5 Tips For Using Whole Group Instruction Effectively
There are many articles on best practices for using small-groups, but what about whole-group instruction? By the end of this post, you will learn five tips for teaching to the whole class.
1. Use Formative & Summative Assessments
It is easy to assume students understand the lessons based on class discussions, but it is wise to get hard data to make sure. One time, I made the mistake of thinking the students really understood the social studies concepts from reading and discussing them. I had an unpleasant surprise when most students failed the assessment.
2. Keep It Short
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you are constantly switching lessons. Instead, build in activities throughout the lesson that mix up what students are doing.
3. Whole Group = Active Learning
Students should not be passively listening to a lecture for an entire class. Students need to be actively working on mastering a skill or concept.
While you might begin whole-group instruction with a short teacher-led lecture, the rest of the period should involve the students working on the concept being taught.
Here is an example of how you might break up a lesson:
10 min – Teacher-led direct instruction of a concept
5 min – Students turn and talk about the concept with their shoulder partners, then volunteers summarize their conversation for the class.
5 – 10 min – Class practices concept together.
5 – 10 min – Students practice the concept with a small group or a partner. (Table group, shoulder partner, etc.)
5 – 10 min – Students practice or write about the concept on their own.
By constantly breaking into activities, the regrouping for whole group discussion and instruction, you keep the students on task because they are frequently refocused on a new activity.
4. Less Is More
If you are trying to teach multiple skills in one lesson, you will have more success by breaking it into multiple lessons that each focus on just one part.
For example, writing can be hard for teachers to explain. Sometimes, we try to explain to students how to plan the entire essay at once, which tends to fail miserably. Students who are strong writers catch on, and everyone else is confused.
If you teach selecting a topic in one lesson, then how to find the support for their topic in another, making an outline in the next class, etc, students will have time to master each step before being overwhelmed with multiple new skills.
Focus each lesson on one core skill or concept, and use class time to circulate and check on students’ understanding as they discuss and practice it.
5. Use the Right Teaching Method
There will be times when you need whole-group instruction and others when you need small-group instruction. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, but they meet different needs.
Whole-group instruction might be better when you are introducing a new concept and want to circulate as students discuss and practice it. Small-group instruction might be better if most of the class has mastered a concept, but a handful of students need more support.
Use your knowledge of your students to plan your lessons in a way that best meets everyone’s learning needs.
Teaching Reading Strategies
It is possible to teach a new skill to the entire class but still differentiate. For example, these Reading Strategy units were created to be used with any book. You can use one to teach the concept, whether it’s the main idea, inference, or synthesizing, to the whole class, but then students can practice the concept with a text on their reading level.