Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Successful Large Group Sessions in an Early Childhood Classroom

Thank you to all who participated in my kansasasd webinar, "Leveling Large Group". (The recording of this session is now available!)  And a big thank you toTASN for allowing me the opportunity to share strategies for large group.  Today's post is a continuation of the information shared during the webinar. 

Let’s jump right in! Over the years, I have done group differently depending on the level of my students & what my overall goal is.  This first video clip is an example of how I did group at the beginning of this year and last year.  For both years my goal was to have each student participating at his/her individual level.  I was able to assess if each child was following along by watching how the student responded to each individual slide.  I used the responses to ascertain each child's level with letters, shapes, colors, numbers, days of the week, as well as each child's feelings.

Classroom Confession: Group does not always go as seamless as it does in this example. The students in this video are typically developing kindergartners acting as preschool students with varying needs.  However, you would be surprised at how well each student in my classroom attends because every child is working at a level that breeds individual success.  Also note, I did not prep these ‘actors’ at all and they know exactly what to do, which goes to show what work systems and visual structure can do to support students in being independent and successful.   (A special thank you goes out to Miss Molly, Maci, Oaklye, Olivia, Emmitt and the student's families for allowing me to use them to create large group video examples.)

So let's take a closer look, each student took a turn coming up to the Smartboard. The students knew which Smartboard page they were assigned by watching this large group job chart.   

The job chart serves as a visual that indicates to the entire class how much work we have to do.  It also helps our kids (who are highly engaged in the Smartboard) know when it is their turn as it serves as a visual reminder to stay in their seat until their name and page come up.

Along with the whole group visual, each student has his/her own lapbook.  The lapbooks serve as visual systems that allow each students to independently follow along during large group.

Here is a sneak peek inside the student's lapbook system.

System One is using a shape sorter to follow along with the activities at group.  By having the shape sorter at the independent work table, I was able to give the student the movement she needed while layering her time so she could practice transitioning to and from group.  

The student this system was originally created for had a very short attention span.  He would get up & leave group, walk up to the smartboard when it was not his turn, and/or cry or whine because he didn’t want to come to group or continue to attend to group. By creating a system that shaped his leaving behavior in an appropriate way, we were able to support his short attention span and make group easier for his peers to attend to.  As he gained skills, we had him leave group less frequently to work toward System Two.

System Two is simply following along at group by putting the shape on the color page that is up on the Smartboard.  This is an errorless system that trains the child to pay attention to the Smartboard pages.
System Two

System Three is the next step up from System Two. (Note: This system is not shown in the video clip.)  It's the same concept as System Two without being errorless.  The student must watch what color page we are using on the Smartboard and match that shape to the page in their lapbook at their seat.  

System Three
When I first introduced lapbooks, I used pictures of items of interest rather than shapes on each page. For example, I used pictures of cars, trucks or preferred characters like Thomas the Train and Dora.  This taught the students to look at the Smartboard as it was highly motivating and reinforcing.
System Four is a step up from System Three. In this system, the student has to put the shape seen on the Smartboard slide on the correct number, letter, day of the week, etc within a field of three.  Note: I laminate the pages in System Four with three boxes on each page and then use a Vis-a-vis marker to write three letter choices on the page each week.

System Four
System Five is the most difficult system we use in our classroom. The student has numbers 1 through 20 & all the letters of the alphabet and must identify the letter and number of the day.  If you have older/higher-level students in your setting, you could create a system where the student follows along by writing the answers to each slide.  If a student has trouble following the system we have designed for them, we have the option of moving to a lower system or backing up and teaching the system during direct instruction. 

System Five

Whew...that was a lot of information!  Please let me know if you have questions or comments regarding this form of large group.  If you are interested in making leveled lapbooks for your classroom, you can access my leveled lapbooks on Boardmaker Share or by sending me an email. As always, I'm happy to share! :)  

Lastly, I know the Smartboard pages are not very clear in the video so here's a closer look at each page.

Slide One:  Day of the Week

The Day of the Week song used on this page is by Dr. Jean.  It is to the tune of the Adaam’s Family.  Later in the year, we use the actual music from the CD.  I have found early on it is best to sing it versus use a CD so I can speed it up or slow it down based on my students’ needs. As awful as my voice is, it just seems to be a better fit for learning songs and actions initially.

Slide Two: Our Class Schedule
This page is blank.  I refer to our magnetic/wipe-off schedule that is posted to the left of the Smartboard during this page. You can see pictures of our schedule below. 

AM Class Schedule
PM Class Schedule
I then draw a visual of any changes to our schedule on the Smartboard page.  I do this to prepare the kids for any schedule changes during that day.  Because the schedule is on the bulletin board rather than the Smartboard, students & staff can refer to it all day even when the Smartboard is not in use.
Slide Three: Attendance

I use pictures of the students and strategically have the attendance helper dress them in the color they are wearing.  There are two reasons for this: 1.) To work on colors and 2.) The students learn to look at each other to take attendance. Many of our students are not aware of their peers.  Some know exactly who is at school without having to actually look around to check, while others do not know who is who.  This activity forces the student to look at each other to do attendance. After dressing each student, we are able to use one-to-one correspondence to see who is at school that day.

Slide Four: Breathing

This page gives students the opportunity to practice different breathing strategies to self-regulate.  The breathing icons and techniques we use are based on Dr. Becky Bailey’s Conscious Discipline Program. 

Slide Five:  Checking In

This page is strategically placed after page four so the students can first take a deep breath, and then assess how their bodies are feeling using the Incredible Five Point Scale by Kari Dunn Buron.  During this page, the "check-in helper" has the opportunity to assess himself/herself, as well as asking their classmates how they feel.  This same scale is posted in our "Safe Place" as a tool for students to understand their feelings and emotions.  

A similar visual is posted underneath our Smartboard and used at the end of the day as we check out.

Slide 6: Song of the Day 

(Note:  In an effort to save time, this page is not included in the provided video model clip.)
This page was placed in the middle of our morning  Smartboard activities to give students a stand-up break before starting the more academic pages.  Instructor's Insight: Just by standing up, students get 10% more oxygen to the brain!! :-)  

Slide 7: Letter of the Week  

The letter on this page is updated each week.  We start the page by writing the capital letter of the week using Handwriting without Tears techniques and then follow up by singing the alphabet song using the letter line to identify that the letter.  See other ways to use a letter and number line here.  We also often sing the corresponding letter song to go with the letter based off of Heidi’s Songs.
Slide 8:  Number of the Week

The number on this page also changes weekly.  I try to use items of interest or items that go with the theme/holiday to count out.  For example, we use pumpkins for Halloween or hearts for Valentines.
Slide 9:  Rule of the Day

Here we review our class rules.  Then we watch a video model that demonstrates how to follow the rules.  The video model clip is usually based on something our students need to work on.  In the video clip provided in this post, it was on how to transition to a non-preferred activity in an appropriate manner.  It can be anything from how to walk to the break area, how to request a break, how to use the pretend play area, or how to walk in the hallway or line up after recess.  The video models are usually simple 1 to 2 minute videos of my son and/or his friends participating appropriately.

Slide 10- Our Buddy Bear Song 

This page ties it all together with a class song that is sung at the beginning of each day.  The song gives students the opportunity to imitate group actions and be a part of the group. 

A special thank you goes out to Nona Mason of Goodland Public Schools for teaching me all her Smartboard tricks & tips.  She was the one who really got me started using the Smartboard to it's fullest potential.  Thank you Nona!  You are the best!  Your kindergarteners are so lucky to have you!  

Also a big thank you to Mr. Matt for helping me learn more about Smartboard Technology with the presentation he gave for our school district through Infintec. 

Don’t have a Smartboard?!?! No worries!  I used to do all the same things with a low tech poster board version. Stay tuned for those examples in a future post by Mrs. Lisa Holt.   One other option that I will get into in a future uses an iPad and projector to do the same thing.

Until next time...Best wishes modifying and differentiating large group instruction so all students can learn & participate at their individual level!! :-)


  1. Lindy, this is such a great way to run large group with sped preschool! Would you be willing to share your Smart Board large group presentation with me? I have a sped pre-k classroom in Georgia with 3-year-olds and 4-year olds. samantha.remondelli@douglas.k12.ga.us

  2. Where did you get your magnetic/wipe off schedule board from?

    1. I just purchased large marker boards from Wal-Mart and then put duct tape around the edges so the morning and afternoon schedules would visually be different from one and another.

  3. I also teach a special ed prek class. Would you be willing to share the smartboard activity with me as well. baylee_hart@yahoo.com. Thank you so much!

    1. Was it shared with you! I would love it too!!

  4. Lindy, I am obsessed with learning more about your approach. I've been teaching early childhood special education for 15 years and love learning new and more effective ways to teach. Last year I took a training through VCU here in my state and it focused on visual supports a lot. I really would like to pick your brain more. I have questions about your work stations and scheduled direct instruction. I'm very interested in learning more from you as your classroom is similar to mine as I have a morning and afternoon group. I'm not sure if you are free but I would love to speak with you. My email is adkrick@aol.com.

  5. I teach special education preschool. Would you be willing to share with me your smartboard activity. My email is jedgington@cps.k12.in.us

  6. Would love your smart board pages you are using here! Kaitlyn.schaefer@k12.sd.us

  7. Excellent. This is my first year working with Kindergarteners with autism. I needed this guidance. Thank you.