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July 22, 2011

Lesson Planning for Group Rotations

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Lesson Planning for Group Rotations 2

Making lesson plans for a group rotation in Kindergarten doesn’t have to be time consuming or difficult!  Once you find a routine that works, the process becomes much easier and planning for the entire week can be done quickly and easily, especially when you follow a pacing guide as I do. (Click here to download mine.) Here is the routine that I generally follow when planning for my small group rotation in language arts, along with some links to other posts on how I do my rotation and learning centers.

I wrote this post in response to the question below that was emailed to me this week, and I thought that I would include both the question and answer in my blog, just in case there are others with the same thoughts.


“How do you make the lesson plans to work in groups? For example, do you give your lesson at the beginning and then send them to their groups? What I do, is follow the Houghton Mifflin guides. For Mondays, I would introduce the new alpha-friend and read the story. Then I would have them go into their tables and have one group work with me on the practice worksheet for the Alphafriend and the others work on the story worksheet.  Then on Tuesday I do the same guideline that H.M. gives but I don’t find or can’t seem to get more groups going on so I can have more activities for them. So, how can I mix it up like you do?”

For my reading/language arts table, here is my general weekly routine:


We do guided reading with the Houghton Mifflin books provided by the school, and also supplemental books that I have in my collection, mostly from the Scholastic Book Club that I have collected with Bonus Points over the years.



Phonemic Awareness/phonics activities (Example:  we practice blending sounds orally for CVC words and also practice segmenting those sounds (taking them apart) for the words we are going to need to read.  Then we practice sounding out those words in print. We also practice reading our sight words. Then we practice writing those CVC words on white boards if there is time, but usually there isn’t!)



Guided writing practice.  We write a sentence of my choice.  Normally, I give them a “sentence structure” that they must follow, and then they complete the sentence.  Example:  “I see the ____.”  Then the child chooses a themed word from my pocket chart, such as a word about farm animals or Halloween, etc.  For more on this see my blog entry on May 16, 2009. 



Either sight word practice or more writing that is creative rather than structured, so the kids would get to write what they want, but with assistance.  I do this more during the second half of the year.  Last year, I gave them a lot of little blank books and let them work on them during this time.  They started them on Wednesdays, and finished them on Thursdays.  Depending on the level of the group, some children received more guidance during this time and others received less.  Naturally, my lowest group wound up with more of a structured writing experience during this time, but I tried to get them to tell me what they wanted to write about and agree upon it as a group.  Then I led them through it as if it were a guided writing lesson rather than an a time for assisted independent writing, because they were all so low that I knew they would just sit there and do nothing if I didn’t.  This group was filled with children with those late birthdays, most of them having turned five somewhere from September to November  So it was a pretty tall order for them anyway!



We go to the library and then do book buddies on Friday mornings, so they read with their
buddies and then usually do a creative art project with them.  Sometimes, we even do a rotation with our Book Buddies!  the buddies go from table to table with the Kindergartners, giving them one-on-one help with each activity.  However, each rotation in this case lasts only about ten minutes.  After that, I do a whole group lesson with my class, such as guided drawing, or writing the sight words as the DVD plays, or one of the whole group activities from my blog entries last July and August, 2010. 

You also asked if I give my lesson at the beginning and then send them to groups.  Yes, that is what I do.  Our groups start at 9:00, (or at least that is what I shoot for!)  Sometimes, I run a little late, of course!  School starts at 8:15.  So after taking roll and doing the flag salute and calendar, etc., I have about 25 minutes to give what I call “Mini-lessons” on what they will be doing at each table.  This is important, because I want them to fully understand what I expect at each place.  In between times, when they get restless, we stand up and sing a song or two to make sure that they are able to keep sitting and paying attention, because 45 minutes is WAY too long for Kindergartners to sit!!!

This is what do I before groups start:

1.  I fully demonstrate the art project that they will be doing, from beginning to end.


Even as they are seated, the kids sing color songs along with me as I demonstrate cutting and pasting each item.  Then I stand everyone up and sing some songs with them to get them moving before I give my next Mini-Lesson or instructions for the next thing.


2.  I tell them what they will be doing at my Language Arts table.  If necessary, I might preview the guided reading books for the whole class, or introduce a new word family on a pocket chart with the CVC cards and have the kids match the pictures to the words whole group.  If we are going to do a writing lesson, then I will demonstrate writing the sentence on my white board easel for the class whole group, and call on children to help me find the sight words that we need to write on the wall.  I have the child point to them as I copy them, just to show the children what I would do if I can’t remember what the letters in the word look like.  I keep the rest of the class involved while they do this by having them sing the sight word songs as that child goes to find that word.  When I am all done with the lesson, I erase the sentence, because they are not allowed to copy it.  They have to use “their own brains” to write it, not mine.  Again, if they are restless, we stand up and sing a song or two to get their wiggles out before going on to the next Mini-Lesson.  Ideally, this would be a spelling song or language arts song related to the lesson I just gave.


3.  I give a short Mini-Lesson on what they will do at the math table.  Especially if it is a brand new or relatively new concept, I will spend some time demonstrating it with manipulatives.  I prefer magnetic manipulatives that I can place on my white board easel, but if not, I can use my document camera.  My aide will give this lesson with the children at this table.  If necessary, I can go over it again after lunch with them whole group.  And once again, if they are getting restless, I stand them up to sing a song and get those wiggles out if they are restless- preferably a math related song!


4.  I tell them what they will do at the independent center, although sometimes there is a parent volunteer there, if I am lucky- so it winds up being supervised rather than independent.  For more on this, see that blog entry on July 1, 2011.
Usually, I will have skipped at least one of those movement breaks listed above (especially if the lesson was very short and the movement break was unnecessary), so they will need to stand up and sing a song again or at least jump up and down ten times, etc.,  to get those wiggles out before beginning the group rotation.


As far as lesson plans are concerned, you will probably not find the activities that you need in the Houghton Mifflin manual.  But then, I am a person that gave up on searching through teacher’s manuals long ago!  It seems that they rarely tell me something that I couldn’t have figured out on my own in less time, and then the management of the activity is an issue.    When I plan activities, I go to my plastic drawers and look the drawer marked for the skill that I want to teach.  That has all of the activities that I have already prepared inside of it, ready to go.  Then, all I have to do is pull one out and throw it on the table. But if you are a new teacher or are new to the grade level, you probably don’t have a bunch of prepared activities!  Maybe the best thing to do is to go through your HM materials and group them by skill.  Only pull out the ones that look manageable to you,  and file them either in plastic drawers, such as I described in the blog entry on September 10, 2010 or in a file cabinet, or in boxes of some sort.  Label the boxes by skill.  Then, if you know you need to work on a certain skill, go to that box and see what you have.  Pull one thing out, and go for it!  That should make planning MUCH easier for you.  There is also a pacing guide that tells you week by week what I study in my Kindergarten classroom for each subject.  Perhaps you can download that and then try to follow along with it as far as the skills are concerned, and that might help you in your planning.


Here are some more posts that might also help:

How to Make Lesson Plans for Small Groups and Learning Centers

Managing Literacy Centers with No Help

More Questions and Answers About Our Center Rotation

How to Pull Small Groups and Do Learning Centers in Kindergarten


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