Planning a Small Group Lesson
Small groups are a personal, more intimate way to teach so start the planning process by considering the needs of each student in the group.
Ask yourself these questions as you plan:
- Do I need to reteach something first?
- Is there a skill the children need BEFORE I teach this lesson?
- Will all groups be doing the same activity but on different levels?
- What book, game, or song might be a good introduction to the lesson?
- Do I have the materials I need for this lesson?
Once you’ve established your plan for the small group lesson, invite a group of children over to the teacher table. As teachers, we’re eager and want to jump quickly into the actual lesson, right? But you’ll better serve your students if you begin your small group time with a quick warm-up.
A good warm-up activity will help the students get engaged, excited, and focused.
Warm-ups can be familiar activities from a prior lesson. You can pretend it’s a game show with a quick round of questions to review what students have learned. Next, you could do a warm-up where the kids sort a bowl of pattern blocks by their shape. Finally, you can have them snip paper pieces for a patterning exercise. Use different hands-on activities for warm-ups to keep your students interested.
But warm-up activities don’t have to always be done at the teacher table. Have students get up and gather art supplies, math manipulatives, letter magnets, or poetry journals for your small group activity. Have the class search the room for hidden game cards they’ll be using today at the teacher table.
Remember, warm-ups should only take a couple of minutes. The purpose of the warm-up activity is to get everyone ready for the small group lesson.
Introduce Your Small Group Lesson
After the warm-up, you’re ready to introduce the lesson. Simply tell they children “Today we will learn” or “Today we will work on” and say the skill you are teaching. You might tell them “why” they are learning it, too. For example, “Today we will learn about the beginning sound of the letter P. Knowing letter sounds helps us learn how to read.”
Teaching a Small Group Lesson
Next, it’s your turn to teach, model, and demonstrate. Have props to help you teach the lesson and to make it memorable for the students. So, if you’re teaching the beginning sound of letter P, you might have a small toy animal pig, a paper plate, a pom pom, and a purple marker.
Teaching a small group lesson should only take several minutes. If you’re teaching longer than 5 minutes, try to be more specific about the purpose and narrow down the skill to cut the time.
Practice the Skill
The bulk of small group time should be spent with the children actively practicing the skill. Vary the activities in your small group lessons. Play seasonal alphabet games, practice counting, do matching tasks, illustrate poems, sort shapes and colors. A wide assortment of hands-on activities will help your students master skills much better than only using worksheets.
Review What We Learned
Review what the group practiced and talk about what they learned. You might even model the skill again using the same demonstration and props you used to teach it. Ask questions for comprehension and invite students to show you what they learned. Encourage them to tell their families what they did at the teacher table.
Preview What's Next
In conclusion, as you end your small group lesson, you’ll want to give students a preview of what’s coming next.
You might say:
- We will work on this skill.
- Next time, we will practice this.
- Tomorrow, we will learn how to do this.
You might even want to share a quick peak of the next activity. The purpose of the preview is to keep kids excited about your small group lessons!
Successfully teaching a small group lesson is easy when you follow this planning process!