I love putting my students into small groups! It benefits them in so many ways and it allows me to step back and observe ~ something that we do not get to do very often! It also allows me to connect with students individually as I ask questions about their work or offer assistance when needed. I know it isn’t done that often in elementary music, as you can’t ask second graders to go off and work on measures 3 – 8 in a song that we are in the process of learning, but when it is done, the advantages become obvious ~ here are the big 3:
- Kids get a chance to work with the materials without the teacher or ALL of the other kids looking at them. This allows for more exploration and observation.
- Kids can chat with their classmates about what they are working on and/ or SOME regular chit chat. I do allow some conversations beyond what they are working on, as it fosters a happy working environment and builds community.
- Kids can get more individual attention as I am walking around.
So how do you get the most out of small groups?
- Start with a lesson where kids can work independently on those concepts that were covered. The Note Knacks Music Lesson Plans are filled with these!
- Once the concept has been covered, tell the students that they will be getting into small groups to practice what they have just learned.
- Tell them the task they will be accomplishing and the steps they need to go through to do so. (You can write it all on the board for reference)
- Assign groups and have a bit of a discussion on what this will look like:
- How will kids get the materials they need for the activity?
- Where will they work?
- How do we share the materials so that everyone gets a chance to use them?
- What sort of chatter do you think I expect?
- Is there a leader? Should there be? How do we work together?
- How should we clean up?
- Where do kids return the materials after they are finished with them?
- Have a group of kids model what that will look like
- Send kids off to “practice” for this small group activity
- You can also have a discussion at the end where you ask the kids how it went. If there were conflicts, how did you solve them? Were there any issues that came up that are not resolved? Does the class have any ideas on how to solve those? Are there things we can add or take away from our process that would help the overall experience?
I have found that the school culture and especially the regular classroom culture play a large role in how well this goes! If kids are used to working in small groups and their teacher is good, you will have no problem; however, if the opposite is true, the discussion with the kids will help a great deal! It may take a little longer, but they will realize what you expect and do what they need to in no time!