Small Group Instruction: How is it Accomplished?

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The blog assignment this week was to locate a video about a differentiated instructional strategy that is interesting to me. The strategy and video I selected is about preparing and managing small group instruction. I chose this strategy because it is familiar to me from the perspective of a student, but not as a teacher. I am a little bit of a social-butterfly so in the past I have always found group work to be fun and engaging. In a study of dental hygiene students, Mueller-Joseph and Nappo-Dattoma (2013), found that students who received instruction in a collaborative learning environment reported that they had a more positive disposition toward learning and had developed greater responsibility for their learning. In fact there are many ways small groups can differentiate learning such as, problem-solving, role playing, discussions, brainstorming and debate (Annamalai, Manivel, & Palanisamy, 2015). The video I selected suggested several important things I should consider when planning for small group work (Smartatmath, 2013). Here are the highlights of some things I learned.

  • Preparation is very important! I need to have a well-defined plan of meaningful activities for both the independent group(s) and the teacher group. Be very familiar with the goal and directions for group work.
  • Start with simply two groups, and then work up to more groups if necessary.
  • Establish effective classroom management (pattern and timing for student movement, appropriate noise levels, seating chart and/or room arrangement).
  • Provide ways for students to self-help when they become “stuck” so that they do not interrupt the teacher-assisted group.
  • Assess students prior to group work to identify the primary goal for the teacher-assisted group.
  • Create a means for accountability for individuals within each group.

I think I will plan to use a graphic or visual organizer to scaffold learning for students in groups without teacher assistance, this way they can help themselves when they get confused or lose direction (Tomlinson, 2001). According to Annamalai et al. (2015), most students perceived that group discussions “were interactive, friendly, innovative, [and] built interaction between teacher and student” (p. 19). It appears to me that group work is not only a great way support and differentiate learning, but is also enjoyable for students as well. It may be a little intimidating at first, but I think I will give this strategy a try. One component I would like to explore for further learning is the topic of classroom management. I believe once classroom management is established, maintaining it will be a little easier.

View the video about small instruction at the bottom of this post.

References

Annamalai, N., Manivel, R., & Palanisamy, R. (2015). Small group discussion: Students perspectives. International Journal Of Applied & Basic Medical Research, 5, 18-20. doi:10.4103/2229-516X.162257

Mueller-Joseph, L. J., & Nappo-Dattoma, L. (2013). Collaborative learning in pre-clinical dental hygiene education. Journal Of Dental Hygiene, 87(2), 64-72.

Smartatmath. (2013, January 3). Effective small group differentiated instruction [Video file]. Retrieved September 20, 2015 from https://youtu.be/AF3T2aZM3ko

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

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