writing workshop

Tools to have on hand for Small Group Instruction

In a recent post about small group instruction, I wrote about ways to group students who need instruction on a similar strategy. Sometimes, we form small groups ahead of time through careful planning. However, sometimes, we notice a few students grappling with a common concept or a group of students sign up for a seminar; developing a collection of tools for predictable teaching points and small group focus areas helps to make instruction efficient and effective. Here are some of my favorite tools to keep with me when I’m working in classrooms:

My oldest daughter, Larkin, has provided me with many of my favorite pictures!
  1. My sketchbook that is full of charts, learning progressions, and writing samples
    • If you have not invested in a sketchbook, you might want to stop reading now, drive to the nearest craft store, and buy a sketchbook and a set of Sharpies. Now. I’ll wait.                                                                                                                                        screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-9-22-36-am
      • Once you have that, think of the most common issues you see in your writers, as well as the ones you might have set up as seminars, and make teaching charts that address these skills.
      • As you get more comfortable with making charts, think about writing out some progressions that show how a writer can do the skill just a little, then better, then really well.
  2. A range of mentor texts that illustrate specific teaching points
    • I keep these in plastic sleeves with a chart of the teaching point in front of them. I copy pages in picture books or other texts that illustrate the teaching point so that it’s easy to pull them out and show students how it’s done. The important aspect is that I have samples of various lexile levels that are labeled by title and author.                           screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-9-23-53-am
  3. Samples of student writing
    • Students love to see other students’ work and correct it. Over the years, I have acquired samples of student work that needs some revision because of the teaching point for the small group. I keep these samples in groups of 5’s because I rarely have groups larger than 4 and that way I know when I need to replenish my copies.
  4. Blank paper and markers to give a quick lesson on the fly
    • As basic as it sounds, blank paper–or better yet, blank cardstock–could be my most well-used tool.    Combine that with a bag of markers, a stapler, some clips, and scissors, and there are many lessons I can teach!                                                                         Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 9.24.07 AM.png                                       Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 9.23.34 AM.png
  5. Miniature charts of specific strategies that can be given to the students
    • I have frequently made copies of the charts in my notebooks or I take pictures of charts that I have made with classes. Sometimes I shrink them down, put them on cardstock, and give them to students as “keepsakes” of what we’ve learned together.                                                                                                                                                 Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 9.23.19 AM.png
    • If you can splurge and purchase stand up plastic frames, these are great to leave with students so they can keep the artifact of the small group instruction right there facing them.

My third post about small group instruction is on its way, and will focus on specific reminders about how to implement your lesson. If anyone has any reminders to share ahead of time, include them in your comment so that I can include them in my post!


6 thoughts on “Tools to have on hand for Small Group Instruction

  1. Do you believe that students should study spelling words that relate to a specific skill such as vccv, etc? I teach writing to fourth graders who are reading mainly on a second grade level. Thanks!


    1. I’m not sure how this question exactly relates to this post. I don’t teach specific spelling rules in writing workshop, if that’s what you’re asking. Those skills fall within our Word Study block of time, and yes, we do teach specific skills, but honestly, it’s not my area of expertise. I will say that writing development is usually a little behind reading development–not always, but usually.


  2. Melanie,
    I want to know more about the stand up plastic frames. We’ve been using these for table groups. . . . $7.99 Lion Flip-N-Tell Display Book-N-Easel, Letter, 20-Pocket, Vertical, 1 Easel Display Book (39009-V)


Comments are closed.