And finally, my favorite line of chapter1:

“Pay attention to your students, be open and have fun!”

That should be the motto and philosophy of every classroom and every teacher.  Listen to your students and meet their needs.  Don’t teach the curriculum, teach the kids.  AND HAVE FUN!

small groups

Now it’s your turn!  Let’s start a conversation in the comments section by answering these questions:

  1.  Share your daily schedule!

  2. How much time do you have for reading each day?

  3. Do you use “jump starts” as described on page 7?

Please answer these questions and share your other thoughts and ideas in the comments!

Also join me LIVE on Facebook 8:00 ET/7:00 CT for a LIVE conversation about chapter 1!

Also make sure to head over to Kindergarten Chaos to read Abigail’s thoughts on chapter 1!

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