One of the things that I love about Zones is that it gives me multiple opportunities to work with students in a small group format. While all the students are engaged in a Zone of their choice, you can easily pull students into small groups for deeper instruction. Small group instruction means that students can't hide or pretend that they know what's going on. Small groups are a safe place to explore, learn, make mistakes, and grow! Here are our basic rules to live by for small group time during Zones:
1. You do NOT need to meet with each small group everyday! Hallelujah, right? I used to stress out about having to meet with each group every single day. As much as I would love to be able to do that, it just isn't always possible. Whole group takes longer than you expected, there's a surprise assembly that overlaps with one of your Zones times, or (my personal favorite) state mandated testing takes up part of your Zones time. Things happen and you just do not get to all of your small groups. That's O.K!
2. Students might be in more than one group or not in any groups at all. This is where your data comes into play. We use unit pretests, exit tickets, informal observations, end of unit tests, or benchmark assessments. Really, whatever data you find most useful and informative will help you group students. We have had students in a group focusing on the current unit of study and one that focuses on number sense. We might meet with these particular students 2-3 times per week in the group focusing on the current unit of study and daily for the number sense group. A good rule of thumb: you should meet daily with the students needing the most support. Those students that excel do not necessarily need to be in a small group. You might conference one-on-one with those students a few times each week to make sure they are still on track. Here is a basic outline of the groups we usually hold in our classrooms:
3.Number of students in each group: Well...they're called small groups for a reason, right? Keep them small! It will make your life easier and your time management smoother. We would recommend trying to keep them to no more than 6. It starts to get crazy when the groups get larger...trust us on this one. So what happens when you have 10 students in the on-level group? Divide them into 2 groups. Oh yeah....it's also O.K. if you only have 2 students in one group. Even better!!!
4.Keeping track of all these students and the lessons we teach them each day. We keep track of this information in a binder. This binder has a checklist to keep track of when you meet with each group and a place to write notes about each meeting. Watch our teacher's pay teachers site for some of these helpful tools.
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