Lesson Planning for Group Rotations!

Making lesson plans for a group rotation in Kindergarten doesn't have to be time consuming or difficult!  Once you find a routine that works, the process becomes much easier and planning for the entire week can be done quickly and easily, especially when you follow a pacing guide as I do. (Click here to download mine.) Here is the routine that I generally follow when planning for my small group rotation in language arts, along with some links to other posts on how I do my rotation and learning centers.

I wrote this post in response to the question below that was emailed to me this week, and I thought that I would include both the question and answer in my blog, just in case there are others with the same thoughts.

"How do you make the lesson plans to work in groups? For example, do you give your lesson at the beginning and then send them to their groups? What I do, is follow the Houghton Mifflin guides. For Mondays, I would introduce the new alpha-friend and read the story. Then I would have them go into their tables and have one group work with me on the practice worksheet for the Alphafriend and the others work on the story worksheet.  Then on Tuesday I do the same guideline that H.M. gives but I don't find or can't seem to get more groups going on so I can have more activities for them. So, how can I mix it up like you do?"

For my reading/language arts table, here is my general weekly routine:


We do guided reading with the Houghton Mifflin books provided by the school, and also supplemental books that I have in my collection, mostly from the Scholastic Book Club that I have collected with Bonus Points over the years.


Phonemic Awareness/phonics activities (Example:  we practice blending sounds orally for CVC words and also practice segmenting those sounds (taking them apart) for the words we are going to need to read.  Then we practice sounding out those words in print. We also practice reading our sight words. Then we practice writing those CVC words on white boards if there is time, but usually there isn't!)


Guided writing practice.  We write a sentence of my choice.  Normally, I give them a "sentence structure" that they must follow, and then they complete the sentence.  Example:  "I see the ____."  Then the child chooses a themed word from my pocket chart, such as a word about farm animals or Halloween, etc.  For more on this see my blog entry on May 16, 2009. 


Either sight word practice or more writing that is creative rather than structured, so the kids would get to write what they want, but with assistance.  I do this more during the second half of the year.  Last year, I gave them a lot of little blank books and let them work on them during this time.  They started them on Wednesdays, and finished them on Thursdays.  Depending on the level of the group, some children received more guidance during this time and others received less.  Naturally, my lowest group wound up with more of a structured writing experience during this time, but I tried to get them to tell me what they wanted to write about and agree upon it as a group.  Then I led them through it as if it were a guided writing lesson rather than an a time for assisted independent writing, because they were all so low that I knew they would just sit there and do nothing if I didn't.  This group was filled with children with those late birthdays, most of them having turned five somewhere from September to November  So it was a pretty tall order for them anyway!


We go to the library and then do book buddies on Friday mornings, so they read with their
buddies and then usually do a creative art project with them.  Sometimes, we even do a rotation with our Book Buddies!  the buddies go from table to table with the Kindergartners, giving them one-on-one help with each activity.  However, each rotation in this case lasts only about ten minutes.  After that, I do a whole group lesson with my class, such as guided drawing, or writing the sight words as the DVD plays, or one of the whole group activities from my blog entries last July and August, 2010. 

You also asked if I give my lesson at the beginning and then send them to groups.  Yes, that is what I do.  Our groups start at 9:00, (or at least that is what I shoot for!)  Sometimes, I run a little late, of course!  School starts at 8:15.  So after taking roll and doing the flag salute and calendar, etc., I have about 25 minutes to give what I call "Mini-lessons" on what they will be doing at each table.  This is important, because I want them to fully understand what I expect at each place.  In between times, when they get restless, we stand up and sing a song or two to make sure that they are able to keep sitting and paying attention, because 45 minutes is WAY too long for Kindergartners to sit!!!

This is what do I before groups start:

1.  I fully demonstrate the art project that they will be doing, from beginning to end.

Even as they are seated, the kids sing color songs along with me as I demonstrate cutting and pasting each item.  Then I stand everyone up and sing some songs with them to get them moving before I give my next Mini-Lesson or instructions for the next thing.

2.  I tell them what they will be doing at my Language Arts table.  If necessary, I might preview the guided reading books for the whole class, or introduce a new word family on a pocket chart with the CVC cards and have the kids match the pictures to the words whole group.  If we are going to do a writing lesson, then I will demonstrate writing the sentence on my white board easel for the class whole group, and call on children to help me find the sight words that we need to write on the wall.  I have the child point to them as I copy them, just to show the children what I would do if I can't remember what the letters in the word look like.  I keep the rest of the class involved while they do this by having them sing the sight word songs as that child goes to find that word.  When I am all done with the lesson, I erase the sentence, because they are not allowed to copy it.  They have to use "their own brains" to write it, not mine.  Again, if they are restless, we stand up and sing a song or two to get their wiggles out before going on to the next Mini-Lesson.  Ideally, this would be a spelling song or language arts song related to the lesson I just gave.

3.  I give a short Mini-Lesson on what they will do at the math table.  Especially if it is a brand new or relatively new concept, I will spend some time demonstrating it with manipulatives.  I prefer magnetic manipulatives that I can place on my white board easel, but if not, I can use my document camera.  My aide will give this lesson with the children at this table.  If necessary, I can go over it again after lunch with them whole group.  And once again, if they are getting restless, I stand them up to sing a song and get those wiggles out if they are restless- preferably a math related song!

4.  I tell them what they will do at the independent center, although sometimes there is a parent volunteer there, if I am lucky- so it winds up being supervised rather than independent.  For more on this, see that blog entry on July 1, 2011.

Usually, I will have skipped at least one of those movement breaks listed above (especially if the lesson was very short and the movement break was unnecessary), so they will need to stand up and sing a song again or at least jump up and down ten times, etc.,  to get those wiggles out before beginning the group rotation.

As far as lesson plans are concerned, you will probably not find the activities that you need in the Houghton Mifflin manual.  But then, I am a person that gave up on searching through teacher's manuals long ago!  It seems that they rarely tell me something that I couldn't have figured out on my own in less time, and then the management of the activity is an issue.    When I plan activities, I go to my plastic drawers and look the drawer marked for the skill that I want to teach.  That has all of the activities that I have already prepared inside of it, ready to go.  Then, all I have to do is pull one out and throw it on the table. But if you are a new teacher or are new to the grade level, you probably don't have a bunch of prepared activities!  Maybe the best thing to do is to go through your HM materials and group them by skill.  Only pull out the ones that look manageable to you,  and file them either in plastic drawers, such as I described in the blog entry on September 10, 2010 or in a file cabinet, or in boxes of some sort.  Label the boxes by skill.  Then, if you know you need to work on a certain skill, go to that box and see what you have.  Pull one thing out, and go for it!  That should make planning MUCH easier for you.  There is also a pacing guide that tells you week by week what I study in my Kindergarten classroom for each subject.  Perhaps you can download that and then try to follow along with it as far as the skills are concerned, and that might help you in your planning.

Here are some more posts that might also help:

How to Make Lesson Plans for Small Groups and Learning Centers

Managing Literacy Centers with No Help

More Questions and Answers About Our Center Rotation

How to Pull Small Groups and Do Learning Centers in Kindergarten

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Pam said…
I absolutely love your blog! I have taught Kindergarten and First. I am currently teaching first grade and wanted to know if you knew of a blog that is similar to yours, but for first grade. I have used many of your ideas for first grade, but just tweek them a little. Thanks for all of the great ideas!
HeidiSongs said…
Hi, Pam!
I do know of one great blog for first grade. I don't get a chance to read it often enough to know how similar it is, but I would definitely check it out. The writer's name is Heidi Samuelson and she also runs a Yahoo Group called FirstGradeTeachersInTN,
(which of course stands for First Grade Teachers in Tennessee.) Here is the information I copied and pasted from her Yahoo Group page:
My Blog: http://swampfrogfirstgraders.blogspot.com/
My Web Pages:http://oakes.scsk12.org/%7Ehsamuelson/Swamp_Frogs/Home.html

Good luck!
Joplin said…
I've been using Accelerated Reader for ten years with 1st and 2nd graders with much success. It's been a great motivation for independent reading and the students love that they can manage it independently. Now I'm teaching kindergarten and didn't really think it would work at this age, but I had a few readers that were ready and then everyone wanted to use it. We use only the recorded voice tests so they can manage the vocabulary and take the tests on their own(unfortunately you can't create your own recorded voice tests, but there are so many good books to choose from that it's not a constraint). I was interested to read about it being a required part of your program, as we have the opposite issue. I'm the only one in our school that uses it and have gotten some resistance from the Literacy Coordinator since AR is not part of the "Literacy Program."
HeidiSongs said…
To Joplin:
That's funny that your Literacy Coordinator doesn't want you to do it! How short sighted! Sounds like the "perfect" administrator.
AR has its benefits for kids in K if you use it right.
Incidentally, I never use the tests with the voice recorded software, because I have found that the kids do better on the tests when a live adult reads the tests to them than when they have the computer read them the tests. But whatever is working for you sounds great to me!

We were pushed this year to have the kids all get at least 85% on every AR test that they took. The problem is that there are only five questions on the tests that Kindergartners take. That means that if they miss one question, they get 80%, not 85%. This is not good enough, apparently, according to research. So now the kids are supposed to miss none. I liked the program better when we didn't have to push them to remember every little detail of the book before allowing them to take the test...
Kiki Damrow said…
I AM so jealous! I went last year to the SDE conference and LOVED it! I wanted to go this year but was in Vegas in June for my sister's wedding and hubby wouldn't let me go again! I really plan on going next year! Thanks for the free handouts from the sessions, I really missed having them available!
I work at small school that does AR, I am in the Title Department, so we do 2nd and 3rd (maybe 1st if tech is there) We had so many "programs" started this year, even the teachers that supported it (myself included) got overwhelmed and AR went to the wayside. I found this great idea that I am going to suggest my coworkers...


We just got ipads, they were just handed to us, but I have been finding lists upon lists of ones to use if you want to email via my profile I will send you links/lists.
HeidiSongs said…
Thank you so much, luvzenkms2(Leea)!

I will definitely email you for those links and lists!
Cheryl said…
Great ideas! I teach preschool and have students at so many levels. My first goal is getting the kiddos to recognize the letters in their name....I think I could revamp your sight words game to make it individual for each child to learn the letters in their name. Instead of putting words on the cube, put the letters of each child's name that need help with this. My mind is coming with so many ways to use this game!
Valerie said…
I truly LOVE your blog posts. I always come away with so many ideas and new resources! I have a question for you about your center rotations you do for LA, Math and Art. It looks like you do it for 45minutes, do your students rotate through each one every day? So about 15 minutes at each? Also, do they have other instruction/practice time in those subjects other than center rotation time? My school requires that we do a solid hour of math then a solid hour of LA. I currently do a similar center rotation but with all the centers focused on the subject but I like how you do different subjects as centers and am trying to figure out how I can do the same but stick to my schools requirement of hour blocks. NE suggestions? :-)
HeidiSongs said…
To Valerie,
Well, each rotation really comes out to be about 20 minutes, with about four or five minutes of passing time (time for transitioning from one group to another) for each one. Plus, don't forget to count the minutes that we spend giving those mini-lessons before groups start; that counts for either math or language arts, too. The transition times in between groups counts because we are singing songs and reviewing concepts during that time.

In any case, I feel lucky that my administration doesn't require me to split up the time and count one hour for each subject. Since we get good results, no one demands that we solidly divide up math and language arts; it's clear that we have a good academic rotation set up, and once the kids are divided into their groups, the subject areas are separated. So we can count the minutes that way.
HOWEVER..., if I were in your shoes, I think I would probably do it this way:
I would still meet with each group every day, but I would have the first hour be all language arts related lessons, and the second hour be all math related lessons. If I could get away with it, the art center would not change for the whole morning. So let's just visualize this for a moment:

Mondays, 8:45-9:45: LANGUAGE ARTS

Red Group-
First rotation: guided reading with me
Second rotation: independent center
Blue Group-
First rotation: art center
Second rotation: guided reading with me
Yellow Group:
First rotation: Meet with aide for some kind of language arts lesson
Second rotation: art center
Green Group:
First rotation:
Meet with Volunteer, or go to Mini-Centers
Second rotation:
Meet with aide for some kind of language arts lesson

Then I would have recess from 9:45-10:05, ideally...

10:10 - 11:10- MATH

Yellow Group-
First rotation: MATH with me
Second rotation: independent center
Green Group-
First rotation: art center
Second rotation: MATH with me
Red Group:
First rotation: Meet with aide for some kind of MATH lesson
Second rotation: art center
Blue Group:
First rotation:
Meet with Volunteer, or go to Mini-Centers
Second rotation:
Meet with aide for some kind of MATH lesson

You would have to have your lessons for your volunteers (assuming you have them) ready to go. I would put them in tubs with instructions and the supplies. If your kids will need a mini-lesson on these things to get them going, you will probably want to get in the habit of giving it the day before in the afternoon, so that they know what to do when they come in from recess the next day.

Now all of this means that you will do the exact same thing on Tuesday, but starting with different groups. So during your language arts time, instead of beginning with the Red group, you would begin where you left off with the Yellow group, and so on. You may need to make a wheel to help yourself keep track of it.
I'll try to blog on this soon, if I can, and see if I can make it more clear.
Good luck!
mehar said…
Its sort of amazing fun and education.So you should be creative to write a good song.
Natalie said…
I looooove your wandering word wall! I just created one of these for my kids last week. I give them "tools" for their writing journals and we just added a word list as one of our tools. Huge help for those who can't see the word wall! I created mine similar to yours where the words are listed alphabetically under the letter. Yours looks sooo much better though. I really don't understand how you make your documents look so good. Do you just use Microsoft Word to create your documents? Would it be at all possible to share this in a word document so I could add a few words? If not, I completely understand. Maybe I could write in the ones we need. :)
Thanks again for all you do! You have been a huge blessing ever since I stumbled upon your blog and wonderful products! Since I started teaching, with fundings cut I haven't been able to go to the nice Kindergarten conferences as the other teachers have been able to in the past. But I see your blog and others as my own way to work on professional development. I have learned so much from all you have shared and I believe it has helped me become a better teacher in my short career. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
HeidiSongs said…
To Natalie:
Well, that is very sweet of you! You are SOOOO welcome! I am happy to have made a difference in your life.

As far as what applications I use, I am using Quark Xpress to create my documents, and it is SO much easier than Microsoft Word for the creation of my documents. But the problem is that people really can't take my documents and edit them; that is the biggest disadvantage. If you use Quark, though, I would be happy to send you the Quark file. Quark can be purchased at the Academic Superstore.com:

It's about $195 dollars. :(
Natalie said…
I have never heard of that program. $195! I think I will hold off on that for now but thank you for sharing! Maybe I can talk our tech specialist at school into getting it. Thanks again for your response!

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