Teaching in small groups is an instructional model that supports ALL learners. However when you are a new teacher the management of the students not in the group can throw a wrench into your plan. I find that what is happening outside of the group needs to be taught and practiced. Students do not automatically know your procedures or expectations so make them clear and consistent.
I heard a teacher say the other day that she always started in small group with the students who had the most difficulty outside the group. She told me that her theory was the students she was with would notice the noise and activity level of the others and know better what to do when it is their turn to be outside the small group.
Creating centers where students can practice skills and strategies that have already been taught is another key to small group instruction. Think of things students can be working on that are authentic and high interest. When students are engaged in what they are doing they will more likely keep focused leaving you to work with your small group. This is a time that you could also integrate other subject areas. Students could be responding to text through art, reading non-fiction books about science or history, or younger students even looking at picture prompts around a topic to initiate journaling. The ideas are numerous and there are resources all over the place for new teachers to look including the master teachers in your own buildings – or someone like me whose job it is to offer curriculum support to our new teachers in the district!
I wish you well as you prepare for small group instruction. Do not give up! It won’t be perfect. Start with one group only and see how that goes for a week. Then add another and another until you have a system in place that is clear and consistent to your students.
Thinking Small is a Good Thing!