Thomas R. from South Dakota asked me this question: We have been working really hard to get our small group instruction going really strong everyday but it doesn’t seem to be working or working fast enough. What do you suggest?

My response: Thanks for the question Thomas – it’s a very popular one! First of all, you are very wise to be putting a lot of energy in refining your small group instruction as a practice that enhances the core instruction in your building. When there is an issue with small group instruction, it typically has to do with the things that we can change, so that’s the good news for us! Here’s what I think you ought to investigate:

  1. Are students placed in the groups because of true academic needs or have we placed our behaviorally challenged kids in the groups to "get rid" of them during instruction?
  2. Do you have your most engaging and most skilled teachers teaching the lowest groups? Oftentimes the kids who struggle the most need to be taught that they, indeed, CAN learn! It takes a skilled teacher to keep them engaged, make them feel like they can do the work and, at the same time, have the technical skill to do the work with the kids.
  3. Have you given enough time to see results? It will typically take 2 weeks or so for the planning, preparation, delivery and reflection to kick in for the teacher.
  4. Have you given realistic, yet aggressive instructional goals for that week? This question is a two-partner: have you set goals for each week (like "the students in this group will increase their ORF scores by 2 on the progress monitoring" or "students in this group will go from intensive on their comprehension test to strategic in two weeks with the proper support") and are they too aggressive (for example, it’s not feasible that a student will growth 10 wcpm in a week!) or are they not aggressive enough (sometimes we forget that with smaller groups and more intensive instruction even the most struggling students are getting an advantage in the small group and should have increased performance).
  5. Are we planning the right instruction? Is the instruction focused on too many things or is it focused on 1-2 concepts that we can truly measure?

What are your thoughts? Leave them below so we can learn from you!