Classroom Management: Small Groups

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Ms.Holyoke, Aug 10, 2019.

  1. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    Aug 10, 2019

    In my new role, I will be working with small groups of students in the afternoons. I will have kids from grades 2-4 and it would be about 3-4 kids per group. I would rotate groups every 6 weeks. I’m excited about this role but it’s all very new to me. I will have a curriculum which is great and they provide all pre-tests and post-tests for the kids. I am planning on mainly following the curriculum this year since I am not an elementary teacher and it's a lot for me to learn. I have a ton of manipulatives that I want to use and I was also thinking of having the kids use dry erase markers and put some worksheets in the dry erase sleeves to make it more fun.

    My concern is classroom management with the younger kids, even though it is small groups. Do you think I need routines for raising hands or a signal for kids to speak? I’m wondering if I need to set up some sort of incentive system...stickers and a prize box? Since I have the kids for 6 week cycles, do you think I need to do some sort of expectation setting activity? I would love to hear what other teachers in similar positions do!
     
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  3. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Aug 10, 2019

    Yes to routines, but not for raising a hand or other signal to speak. In a group that small, you teach them how to converse (how to listen to peers, how to know when it’s okay to speak, how to build off of another person’s ideas). You will need routines for how to enter and exit the room, how to get materials and put them away, how to find their seat (assigned or choice?). A sticker and prize box can be helpful but isn’t necessary. It kind of depends on your students’ individual needs. Keep it simple, whatever you do. And hold them to high expectations. They may be younger than you are used to working with, but they are completely capable of following routines independently. The younger they are, the fewer steps you might give them at one time, and the more you will need to model. As they get older, you can give more steps to follow within each direction you give, and you can reduce your modeling.
     
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  4. Tired Teacher

    Tired Teacher Comrade

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    Aug 10, 2019

    I will just add on to Bella's comments. Yes, you definitely need to have a setting expectation activity and review and practice it as needed. You will probably need a sign or way to control voice levels at different times. If you'd like your dry erase markers to last, lol, you need to stress SNAP the lid on until they "get it." It takes awhile for them to remember too. :)
    Also, if you want to avoid wandering and off task behavior, let them know when it is cool to get up and when it is not. ( To me, it is uncool to get up to get something while I am talking! :) )
    With younger kids, many want to behave, but a lot needs to be spelled out to them because they don't always know what is expected.
    Treasure boxes/ prizes are very personal decisions. When I was younger, I used and liked them. They were fun and helped sometimes with temporary behavior. As I got older, I do not like them anymore. I like to see kids celebrate their own learning and actions by feeling good inside. I think it lasts longer, builds confidence, and helps them want to learn and behave in life.
    Some tricky kids have parents who bribe them a lot too. These types of kids, see treasure boxes/ prizes as a sign of weakness often just in my experience. ( I am actually picturing certain kids who got into a lot of trouble when they left my room.)

    We have a very stable core teaching staff, but our title and interventionists have a higher turn over rate. The classroom teachers do not use treasure boxes, but we have had a lot of Title, Sped, and Interventionists who use prizes.
    Some classroom teachers get really annoyed by students bringing trinkets back, playing with them, and bragging, but never say anything about it to the other teacher. ( They do complain though. I know they should just go talk to the teacher, but it is seldom done. )
    I take prizes away until the end of the day if they don't immediately put them in their backpack.
    There was 1 who used prizes daily and I had to ask him to let the kids pick up the prizes before getting on the bus or going home because it became such a disruption. ( He was giving big prizes not just stickers. :) )
    I don't know any teachers who would be upset if a kid came back with a sticker, sharpened pencil, or notebook.
    You could very well be in a school where that is not even an issue. I think all schools have their own pet peeves. :)
    It sounds like you have a good program already set up. Grades 2-4 are my favorite ages. The kids are usually still really sweet at that age. There are always some who are handfuls too. I wish you the best and hope you have fun with the kids! :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2019
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  5. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    Aug 10, 2019

    Thanks!! I didn’t even think about seats but I’m definitely assigning them. I unfortunately don’t have a small group table but I think I’ll use a rectangle table that I have. I am planning on having a caddy with supplies like pencils, erasers, dry erase markers and erasers that I would pass out to the kiddos and use exclusively for my intervention groups.

    For entering/exiting the room, would you have the students line up at their classroom and walk up in a line? I’m assuming that walking up as a group is fine with 3-4 kids but I would set the expectation that we are walking and whispering.

    Can you say more about how you would teach kids when it is ok to speak, etc.? I will probably have routines like silent think time, talk to a partner, cold calling, etc. but there will be times when I ask questions to the whole group as well. I want to make sure it won’t just be one kid talking the whole time.

    How would you structure a prize box/incentive system? I could maybe use a sticker sheet but I’m not sure what behaviors I would give a sticker for. I might do this with me 2nd and 3rd grade groups but not 4th grade.

    I’m actually going to have a meeting with the teacher who had this role last year on Tuesday so I’ll ask some of these questions. I was also thinking of having student folders that stay in my classroom so we can come back to any work that is done if we need to so I would have kids put their work inside the folders. I got one book bin for each grade level so I can have materials ready for the kids. I have 40 minute intervention block but I feel like it might be more like 33-35 minutes with getting the kids, taking them back, etc. so I want to make sure the routines are clear to save time!
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2019
  6. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    Aug 10, 2019

    That’s my concern with the prize boxes. Ideally I want to do without a prize box because I don’t want them to become distractions. I’m just worried that I need some sort of system for behavior management.
     
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  7. Tired Teacher

    Tired Teacher Comrade

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    Aug 10, 2019

    I understand that need fully for a system for behavioral management. :) With small groups, you have more time. 1 thing I do that might help...I get cute school notepads. (Ones that have kittens, puppies, or cute pictures on them.)
    I write appreciation notes to kids at different times. Usually others will shape up when that note pad comes out because they know I will probably write a couple more, but not give them out until the end of class. A lot of the kids like to show the note to their parents.
    I keep them narrowed down to a specific action or behavior. That way the parent knows it is not every day that ______ remembers to take turns or whatever. ( I would not write something like, "You always pay attention so nicely.") I wish I could think of something that worked, but our pull out teachers tend to do prizes.
    Oh, we did have a really nice Title teacher 1 year. I just thought of something she did. She made each kid their own chart with about 20 boxes on it. She'd give the kids stickers to put on their charts which stayed in her room.
    When they filled up their chart, they'd get to take it home with a nice note attached. If they misbehaved, she'd have them fill out a form saying what they did and what they should have done. I do this too and have found that with some kids or infractions you can "make a deal." I have had some where I show the kid where I am filing it. I tell them if we have no more issues like this, I will take it out of your Parent/Teacher file and you can throw it away. With certain kids, this is quite effective.
    I know there are some parents who would not be supportive either way though by positive notes or what I need to do next time notes.
    I think you will have fun though with smaller groups. I would have loved to move into 1 of those positions here a long time ago! :) P.S. This is kind of funny to me now. 1 teacher used to give the kids snacks and home baked goodies a lot. My advise would be to make sure they swallow it before they leave your room. I remember a kid 1x coming in with a mouthful of brownie. He looked like a chipmunk, couldn't talk with his mouth full, and the other kids were really jealous! :)
     
  8. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    Aug 10, 2019

    Establishing routines and firm expectations is going to be important. A lot of kids feel more comfortable in a small group environment, which is a double edged sword because it also means they feel like can play and joke around. I do have my kids walk in silent lines to/from my room, even if the group is really small. It's important to me to have the same expectations as other classrooms would, so the students see that it is just another learning environment and not something "different."

    I do assign seats for most groups and the expectation is that they come in silently and go straight to their seat. I start every group by asking if anyone has something they want to share with the group. We practice that this is 1 or 2 sentences, not a long story. It's an easy way to establish relationships with kids, and when teaching this routine I can say something like, "I've allowed you to share something at the beginning. We don't have a lot of time together and we need to spend the rest of the time talking about math/reading." Younger kids especially want to share with you all the time- and this also feels less rude if you cut them off later ("remember, you got to share in the beginning.") I don't force kids to share if they have nothing to say. I had an ST once who was obsessed with getting all of the kids to talk during this part and I thought that was silly.

    As for responding, we are expected to do a ton of choral response during our intervention times. There is research that says students learn more the more times they are asked to respond during a lesson. I put an open face up hand out in front of me when I ask a question that everyone is to respond to. If I want kids to raise their hand, I raise my hand while asking the question. As far as group discussions, we use habits of discussion at my school. You can google it if you're interested. I would think it would be hard to implement if your group is the only place they're using it, but you could certainly try some elements from it.

    A lot of management problems can be solved by keeping a very perky pace with instruction. My students simply don't have time to misbehave because I give them absolutely no down time. This requires a lot of preparation on my part. My lessons are well planned and I have every supply we'll need out and within arm's reach. There's no faster way to get a group off track then to stop and dig around for supplies/materials.

    I try to go as simple as possible as far as management. Most groups can be managed with pacing and firm expectations. I remind them of the expectations at the beginning and then pass out PBIS tickets at the end to students who didn't need reminders from me throughout the lesson. The next thing I try is to allow students to earn an academic game at the end of the lesson. Usually this is something like word or number bingo that is really just more practice, but the students feel like they are earning something fun. I state that it wastes our time when I have to stop and tell people to have voices off, eyes on me, etc. If I don't have to stop to say those things, we'll have time for the game.

    With more complicated groups, I've had a system where I put out a PBIS ticket for each child with their name and then 3 unifix cubes on top. I pick 2-3 rules that are causing the most disruptions (typically stay in seat, hands to self, and voices off) and tell students that if I see those disruptions happening they will lose a block. You have to be consistent with just taking the block every time- no giving warnings/threatening to take the block. Students who have at least 1 block left at the end can do the academic game, and those that have at least 2 left at the end get the game and the ticket. Those with 0 spend the game time writing what they will do differently the next day. In groups with really severe behaviors (IDK that you'd have this in your grade levels- this is typically kids who will end up in self contained but haven't yet in my grade levels), I have had to do something like carry a small whiteboard and put each child's initial on it. Then I give a tally every time they're doing what they're supposed to- at least every 30 seconds-1 minute. Every 5 tallies earns a PBIS ticket or sometimes is connected to bigger rewards within my room. This is time consuming and annoying and I only do it if I absolutely have to. Some of our intervention teachers do this for every single group. My philosophy is to start simple and only add in more complexity if it's absolutely needed.

    My first 2 years I did a prize box and found that kids were legitimately just as excited for something like a sticker, so I felt like it was a waste of money for me. I always walk my kids back and when they earned a prize, I'd make them put it in their backpacks immediately. I told them that if they tried to take it out later, any teacher was within their rights to take it away as we're not allowed to play with toys at school. A few years ago I had a para who ended up getting things like small notebooks, fun pencils, etc. The kids liked it, but again it just wasn't something I was willing to spend money on.
     
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  9. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Aug 11, 2019

    I’ve never had small groups walk in a line, but then again my students usually came to me. I didn’t go to pick them up after the first day or week. Even if I had, I don’t think I’d make them stand in a straight line if it was a max of four students.

    Having a supply caddy out is a good idea, and so is having the book bin. They aren’t like sixth graders who might carry their materials back and forth. You will need a place in your room where they can store their things, and you will need to teach them how to get those things and put them away.

    If you are asking questions of the whole group, you could teach them to raise their hand, but I prefer “put your finger on your heart when you have your idea/thought/answer”. Then you can see when everyone is ready and choose someone or all of them (if it’s something simple, like calling out a number) to call on. I do this in whole class settings too. When you are having discussions (where more than one person might share an idea, not you asking a question with one answer), then you just talk them about how to wait for the other person to finish speaking before they share their idea, how to look at the person speaking, how to build off of what the other person said (you might use sentence stems for this).

    I, personally, don’t do prize boxes or incentive systems. They are too much work, in my opinion. I did them early on in my career but gave them up long ago. So I’ll allow someone else to share how to create that system. As waterfall said, I would keep it simple and only get more complex if necessary. I probably wouldn’t start out with a prize box and would only add it in if you find that your students are not responding to your expectations. In my experience, sometimes students in an intervention class do need more concrete reinforcers, but that doesn’t mean that it needs to be a complicated system.
     
  10. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    Aug 11, 2019

    Good point! I hope the kids come to me because I have zero transition time between my small groups.

    I love the idea of the "put your finger on your heart when you have an idea." I will definitely use that!
     

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