Making A Large Group Small

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Yup! Another snow day.

I decided to give you a different view than the last snow day post so you didn't think I was just running out of material :)

And as you can see, it's not just a little snow. I absolutely love snow days, but even I'm not happy about this one. We build five days into our schedule and we've hit that mark. At this point it is going to be a looooong June. I've used the day off to the best of my ability. I have chicken masala in the crockpot and ground turkey enchiladas made for tomorrow night. The hub and I are watching the last two episodes of House of Cards. If you haven't seen it you MUST. Now, as you can tell, I am a big political nerd so this is right up my alley. Netflix recently dropped all 156 episodes of West Wing and I've been watching them again. Again.......political nerd.

In my last post, I told you about my big foreign affairs unit, which I will probably delve into over multiple posts. At the launch, the History Alive! materials have you begin with a map activity where the kids get to see and understand that although America had its "freedom" we were completely surrounded by European colonies and they didn't like us all that much. I have gotten to the point, in my career, where I am really getting tired of whole group instruction. This generation is not built for this type of teaching. They are used to individualized consumption of information and when I get up in front of them with blanket statements it is becoming harder for them to interact. I have been experimenting with different forms of small group instruction, like my Leveling Up activity the kids adored. After my mad snow day on The Learning Channel, I watched this video.

I know... It's the same teacher from the Text Talk video. Either she is really great teacher or they just caught her on a great day! After watching this, though, I really started to wonder, why CAN'T I teach small groups? What is really stopping me? Obviously, logistics are stopping me. I do have a paraprofessional in every class but they are assigned to individual students. I love my ladies, but I can't always rely that they can be with me since they are servicing one particular student. I decided I needed to push past the logistics and just give it a try.

I had a day where the kiddos had to take a vocabulary quiz, take a binder check and then I wanted to finish discussing the European claims map. Boring, but the stuff that just needs to get done sometimes. After lunch I have a class that tends to struggle with both academics and attention and I was dreading trying to get all this done with those kiddos. The video popped into my head and instead of eating lunch (which my colleague totally picked on me for) I decided to break my room into two areas of small group instruction. I called one area the Assessment Station. Here they were to independently take the vocabulary quiz and the binder check and then correct them by themselves.

Obviously I used the good construction paper:)
In each plastic cover was a answer key and a marker for grading.

I got the ideas for the answer keys from this blog post I saw on Pinterest. It really allows students to finish their assessments without feeling rushed and allows other kids to continue ahead without wasting time.

The other side of the class I called the Learning Station.

As the sign reads, students could work collaboratively to finish up the questions and then I was able to work with them on understanding the major point of the entire activity. In each case, almost every student got involved in the discussion.

I really enjoyed this experiment and will try it again soon. Most of the kids didn't know what to make of it! It was so different than what they had experienced (except my kids in Read 180.... They got it.). I could tell that some of my kids really missed the anonymity of whole group instruction and resented the fact that they were being called to task..... Good!!! I had many kids, though, tell me they loved it and couldn't wait to try it again. They really enjoyed the more focused approach and the conversation they were able to have as opposed to the lecture they had to listen to. Sometimes, sprinting through lunch and taking a risk pays off......

Do any of you out there have any other suggestions on how to make middle school classes seem smaller and more intimate?



  1. I just found your blog through pinterest and am your newest follower. I am loving the way you are implementing small group instruction. Our K-3 teachers teach this way every day, but 4-12 don't. I have dipped into it this year with my 6th graders and absolutely love teaching in a small group.

    I might still be cruising your blog this time tomorrow! :)


    1. Glad you enjoy! This year I have actually moved out of suburbia and am teaching in an urban district and use this type of teaching even more. Some of my kids simply can not handle small group instruction. Stay tuned for more of my experiments:)