It’s no secret… there is isn’t enough time in a day for teachers to fit in everything we need to, especially when it comes to differentiating instruction through small group reading. I feel it to friend, and that’s where the need to organize, prioritize and strategize comes into play so that we can not only plan for small groups, but also ensure they are effective.
Today I’ll be sharing 4 tips you can start using right away that will help you plan your literacy small groups in less time.
Organize Small Group Materials
One of the best ways to save time when planning and prepping for small groups is to store all of the materials you frequently use in a central area – I like to keep all of mine right next to my small group table.
I call it the “small group command center,” and it literally holds ALL THE THINGS. On top I keep a bin for each group where I store the manipulatives, activities, and books we’ll be using for the upcoming lesson.
In the drawers I store all the extra activities and manipulatives we aren’t currently using – think magnetic letters, letter stamps and stamp pads, sounds box cards, etc.
Use Observations and Assessments to Guide Planning
During each small group lesson, I jot down observations and notes about specific kids and the group’s progress as a whole. Did they get the goal for the lesson? Do they need extra practice with a phonics pattern or heart word? This is invaluable information for when I set down to plan our next group meeting.
I keep all of this information (plans and notes) in a small group reading binder organized by group so it’s readily available.
Each time I set down to plan small groups, I start off by referring to these observations from previous lessons as well as baseline assessments as needed.
This saves times trying to figure out what to focus on because you’ve already written that information out in your notes during your previous lesson – whether it be reviewing a skill or moving on to something else.
Use Templates for Planning Lessons
Have you ever heard the phrase, “don’t reinvent the wheel”? It applies to planning small group lessons, too!
Using a template that includes the essential components of each small group session, such as your warm-up activities, main instructional tasks, and any assessment saves so much time.
I love using a template like the one on these small group planning pads. It makes planning so much faster, then I just pop them into my small group reading binder.
You can easily customize these templates based on the specific needs of your students and the learning goals for each session, but you don’t have to start from ground zero each time.
Trust me when I say that having a structured framework in place will save you time and mental energy, enabling you to focus on instructional delivery (and your sanity!)
Incorporate Center Rotations
Having students work in small groups at centers is such a powerful way to engage your students in practice with the skills you’ve been teaching in whole group and small group, and it frees up time so you can continue to deliver direct instruction through small groups.
While one group receives direct instruction from you, other groups work either independently or in collaborative tasks, such as word work, reading centers, or hands-on activities.
This saves tons of time when you’re actually teaching small group lessons because you have less interruptions.
As you work with planning small groups you’ll find little tips and tricks that work for you for saving time, but having some ideas to get started can be such a game changer. I hope that these tips help give you back some of your precious time. If you’ve got other strategies for planning small groups quickly, drop them in the comments below!