Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Reader Asks... Small Group Instruction and The Fundamental 5

A teacher asks the following:


I have used the Fundamental 5 very successfully in both an elementary and high school setting.  I am an advocate.  However, at my elementary school there is now a big push to only teach in small groups and have the other students work on other activities.  The students rotate sections until all small groups have been taught.  I do not like this because I feel it is totally against The Fundamental 5.  I have had much success with The Fundamental 5 at the 4th grade level.  I would like your opinion on the matter.

SC Response
Thank you for your question. Small group instruction and rotations are commonly used in elementary schools.  Used correctly they are highly effective.  Much more so than the whole group instruction that is typically observed at the secondary level.  In fact, we coach secondary schools on how to use those practices and at the secondary school where I was the principal, it became the standard instructional format.

That being said, the key phrase is, “Used Effectively.”  I have observed more elementary classrooms that ineffectively used the practice, than the opposite.

As for your questions, the use of the Fundamental 5 in a small group / rotation setting can and does integrate seamlessly. Here are some examples:

1. The Lesson Frame: Only frame the direct teach station (where you are delivering the main instruction to your small group). There is no need to frame the activities at the stations.  After all, when the stations are planned correctly, the activities are the practice elements of the direct instruction that is being delivered, that you did frame.

2. Work in the Power Zone:  When you are with your small group, you are in the Power Zone.  And since all the groups will rotate to and thru you, every student receives the benefit of proximity instruction.

3. Frequent Small Group Purposeful Talk: This is easy to incorporate.  At every station, have a question you want students to discuss while working.  A question that forces students to think beyond the comprehension level.  You can check the quality of the discussions by calling on students at the end of the class.

4. Recognize and Reinforce:  Again, this is easy to incorporate.  The small group, direct teach station will provide lots of authentic opportunities to take advantage of; and when students are rotating, point out the hard work and effort that you observed while they were engaged in the tasks of the station.

5. Write Critically: There are a number of ways you can address this, the easiest is to actually have a quick write station with a critical writing prompt.

Do these things and I promise that you will go from a small group/rotation skeptic to a proponent in no time.

If you have any other questions, do not hesitate to ask and if this is something your campus might need some training on, let your Principal know that we would love to work with the teachers at your school.

Thank you,  

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Timer (Fundamental 5 Delivery Tool); PowerWalks CLC (Networked Formative Observation Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: American Association of School Administrators Conference; National Association of Secondary School Principals Conference (Multiple Presentations) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

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