Decorative banner image

December 31, 2008

How to Pull Small Groups and Do Learning Centers in Kindergarten

How to Pull Small Groups and Do Learning Centers in KindergartenHow to Pull Small Groups and Do Learning Centers in Kindergarten

How to Pull Small Groups

People often ask me about how I do small group guided reading and learning centers in my kindergarten classroom.  In order for me to do either of these things, I do a group rotation with my whole class.  I have attempted to explain how my rotation works below.  Hopefully, it will be clear enough to be some help to you!


I do a group rotation every day with all of my students.  This is how I manage it:  There are four groups, and all of the children are in one of the four groups. We rotate through all of four of the groups every single day, and I meet with all of the children every single day.

My Four Groups

1.  Language Arts

2.  Math

3.  Art – (We usually do book making types of activities that you can find here.)

4.  Independent Learning Centers

When we begin, one group goes to my language arts table, one goes to math, one goes to the art table, and one is for either an independent activity with a manipulative or some type of reading or math game or activity with a volunteer.  If the volunteer doesn’t come unexpectedly, then I give the children a manipulative to play with, such as pattern blocks, Unifix cubes, or puzzles.

The Independent Learning Center Table
This last independent table could also be done as little mini centers.  I have done it this way in the past.   So what happens at this table is that when the children arrive here, they find themselves divided again into even smaller subgroups with different activities.  So let’s say the Red Group arrives at the independent table.  When they get there, two of the children will find their names next to the Sight Word Wands; two of them will find their names next to some letter beads and they will string the beads to make sight words; and the remaining one or two more in the group will find their names next to some CVC Puzzles.  Last year, I had a small group set of six iPads, and I was able to give the children educational apps to play with at this table instead, and that was delightfully EASY- and the children LOVE it!  Here is a list of my favorite apps.

This is our fourth center, which is our independent center.

If I do have an extra volunteer, then here are some things I do at that independent table:  Any kind of follow up activity is a good idea, such as a reading or math game that they can play.  If a volunteer doesn’t come, I give them puzzles or some other type of manipulative to play with independently.  It’s much harder when a volunteer doesn’t come, but it can work if you need it to work.  The teacher of the RSP class at my school also likes to send her kids over (just one at a time as a reward)  to help the Kindergartners for the purpose of increasing the self-esteem of the older student, so sometimes I get one of those kids.  They love it!  And usually, they really can be of use and are quite helpful to me!

The activity that they do depends a lot on the skills of the volunteer I get on each day.  Some of them love to just play games with the kids, and I have developed quite a lot of different games that follow my curriculum closely.  One of my volunteers is a teacher that is staying home with her kids for a while.  She always does a Sing and Spell the Sight Words worksheet when she comes.  These are worksheets that follow my Sing and Spell the Sight Words CD’s.  All they are is just the words to the songs, with the “target” word left out, as in a cloze activity.  So the kids sing the song with her, and then try to track the words to the song written on chart paper.  They find all of the target words that they can find on the chart, and underline them with Wikki Stix.  Then they each have a Sing and Spell booklet with those worksheets in them.  They find the correct page, and fill in the missing word over and over.  So if the song is about the word “go,” then they would be writing the word several times within the context of the song, and then try to read the song back to that volunteer.  If there is extra time, they use white boards and review some of the words from previous weeks by singing the songs together and writing the words.

The Language Arts Table

This is a guided reading group at my language arts table.

During this rotation, I do the language arts table activity myself, (like guided reading or writing, or a phonemic awareness, a worksheet etc.).  When we are done with my activity, I check to see how close the others are to finishing before I ring the bell to rotate everyone from one table to another.  When it looks like most children are finished, I will ring the bell.

The Math Table

This is our math table, which was being run by an intern from a local university.

For math, my aide usually does a follow-up activity with my kids.  And yes, I do run both math and language arts concurrently!  I introduce the concept and also practice it whole group either before we begin our small groups, or on the previous day.  Then my aide or a helper does the follow up with manipulatives in a small group during our rotation.  So, I suppose it is unusual that my math is running at the same time as my language arts, but that works out well for me and my Kindergarten team at my school.  It has been the accepted practice there for many years.

The Art Table

This is our Art Table.  The children are doing one of my Singable Books, “Dinner’s Ready.”

 The art table is always run by a volunteer, although of course there are times when there is no one there to run it, and that’s just the way it is!  What can you do but just deal with it?  If I were in the situation in which I knew that I would NEVER have a volunteer there, then my projects would be much simpler, probably.  I always leave something there at the independent centers and art centers for the children to do or play with when they are finished, such as a manipulative like pattern blocks or unifix cubes.  They are not allowed to pick out another toy instead, and they cannot leave the area to go somewhere else if they finish early.  They MUST stay there until the bell rings.  This is very important to the management of any independent center; children must stay there until you tell them it is time to switch.  If you provide something else for them to do that is more fun or more appealing than the real assignment that you want them to do, then they will likely rush through that assignment to get to that more appealing activity.
One of my teammates seems to usually run short of volunteers each year, and she has become very good at teaching her kindergartners to be independent at the art table!  She makes a big deal at the beginning of the year about cleaning up your work area when you are done, and then setting up the spot again for the next person, and the children usually rise to the occasion.  I believe that this means that in between groups, she stops to check to see who has followed her directions on this and gushes over who did well, praising them for it a LOT.  Likewise, if anyone forgot to do it, she has them fix it right then and there.  After a while, they get really good at it.  Basically, you have to pick your battles and stick with them!  If that is your battle, then go for it and win it!


Follow me!

Did you enjoy this post?  Do us a favor and share it with your friends!  And follow this blog by signing up email updates, or follow on Bloglovin’.  You can also follow me on TPT!  I’m also on PinterestFacebookTwitterGoogle+ and YouTube, too!  Don’t forget to sign up for our email newsletter (on the left sidebar) for special deals and promo codes that you won’t find out about anywhere else.