MYTH: Small group instruction is only for students who are experiencing difficulty during writing workshop.
FACT: Small group instruction is for all writers.
Small group work isn’t just for striving writers… it’s for ALL writers. All children should work in small groups anytime they’re endeavoring to master a particular skill.
As a result, small groups can include students who are working on every kind of goal or next step. From simply getting a few words on the page to adding sophisticated details to refinding the structure and organization of their piece. Students whose work is rated as overall meeting the benchmarks and students whose work is approaching grade-level benchmarks ALL benefit from having tailored feedback and instruction in small groups. striving, mid-range, and sophisticated writers. A group of students might be pulled to meet with the teacher one time and then they’re finished, whereas other groups take on a course of study, in that the same kids are meeting with their teacher over the course of a few weeks to master a skill.
Sometimes, all it takes to move students forward is a single small group lesson. Here are some times you might want to pull an intentional grouping of students without much pre-planning.
Students could be working from a range of levels, but on the same strategy, behavior, or skill.
After reading student writing, you might find issues that need to be addressed with multiple students. You can pre-plan a small group session that addresses anything from organization to elaboration to language conventions when you notice a few students have a similar need that can be taught quickly to a small group.
The beauty of pre-planning small group lessons is it allows you to think through the mentor text or teacher-written demonstration text you will use when you gather the students.
COURSE OF STUDY
If you’ve co-created writing goals with your students, then you can use those goals to group students into short-term, small groupings to help them get better at doing something better. One of the lovely things about gathering students for multiple sessions is that it capitalizes on the socialness of kids. There is joy around working at a collective goal.
Here’s an example from Welcome to Writing Workshop (Shubitz and Dorfman, 2019, 128) that showcases how to teach students to elaborate using a variety of details. Here’s what that course of study might look like:
- Session 1: Elaborate using action.
- Session 2: Elaborate using dialogue.
- Session 3: Elaborate using internal thinking.
- Session 4: Elaborate using sensory details.
- Session 5: Elaborate using setting details.
- Session 6: Final session.
In addition, schedule time between course-of-study sessions so students can practice the strategies being taught in their writing. Other tips to make course of studies successful are:
A NOTE ABOUT MENTOR TEXTS
You can pre-plan the mentor texts or demonstration texts you’ll use for course of study lessons. You might choose to use different types of teaching with the mentor texts you choose during the course of study. For instance, you might start off with some explanation with example lessons (i.e., teacher provides students with an example of the strategy and provides an explanation with how to carry out that strategy in their own writing) and then, once students get stronger with the skill, move into a small group inquiry lesson (i.e., teacher invites students to study with them, which enables the students to discover something new, name what they’re noticing, and transfer it to their own writing).
Small group instruction provides the greatest reach in your classroom. It allows you to individualize your instruction while maximizing your teaching time.
- Many thanks to Candlewick Press who is sponsoring a giveaway of ten books. TWO readers will receive FIVE of these books each. The books are A Child of Books, Grow: Secrets of Our DNA, Hoop Kings 2: New Royalty, How to Have a Birthday, If You Take Away the Otter, Mi Casa Is My Home, Rain Before Rainbows, The Barn, The Stars Just Up the Street, and Walrus Song.
- For a chance to win these five books, please leave a comment on any of this blog series’ posts by Sun., 10/31 at 6:00 a.m. EDT. Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski will use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names she will announce at the bottom of an ICYMI Post on Monday, 11/1.
- NOTE: You must have a U.S. mailing address to enter this giveaway.
- Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so Kathleen can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, our contact at Candlewick will send five picture books to each of our winners.
- If you are the winner of the book, Kathleen will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – SMALL GROUPS. Please respond to her e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.
I am a literacy consultant who has spent over a decade working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grade K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.
I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).