Tips from the Field: Five Easy Steps for Managing Two Instructional Groups
Published: Thursday, 31 March 2016 08:44
A common question that JP hears from our new sites is, “How do I manage two reading groups in the same period?” Sounds like you might need to make use of magic OR you can follow the advice of PJ Toburen, one of our School Improvement Specialist (You can learn more about PJ and our other team members by clicking on this link: http://jponline.com/about-jp/our-team. )
One of the many benefits of working with professional development specialists is you get to draw on their experience. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. JP has collected and gathered volumes of field-tested solutions. By keeping track of time proven strategies, we assist our schools in being successful and saving time that can be applied to other things, like instruction. In this case, PJ pulled from her personal experience plus ideas from Randy Sprick’s The Solution Book. Here are her Five Easy Steps:
First, time should be divided equally among the two groups. If Reading is scheduled for 75 minutes, realistically each group should receive instruction for 35 minutes. That allows time for Bell Work and transition of the groups.
Second, set the room up for success. For programs that are taught in chairs, the transition time would be from the student’s desk or table to his/her assigned seat at the chairs.
For groups that are taught with students at their desks, one of the easiest setups is to have rows of desks where one group sits on the left-hand side of the room and the other group is on the right-hand side or have the first two rows face the front and have the last two rows face the back. This does not necessitate moving all of the desks.
It may very well be that, for another class, you want all the desks facing forward. If that’s the case, simply have students move their chairs to the other side of the desk so that they are facing the back. From the front of either group, the teacher can monitor students who are working independently. And, one group will not be distracted by the other group.
Third, instruction should begin immediately. Chatting with students does not communicate the importance of instructional time.
Fourth, it is important to design procedures so that students can ask questions. One example of an effective strategy is for a student to set up a book vertically on their desk and then go on to the next problem. When there is a natural break in the instruction, the teacher can call on students who placed the open book on their desk.
Another effective strategy is to create a 2 foot square question box on the floor with masking tape. A student with a question stands in the box until the teacher calls on him/her. An important rule with this strategy is that only one person can be in the box at a time. The box should be placed where the teacher can easily see it, but so that the student will not distract other students. The box should not be close to anything that the waiting student could play with.
Fifth, one of the greatest challenges of having two groups is providing meaningful seatwork for those are working independently. Seatwork should be at the students’ instructional level. If it’s too easy, the student may misbehave because they are bored. If it’s too difficult, the student may constantly interrupt to ask questions about the assignment or misbehave. Also, if the work is too difficult, there’s a high probability the student will do it wrong. Any time the student practices errors, it becomes much more difficult to master the task.
So, what do you provide for independent workers? More skilled readers can complete the independent work from their reading program and then read a book. Younger children or more naïve readers cannot be asked to sit and look at a book for thirty minutes or more.
The teacher needs to plan ahead for seat-workers. I am sure that most of you are thinking, “More work???” The reality of it is that nothing is more tiring than dealing with disruptive students and misbehavior. If you plan for seat-workers, you will minimize the behavior challenges you face. Fortunately there are a myriad of things available online. Here are some recommended sites for resources:
The Florida Center for Reading Research has an almost limitless supply of worksheets and activities available for free: http://www.fcrr.org/for-educators/sca.asp
The next link has what it calls the “Ultimate List of Printable Math Manipulatives and Worksheets.” (And, it lives up to its name!) For example, if you don’t have geoblocks, it has a printable sheet to make your own. Then, it has worksheets of activities that can be done using the paper geoblocks. It also includes patterns to make games, Houghton Mifflin’s Math resources online, free printable Math Resources, and online games related to Math. http://jimmiescollage.com/2011/04/ultimate-list-of-printable-math-manipulatives-games/
The following is a link to what is called “Cookie Sheet Activities.” They are pretty much geared to Kindergarten, but may give you some ideas about how to provide seatwork that is not another worksheet. http://www.classroomfreebies.com/2012/11/cookie-sheet-activities-math-concepts.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+ClassroomFreebies+(Classroom+Freebies)
Try these five steps and let us know how you do. We always like hearing back!