Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Small Group Student Engagement and TPT Sale Fun

Do you ever roll your eyes and sarcastically think, "Yeah, right, that will work for sure!" in a Professional Development Class? I had a moment like that at the beginning of the year. The instructor was showing us how the program we were implementing recommended that we keep students engaged and focused during small group instruction. It seemed too simple! I thought, "They have no idea what the kids I work with can be like sometimes! This would NEVER work with them." However, we were required to implement their idea and at least give it a few weeks before writing it off. I don't like to be wrong, but boy was I wrong on this one! Their idea worked wonders, and it was so easy that I am kicking myself for not using it for the last 17 years!

All you do is explain your small group expectations and tell the kids that you are going to keep score. For my RtI reading groups the rules are as follows:
1. On the page we are reading, if everyone is looking at the text, tracking the print, and participating in reading or answering questions, that is a tally mark point for the students.
2. If anyone has wandering eyes, loses track of where we are in the text, interrupts, or distracts the group,  that is a tally mark point for the teacher.

The kids were seriously psyched when we started the program! We kind of made a big deal about how my parapro and I were unstoppable and we were surely going to win. Challenge accepted!

At first, I had to take some points for myself on a regular basis. They needed to know that their points were not going to come easily. I was also concerned about taking a point from the group due to one student's lack of participation or focus. However, I soon learned that that one student will quickly fall in line when the rest of group is not happy about losing a point. Now, I rarely win a point! The kids help keep each other stay on task. If they see that someone is not focusing, they nudge them. If they notice that a friend has lost their place, they point out the correct word to them. I love it! There is such a sense of teamwork as we press on through covering the critical skills that they are lacking.

You can set up whatever incentives you like for when the students win a session. We started off with daily incentives. Then we tapered off to incentives once a week. The incentives are seriously tiny! I couldn't believe that they would work so hard for five straight days for a sticker, a stamp on their hand, a couple of Skittles, or a Hershey's Kiss. I think the real reward is the feeling of accomplishment and teamwork that they receive. My fake tears about losing the game might help, too!

If you would like to give this a try, I am including 2 versions of a scoreboard in this Google Doc. I laminated mine and keep score with a dry erase marker. Then, I can wipe it down and have it ready to roll for my next group. I hope this will be helpful to you!

On a side note, the 3 Million Teachers Strong TPT Sale begins at midnight tonight and runs through midnight Friday, February 28, 2014. I cannot wait! I LOVE a TPT sale! My wish list is overflowing with stuff for my class, fonts, and clip art. (Pssst! I will let you in on a little secret. TPT sellers LOVE sale days! Did you know that our app makes a cha-ching cash register sound every time we make a sale and sounds like magical stars for feedback? It is so fun!)
Do NOT tell anyone, but when sales come in, I have been known to dance like this....  

Happy Shopping! Please let me know if this student engagement tip works for you! Thanks!


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