writing workshop

Three Quick Tips for Small Group Strategy Lessons


Have you been super busy the past few weeks? I know I sure have been!

So, I won’t take up any extra of your time. Here are three quick tips for small group strategy lessons:

  1. Use your conferring notes, observations of kids, your on-demand assessment results, or latest samples of student writing to find 3-4 children who have similar needs. They need not be writing about similar topics, nor do they need to be similar in overall writing ability. They simply need to have one thing in common.
  1. Gather those 3-4 kids at the carpet or at a small table where you can sit in a small circle together. In general, I find that 4 is my maximum no matter the age group. I can usually get more done, with more effective teaching and coaching, if I simply do two small groups back-back, instead of one large group of 5-8 kids.
  1. Name just one strategy very clearly and concisely for kids, and ask them to try it right then and there in their own writing. Stay with them long enough to coach each kid to consider where and why to use the strategy, and then send them off to continue working independently.

Of course, there are times where things don’t go smoothly. Kids are full of surprises.

Yesterday, while visiting a fourth grade classroom, I gathered two kids to teach them how to revise their plans for their personal essays, to make sure each bullet point of support was separate. While one student quickly realized how to add two more separate supports for his thesis statement, the other student puzzled over his, and then I found myself also puzzling over it. Before long, two minutes, three minutes… five minutes went by… you know the story.

Eventually, I decided it was probably okay to not have one clear solution, and to let the student work on it on his own. Wasn’t that one important part of being an essay writer? Using writing to figure things out? I said, “Well, it sounds like you have a lot to think about. As you start to draft your first paragraph, maybe a solution for the other paragraphs will come to you!”

Maybe I actually need to add a fourth tip for strategy lessons:

4. It’s okay if you don’t get it perfect right away – go ahead and give it a try and maybe a solution will come to you as you go.

One thought on “Three Quick Tips for Small Group Strategy Lessons

  1. I love this post, especially step number 4. I think it’s the hardest one. I think I’ll make myself a little template of your parting words to the student who wasn’t quite grasping the strategy in the moment and carry it with me. I think it’s brilliant. I should be so willing to say it, because I’m that kind of a learner, often. In the moment, it seems kind of confusing, and I just need time to process the concept or strategy on my own. I forget that. Thank you for this gem of a post!


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