How to Plan Your Small Groups in Less Than 5 Minutes


Small group time is super important because it gives you a specific time of day to work in a closer setting with students. In a small group, it can be easier to identify strengths and areas of growth, and then close any gaps. However, it can also be very time-consuming to have to plan out small groups. I know some teachers with up to 6 different small groups, and if they’re meeting 5 days a week – that’s 30 plans they’re prepping each and every week!!

In education, every minute counts – both when it comes to instructional time and also when it comes to teacher prep time! The good news is that with a strategic approach, you can plan your small groups in less than 5 minutes, allowing you to maximize your instructional time and also meet the diverse needs of your students.

In this blog post, I’ll give you some time-saving techniques so that you can plan your small groups in less than 5 minutes. All of the materials I’ll be discussing come from my Literacy Clubs. (You can access a Free Trial HERE.)

Planning for small groups can be overwhelming! In this blog post, I’ll give you some time-saving techniques so that you can plan your small groups in less than 5 minutes.

Use Consistency to Plan

When I used to plan for small groups, I would just pick different topics and texts for each of my groups. So, for instance, one group was working on a nonfiction text about frogs. Another was reading a fiction text about a dragon. However, I found it difficult to keep it all straight.

Which group was doing which topic? How do I introduce the text? What are the comprehension questions?

But then I started asking a different question: “What if all my groups could be reading a text on the same topic?” This would not only lessen my prep time, but could also help eliminate some of my own feelings of being scattered during the actual lessons!

Asking this question eventually led me to create my Kindergarten Literacy Club and 1st/2nd Grade Literacy Club.

As a member of the Literacy Clubs, you receive multiple levels of passages on the same topic. Here’s an example of Kindergarten Literacy Club materials from one month. Among other literacy resources, members received 12 decodable student readers, all on the theme of “pals/friendship.” There are actually only 3 core texts – but each text is provided at 4 different difficulty levels. You can use the same core text with multiple groups, but still meet each group’s specific needs!

Here’s another example from the 1st and 2nd grade Literacy Club. Those members receive five versions of each text. They receive 3 texts per month, for a total of 15 texts. (Again, all texts focus on one theme/related topics).

You can check out some of these texts above in the Free Trial for the Literacy Clubs if you’re interested in looking at it a bit more closely!

Have Lesson Plans to Support Your Small Group

As a member of the Literacy Clubs, the lesson plans you receive are already fully done for you! This makes planning your small groups so much easier. Once you’ve chosen the texts, you can pull that specific plan and have before-reading tasks, focus points for during reading, and comprehension questions for afterward. There are also additional follow-up activities provided.

Use Meaningful Centers

In addition to making sure that small group time is efficient and effective, you also want to ensure that the time students are not spending with you is time well-spent. This means that you want to put some thought into your literacy centers, or whatever you call students’ independent work assignments.

In the Literacy Clubs, you receive literacy centers every single month that are very engaging for students AND differentiated to meet a variety of student needs!

In the above example from 1st and 2nd Grade Literacy Club, students are able to play “Go Fish” while practicing decoding words with blends.

With this next example from the Kindergarten Literacy Club, your students can find and color specific letters with this “Alphabet Find & Color.” Multiple sets are included, too!

Prioritize Your Time

Think about all of the time that you need to spend planning and prepping for small groups! Between texts, lesson plans, center activities… All of this prep time adds up. So, why not prioritize one of your biggest assets: TIME?

As a member of the Literacy Clubs, you’ll receive new monthly materials that include texts, lesson plans, and centers. As a member of the Kindergarten Literacy Club or the 1st and 2nd Grade Literacy Club, you’ll get access to tons more – like monthly webinars and other instructional resources.

With these materials, you can just print and be ready to jump into small group time!

Remember that many of the materials you read about and saw in this blog post are included in the Free Trial!

Efficient small group planning is not only possible but essential for maximizing instructional time and meeting the diverse needs of your students.

By becoming a member of the Literacy Clubs, you can streamline the planning process and ensure that your small groups are purposeful and effective. You’ll find that you can plan your small groups in less than 5 minutes, leaving you more time to focus on what matters most – student engagement and learning!

Happy teaching!


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I’m Alison, a literacy specialist. I love getting kids excited about reading and writing – and sharing teaching ideas with other teachers!

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