Sunday, June 23, 2013

Whole Group Instruction

Today I'm linking up with The Applicious Teacher to talk about whole group instruction.

Like many of you I teach first grade. It's difficult to teach a whole group lesson with 20 6-7yr olds actively listening. You look out over the crowd and see engaged kiddos, nose pickers, scab scratchers, hair stylists, sleepyheads, shoe ruiners, eye wanderers, and silent vandals. To the un-observing eye your kids are quiet and listening--but a teacher knows.
As I thought about the list of offenders above (but they're my offenders and I love them) I began to realize that teachers are like improv actors. You have to feed off the audience and adjust your game plan. You react on the fly. You add an interactive component, you change your voice, you crack a joke, you stop and do a 2 min dance party. You get the audience back.

Whole group instruction is all about having a good classroom management in place and a lesson that is engaging. With those two things it's much easier to manage.

Here are a few things I do with my kiddos:

(please pardon the lack of my classroom photos--I haven't been in to my room in weeks and don't have photos of all parts)
Carpet time:
During Morning Meeting time (calendar time), read alouds, lesson introduction, or any time I want the class in a small area with their eyes on me I gather them to my carpet. This carpet is one of my precious classroom wordly possessions.  I almost didn't have the guts to ask for it because it was so expensive (at least to a skin flint like me). I googled and googled and found a site that had it at a more reasonable price and I continued to politely ask/remind people about my rug.

My precious:
Now, I wish it came in bright colors but I love that it has CVC words. 
When they come back there I have my dry erase easel and a morning meeting board. Last year after writing a blog post about easy to clean bulletin boards (with all the erasing the kiddos get dry erase smudges on the paper) I decided to use a vinyl table cloth as a backdrop. This picture was taken before I hung up the table cloth. The easel on the left is LOVELY. Dry erase, storage, and a big pocket chart.
While they're back there I use a finger pointer or laser pointer in addition to student helpers.

We read, use big books, go over the calendar, and I use the dry erase to model or make a draft of an anchor chart. We're here a lot when we learn about D5 routines. I know that they can only sit still for a limited time so I try to make it count. This part of teaching is really about implementing good classroom management techniques and setting clear expectations with consequences.

Desk Time
I also do whole group instruction 'old school' style in the front of the room. It's 'old school' but with a 2000s twist. I teach a lot with my projector--not the lightbulb one anymore my friends. I have a ceiling projector and software with a blue tooth writing pad. I love this--I can walk around the whole room, sit next to a kid, stand in the back so I'm not blocking the screen, or stand up front, and still be able to write answers, circle pictures, turn digital book pages, etc. . I also use my laser pointer on the screen. I let the kids use the pointers and the writing pad. They're never so silent as when I tell them I'm looking for someone responsible to use the writing pad. (I've also figured out a way to link the iPad to my PC to use for this purpose) Our math book (Math in Focus: Singapore method) is available in a digital version (so is our new reading series!) so I use the projector a lot when teaching whole group math.

Toward the end of last year a co-worker gave me her document camera. She said she didn't use it much (gasp!). The kids love seeing their hand on there, haha. (However it reminds me that I need to get a manicure) This was invaluable when modeling how to fold/cut things--barely any cutting on the fold I tell you! The downfall is that it's anchored to my desk.

And last but not least--WHITEBOARDS. (The easiest, cheapest, most interactive thing I'm sharing)

When I want to use these I always quickly and clearly tell the kids "Whiteboards, markers, erasers." They get excited but quickly get their materials out because they know I don't waste time waiting on the slow pokes before I start--and they do not want to miss out on this fast paced dry erase action. I talk quickly and sometimes play it up with the kiddos to keep their attention.

This is such an easy way to gauge class participation and understanding. I'll show them a math problem or say it orally then give them a little time to work. Then I dramatically 'yell' kinda magician style "REVEAL" (very theatrical my friends--and it's one of those things that if another adult walked in I'd blush). The kiddos show me their boards and I can see instantly who is writing backwards numbers, who is confused, who wasn't paying attention, and who finished so fast they had time to add doodles and bubble numbers.

I feel like a lot of teachers use these things. If you have any questions or suggestions just let me know.

Want to see more ideas or link up for yourself?
click here

6 Replies:

Heather Langley said...

Your list was "offenders" was spot on! I too teach 1st and that list made me giggle! I agree with 100% about using those tech tools to keep it "real"! I love my doc cam, I use it everyday! Glad I found you here, I am your newest follower! Heather @ Learning with Mrs. Langley

Robyn Beele said...

I am with you on the carpet and dry erase boards! They LOVE the boards!!

Holly said...

I think we're kindred spirits! ;)

Love it!!!!

Crisscross Applesauce in First Grade

Pauline said...

I so agree that the document camera changed my life this past year. It was so much easier to teach as they saw the exact paper they were using as I was writing. And I can't imagine not using wipe boards. It is a fast easy assessment for a lesson or review. Now if I can just figure how to keep their little desks clean so they can grab their markers and socks (or any other manipulative) quickly.LOL

First Grade by the Sea

Kelley Dolling said...

That carpet is the BOMB! I just ordered a new one a few weeks ago. I wish I had seen this one . . . sniff . . . sniff. Thanks for ALWAYS visiting. Hugs my friend.

Catherine N. said...

Hi, I just had to giggle to myself about you blushing if another adult walked in, because I feel the same way. I just laugh when it happens. I usually refer to teaching whole group as my "song & dance" time. Gotta keep those eyes and ears focused!

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