Distance Learning · self-assessment · small group

Small Group Instruction Regardless of Platforms

While I love individual conferences with student writers, I am a multi-tasker. I like getting as much done as possible. (It’s an asset, as well as a flaw.) Small groups fulfill my quest for efficiency. While I am struggling to find great solutions for in-person small group instruction, I do have some ideas for how systems and structures that I loved before March 2020 could translate for forming small groups on a digital platform. 

Jamboard is my go-to for many of these, and if you haven’t jumped into the jamming world, I’d recommend taking that plunge. In March 2016, I wrote about ways to plan small group instruction. My daughter Larkin drew the image, and it still is one of my favorites, even though small group instruction looks pretty different in November 2020.

One of the ways was to have students set goals. Since then I’ve worked with teachers who have created charts with “goal sticks” and pockets for setting those intentions.

Screen Shot 2016-11-27 at 8.14.13 PM.png

I’ve also worked with teachers who have cut up writing checklists, laminated them, and put them on keyrings. Then, students can “declare their goal” and have their keyring card indicate it. 

Keyring goals.png

I love these ideas, so I re-created them on a Jamboard. 

Now, students can write their name on a Jamboard post-it, and slide their sticky note right on to whatever learning target they’re working on! Here’s the link to the Jamboard I’ve created, and you are welcome to tweak it and make it your own based on your class and what you’re teaching. 

Another favorite way to form small groups is to ask students to sign up for seminars. While I could picture exactly how this could happen in live settings, the virtual world got me thinking. Again, Jamboard is a great opportunity. Here are seminars– sign up for the one you want using the sticky note tool. 

I really like the flexibility of this option! The other way I’ve been experimenting with involving students with setting goals, taking charge of their learning, and selecting their own group is through the use of Google Forms, another tool that offers SO many important uses. Here’s a survey I’ve created that asks students to select their own seminar. If you’re going to use this tool, here are a few considerations to keep in mind. 

  • Make sure you ask for names!
  • Decide whether to use checkboxes or multiple choice– multiple choice will make your sorting easier.
  • Consider top choice and next choice options.
  • Think about Inviting students to create forms.

Small groups are possible through breakout rooms, and just as in the classrooms, they offer targeted lessons for what students need right as they need it. It’s so worth figuring how to keep this important type of instruction happening, no matter where!

4 thoughts on “Small Group Instruction Regardless of Platforms

  1. I think these are some really great ideas to continue small group instruction via virtual learning!! Small groups are so important to target specific skills that students need to work on and I’m glad you’ve shared some ideas on how to do that. Jamboards have proven to be very effective in my virtual learning adventures! 🙂


    1. I love these ideas that there is so many ways to keep the children engaged online and having them choose what skills they need work on . I also loved how you have them set goals for their writing so they have a better understanding of what will help them improve as a writer and student.


  2. I love all these ideas! I think even younger students are able to know and choose what kind of help they need. I think letting them decide what to work on gives them greater agency.


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