Small Groups

 Small Group Instruction

Teacher-Author: Sherry A. Johnson, M.Ed. 

Students in groups

Small group working.

In the ideal classroom all students would enter each day with high levels of self-efficacy, beaming with enthusiasm and the desire to learn, without distractions and reservations. The reality is that some students enter our classrooms, “feeling bored, frustrated, or rejected…and are not attending to classroom activities” (Marzano, Pickering and Heflebower, 2011, p. 46). Teachers are therefore saddled with the responsibility to create a classroom environment that is engaging and one that will raise students’ self-efficacy and expectations for success. Providing cooperative learning, peer teaching, group activity, and pair-share opportunities in the classroom will fuel students’ learning momentum and raise expectations for successful learning.

Small group instruction takes various forms and like other teaching/learning strategies small group instruction takes scaffolding to ensure success. I offer that small group instruction is on a continuum from teacher-directed to student-led. Based on research and experience, I contend the most effective type of small group instruction for any class depends on the students’ and teacher’s experience with small group instruction and the schema they have with this type of instruction that they are able to utilize to engage in the process. Effective implementation of small group instruction takes purposeful planning, trial and error, analysis of data and flexibility to create and adjust student groups as needed.

Small group instruction is grounded in theories and some of these theories will be explained to give you a foundation to support implementation of small group instruction in your classroom. You will be guided on this learning adventure with resources that you will need to:

  • evaluate various small group options,
  •  make and manage small groups in your classroom,
  •  create and sustain student-led groups to maximize your students’ strengths
  • utilize data to adjust your groups as needed
  • inform your students about group formation and their roles in the process
  • get your questions answered as you include this research-based instructional practice in your classroom.

Whether you are a novice  or veteran teacher, you will find useful information to help increase rigor, relevance and relationship in your classroom.