One of the most useful strategies I’ve seen work again and again for small group instruction is just this: students talking. Sounds crazy, right? But this is how it works:
- have your students read a paragraph of your selected text.
- After reading, they will engage in “quick talk” with their partner summarizing what they just read.
It’s minimalist. But it’s amazing how much brainpower is used for quick talks. Think about it: they’re able to read, comprehend, and then discuss what they’ve just learned to a partner.
Instead of just choral reading (which is a wonderful strategy in its own right), or reading silently, quick talks engage your learners as they read and summarize what they’ve read, putting knowledge into words. Powerful and amazing!
One word of warning: at the end of reading short non-fiction articles, poems, or stories, students will summarize very easily using the shortcut of “It’s about. . .” You may want to ban the word “about” in their quick talk summaries—using it can undermine their learning by allowing over-simplification.
So instead provide them with sentence-starts such as “the text discusses. . .” or “the article says. . .”. I also ban using “I” in their summaries so they focus on what the article or resource says and not their opinions of it.
Quick talks for small group work best with page length texts. Try some of these resources designed specifically for quick talks and 15-20 minute small group instruction. Let me know how it works for you with your learners!