Whole Group Instruction: Abandon Ship?

I was tearing my hair out. And wondering why I wasn’t feeling great about how we were learning in the classroom. I came to one conclusion: class size. This year I am teaching the biggest class sizes I have ever had. And whole group instruction was NOT going well. And no, I don’t mean the part where I can’t ignore their wiggling, turning, touching, picking, and squirming on the carpet. I can ignore that. I was not feeling confident that my group was actually LISTENING. I was convinced some days I could say “WE’RE GOING ON A FIELD TRIP TO DISNEYLAND!” and I would STILL have some who were half asleep. My whole group instruction was only working for my 7 or 8 highest students.

My SNTA decided to divide and conquer. We realized we couldn’t run our day like we had last year.

Since we all know a kindergarten class shouldn’t go over 15 kids *ahemcoughahem* we decided to split the class into two groups. 13 with me, and 13 with my SNTA. I printed their pictures out, printed name labels, put a magnet on the back and put it up on the whiteboard.


Sorry for the blurry picture. FOIP and all.

I wrote my name above one group and my team teacher/SNTA’s name above the other group. It depends if my team teacher is with me on what day, as she isn’t with us full time. This allows me to erase the name without having to move 13 students’ pictures each morning.

One group goes with me for whatever lesson I have planned. The other group goes with my SNTA for a broad based strategy lesson (a strategy used for help students with speech or occupational therapy in the classroom) or they go with my team teacher for a different lesson. The next day is simple: we switch groups. Anyone who missed a certain activity gets their name marked on the board and they can do it another day if necessary.

It gets every better. I don’t “do the activity” I have planned with all 13 kids. That is much too many. And I don’t have 13 pairs of hand or 13 sets of eyes. After we are done our small group discussion of 13 and each student knows what to do, I take 3 or 4 students out of that group to start working. The others go play. When one person is done, I call another from the group, then another person finished and I call another, etc. When all 13 students are done, I have accomplished my goal of the day. This has also allowed me to document more accurately in their Evernote portfolios.

Another bonus: it has really helped me refine my lessons! Technically I teach the same lesson 4 times. Twice to my morning group and twice to my afternoon group. The teaching part doesn’t happen all on the same day, so it gives me time to reflect on what worked well and what didn’t so I can change it for the next group.

I still have a full head of hair, and the day is running much smoother in my classroom.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. hechternacht
    Nov 11, 2012 @ 17:24:29

    This is great Kathleen! We need more posts addressing the issue of how to deal w large class sizes in early childhood.

    I abandoned/seriously limited whole group instruction last year (even w a small class size!) as the group was literally unable to sit (and not fight) for more than (3-7 minutes-yes, I timed it). Using a different model saved my hair as well! 😀
    Thanks for this post!


  2. Sarah
    Jan 11, 2013 @ 05:14:49

    I am also trying to move away from the whole group instruction. Would love to hear more about how this has been working for you in the long-term!


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