Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Mini Series: Small Group Instruction Rules and Routines

In my self contained (Federal Setting 3) classroom, I like to include a variety of learning opportunities for students throughout the day.  Students work independently, 1:1 or 1:2 with an adult, in small groups with 3-8 students, or together as a whole class (13 students).  When I first started teaching, I didn't dare to have any small groups regularly scheduled into my day because my students didn't seem I wasn't ready.  My students didn't have the skills to sit together without fighting or jumping up and running away from the table...and in the beginning, I didn't realize this was something I could teach them.  Small groups can be difficult to implement in a special education classroom without clear planning and prioritizing of your have students of varying abilities, students who don't get along socially, not to mention students who don't have pre-requisite functional skills for participating in a group.

Throughout this mini series, I wanted to focus on how to set up/plan for small group instruction. As you start to create your vision of what you want your small groups to look like and what your goals for your students are, I think it is important to make sure you relay this information to your paraprofessionals so they can help you in carrying out your vision whether they are supporting a small group you are leading or running one that you have set up for them.

1.  Establishing Big Picture Goals and Grouping Students
2.  Establishing Rules/Routines/Norms for the Group 
3.  Student Engagement/Teaching Techniques
4.  Curriculum and Planning
5.  Data Collection and Role of Support Staff
Once you have figured out the goals for the students in your group, it is time to establish your rules and routines.  When you first start having students participate in small groups, you may need to review and/or practice your rules each day at the start of your lesson.  Based on the needs of your group, you may want to only pick 1-2 rules to focus on at time until all of your students are able to follow them.  Some rules I like to start out teaching are:

1. Sitting in your chair/on the floor
2. Quiet hands or hands to self
3. Raise your hand
4. Quiet mouth
5. Listen to the teacher/your friends
6. Follow directions

Some ways to review your rules daily are:
*Make up a song or if you are less creative like me, you can use one that already exists.  I like the rules rap (
*Post visuals of the rules or pictures of your students following the rules
*Have students practice following the rules at the beginning of the group
*Have your students brainstorm your list of rules and write them up on the board.

Most students (special ed or gen ed)  do best in a predictable, structured routine where they know what to expect, so once you figure out your group rules, it is time to establish routines/schedules for your small group.

Similar to what is expected of genereal education teachers, I like to:
1) Start out each day with a re-cap of what we worked on yesterday or what the current theme/topic is
 (using visuals to supplement my spoken language)
2) Tell my students what we are going to do today (using visuals to supplement my spoken language)
3) If we have a schedule of activities that stays the same each day, I like to review the schedule daily in the beginning of the year until we have it down.  Then, I still leave it posted, but may not need to review it every day.
4) Review rules daily (as needed)

General tips for routines:
*I like to start each group out with pairing myself with reinforcement (praising students, giving out high 5s, talking about a topic important to the student, handing out tokens or small edibles, etc.)  
*I also try not to start out my lesson by placing extremely hard demands...fade into harder demands as you go throughout your lesson, but make sure to intersperse some easy demands throughout as well. 
*Consider whether or not assigned seating is needed 
*I love to use visual schedules of what activities occur each day as well as behavioral expectations.  These are not only good for students, but for adults to stay on the same page (and wonderful for a substitute if you are ever out). 

No comments:

Post a Comment