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Who Would Like to Join Us?

All year I’ve tried different ways to organize small groups with my first graders while teaching in a socially distanced classroom. Finally, I think I’ve figured out a system that I’ll keep even when staying six feet apart is a thing of the past.

At the beginning of the week, I create a slide to show the kids what topics I will teach in small groups during math, reading, and writing. Here is a quick example of some small group topics during our recent fairy tale writing unit of study.

Before the kids see it, I add the names of students who I want to work with in this group. Then I show the slide and say, “Writers – here are the small groups I will teach this week and some of the students who will join me. Who else would like to join us? The first group is about planning a fairytale, and we will practice how to touch as tell our story across the pages. Would you like to join?”

As students raise their hands, I add their names under the topic, and then ask, “Are there any other topics we should learn this week?” Then I add a box with that topic to the chart.

If lots of the students raise their hand for a topic, I write them down, but that doesn’t mean we all meet together. I might decide to teach the lesson to the whole class and then follow up with students who need additional practice, or bring this topic up during my individual conferences. When five names are in one box, I meet with two students and then work with the other three students at a different time. The names on the list tell me students’ interests and then I figure out how to meet with everyone.

Do you know what is funny? Sometimes, later in the day, a student will come up to me and say, “Mrs. Mulligan, you know what you should teach next week. You should teach ____________________.” And I always say, “What a smart idea. Thanks for thinking of that. I’ll add it to the chart.”

I love how this system gives the kids voice and ownership, and I love how it keeps me organized. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure this out. Good thing these first graders are very patient 🙂

7 thoughts on “Who Would Like to Join Us?”

  1. As always, I admire the way you drop us into a scene in your classroom. I feel like I know your class because you write with specificity and I can see them and hear them. I also admire how you let us know your thinking, and the reason for the decisions you make. This is not an easy balance to find for nonfiction writers, but it seems you do it with ease.
    Shine on,

  2. This is a brilliant idea! I’m considering ways we could adapt it in high school classrooms.

  3. I love how you have done this and added their voice to your decisions! That is very empowering.

  4. I love this idea Tammy! Figuring out these new systems to meet social distance guidelines has been so tricky – thank you for sharing, I’m going to give it a whirl! 🙂

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