Thursday, March 10, 2016

Small Group Reading Instruction

There are so many parts to the school day, and teachers are constantly asked to add more things to their day. There is not enough time in the school day. I find that sometimes teachers have to make changes to their work blocks and one of the things that can get cut, is the small group reading instruction. Hopefully, this blog post will give you a reason to think about WHY small group instruction is so important.

It’s essential that kids are given small group reading instruction for them to become better readers. I have seen it time and time again. When a child is often struggling with reading, and we try to figure out what is going on, it sometimes comes out that the teacher may not feel comfortable with teaching small reading groups. 

The good news is that if you do feel uncomfortable with small group instruction, I hope to write some blog post that will put you on a path to feeling confident and comfortable with small group work.

Small group instruction is a time when a teacher can assist students in areas in which we can offer challenges and the opportunity to problem solve. It is a time in which the teacher can see more deeply into a reader's mind.

I think as teachers can sometimes over think small group instruction and believe that it is more complicated than it actually is or has to be. 

Why Do Small Group?

 So here are my reasons on why you should start to think about doing small group instruction if it is new to you:

1.    More kids get instruction when you do small group work.

2.    A small group is an efficient way to differentiate instructions; we can tailor instruction to meet the needs of the kids

3.    Small groups are flexible and can change based on students needs.

4.    Relationships develop among classmates when they read together.

5.    Students have the opportunity to learn from another classmate.

6.    Small group instruction builds classroom community.

7.    Kids find out more because the get more explicit instruction and more time to practice.

8.    Seeing kids more in a small group gives you information about where they are as readers.

9. Allows more time for kids to practice and have a more focused goal (one teaching point).

10. When discussing the text, all voices are heard.

The bottom line is that when we get in the habit of meeting small groups, we get to know our readers better. 

In my building, teachers are aiming to meet with three groups a day. Some kindergarten classrooms have TA’s who can meet with a group too. Every child does not need to meet with the classroom teacher in a day. The neediest readers would meet with the teacher four/five times a week and some groups two times a week, some once a week. If a child is reading well beyond grade level, they may be reading with the teacher in a one-to-one conference. 

I was recently having a PD workshop on small group instruction and my department head said, “The best thing about the small group is that if you do it wrong, or it doesn’t go right, there is always tomorrow!”

Just like our students, the only way we can get better at small group instruction is if we do it. 

What do you find successful or challenging with small group instruction?

Joyfully yours in getting to know our readers in small groups, 



  1. With reading and writing workshop, math, word study, shared reading, interactive writing, and read aloud, I find it hard to work in times to meet with small groups in my schedule. I do a lot of conferencing during workshop, but struggle with the times to meet with groups. Any chance you would share your schedule? Thank you!

  2. I learned way back in the day during my Reading Recovery training the power of guided reading, and it's been part of my daily schedule since. That's where the magic happens.

  3. Tammy,
    I agree! Guided reading is where the magic happens! What are your thoughts on strategy groups?

  4. Lisa,
    I will send you a schedule. I think when you first start to implement small groups think ten minutes per group, especially K readers. If you have thirty minutes for reading workshop, you could aim to meet with two groups. Melissa

    1. Thank you!! I'm guessing you conference for 10 minutes and meet with groups for 20?

  5. Lisa,
    One schedule we have been playing around with is having a week of conferring and then teach small groups for three weeks. K teachers are focusing on guided reading for students who are a/b/c readers and conferring with students that may be reading well above grade level. Some first grade teachers try to work with two reading groups and confer with three kids.

  6. Great ideas! Thank you so much! Fitting in conferring and guided reading that way seems very doable. I'm definitely going to give it a try.

  7. I love your reasons! I've been teaching reading that way my entire career and can vouch that it works! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Hi Melissa! I was wondering if you could share what your daily/weekly schedule looks like? I would love to implement Reading Workshop next year but am struggling to visualize how the transition from Daily Five to this would take place for me. Thank you so much for all that you do! Your blog has helped me survive the first five years of teaching and become a better teacher!

  9. Jodi,
    I have a blog post I am working on for you! I just need a few more days! Thank you for the lovely comment!


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  11. Hi Melissa - I found your blog awhile ago...One of my all time favorite books is Joyful learning in Kindergarten by Bobbi Fisher. I think that may be how I found your blog I was looking for something related to the book. Is your blog still active or do you have a new one now?
    You blog give me great inspriation!


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