Small Group Time: Strategy Seminars

After my full year of student teaching as well as all my course work, I thought the only small group reading instruction came in the form of guided reading. That was what I was exposed to in my placement as well as all I heard about in my courses. It wasn't until my first professional development training this past June where I was exposed to a different way to do small groups. We used the text Teaching Reading in Small Groups: Differentiated Instruction for Building Strategic, Independent Readers by Jennifer Serravallo and boy did I find it helpful (as you can see with all my flags)! She had so many great ideas for small group instruction, many of which were different than anything else I had heard of before.

The book from my PD. I would highly recommend it!
One of the major take-away messages I got from the text was the idea behind strategy grouping as opposed to guided reading. To put it short, students are placed in groups based on their strategy needs- not there reading level. Each student brings their own just right book (at their independent level) to the group and are explicitly taught a strategy that will help them become better readers. They have a chance to practice and conference with me as well as discuss and demonstrate their strategy for others in the group. I was hesitant on how conversations would go since students weren't reading the same book, but many of my colleagues gave me examples of how students could discuss their books while practicing the strategy, and often times, the types of conversations that would take place would be much more in depth and require a deeper understanding of their own text and the strategy.

It seems like guided reading can and should still be used, as long as it is appropriate for your students needs. 3rd grade is such a crucial one, as it is usually the point at which students begin to move from the "learning to read" mentality to the "reading to learn" mentality. I think at the beginning of the year I will do more guided reading, but I hope by the end of the year, I am mostly doing strategy groups during independent work time in Reader's Workshop. However, I still want to start strategy groups early on in the school year to get students used to this format as well as provide them with a different need. The way I am going to incorporate this is through another idea from Jennifer Serravallo's book: the Seminars.

I'm calling this: Strategy Seminars. I will host the seminars either throughout the week (Monday's-Wednesday's-Friday's, one a day) or just save them all for Fridays and have each student sign up for one to attend. Each has pros and cons and I'll have to wait to see what my students need and what works best with our schedule. In short, each week I'll have up to 3 different seminars that students can sign up for. They are encouraged to choose one that fulfills a need of theirs. I want it to be a choice and hope that by doing so, students will become more self-reflective and be better at assessing what they want to learn more about. Students will have numbers in my classroom that will correspond to their name. They will clip their clothespin (with their number) onto the seminar that they wish to attend. I will probably put little stickers to designate where to put the clothespin and to make sure that not too many kids sign up for the same one (in that case, I would just do 1 seminar twice if there are a lot of kids who want it- or use it as a mini-lesson). I've attached white board printing strips (Office Max- $1 for 3 I think) to some scrapbook paper (with the use of double sided tape and super glue). That way, I can easily change the seminar topic each week based off of what I am noticing students need help with. I may also give them the option to write in their own seminar ideas on one of the strips.
Mini-white boards so that I can change the seminars easily and weekly.
(Seminar ideas directly from the book above!)

I haven't decided where I'll put this yet in my room. Perhaps on the large white board in the front of the room or on the side of the file cabinet or bookshelf up front. We'll see once I start getting things up on the wall. I also plan on attaching both the sign and the sign up sheet with ribbon and hanging it so that it will be easier to clip.
Just need some ribbon and stickers (and hopefully laminate the sign) and we can call this one done!

Yay for getting something done! and for it actually coming out the way I intended!


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