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Spring New Teacher Training Series #4: How to Get Started with & Make the Most Out of Small Groups in Reading with Alison Ryan & Sara Marye

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Show Notes:

Leading small reading groups is an important part of your day, whether you’re a lower or upper elementary teacher. Yet, it’s a skill that many of you probably didn’t receive training on in University. 

So naturally, when you begin your first year of teaching, you’ll have so many questions about small groups! 

How soon do I need to start small groups in reading?

How do I form my groups?

What’s the best use of time in my groups?

And of course, what in the world do I do with the rest of my class while I’m meeting with my small groups?!

For those of you who are just graduating, and you're trying to figure out how to get started with teaching small groups in your new classroom, this episode is going to be perfect for you so you can plan ahead. 

Or maybe you’re like me, who felt like I could have done so much more for my students in my first year, and you want a better way of doing things. You are also going to pick up some fantastic ideas inside this episode. You’ll probably also realize that you’re already doing a lot of things right. 

Whether you're brand new to teaching, or you've been teaching for multiple years, it's fantastic to be able to learn from other teacher experts who have been where you are and have figured this out. 

That’s why you’re going to love the amazing tips and tricks that my guests, Alison Ryan and Sara Marye, have to share with you to help you get the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to time with your students.

Alison Ryan, M.Ed, has been working in schools since 2005 as a classroom teacher, reading interventionist, reading specialist, and Director of Curriculum & Instruction. She is trained in the Orton-Gillingham method, has extensive experience working with struggling readers, and has a master’s degree in literacy leadership.

Sara Marye has over a decade of experience working as a classroom teacher and school administrator. She is now a literacy specialist who is passionate about helping elementary teachers around the world grow their students into lifelong readers. Sara's mission is to make teachers' lives a little easier by providing them with endless encouragement, effective strategies, and engaging, no-fluff resources. Sara is also the host of the Stellar Teacher Podcast, where she loves to share her favorite literacy tips each week.

Alison specializes in kindergarten to second grade, and Sara’s specialization is third to fifth grade. So no matter what grade you're teaching, or if you’re moving from lower to upper, you'll get a perspective of how it might be a little bit different when you're working with small groups in lower upper elementary.

Alison and Sara are going to answer all of your questions from how to get started in the beginning of the year, to how to structure a group, and even what to avoid during small groups!

Inside this week's show, you'll learn:

  • How to get started with small groups when you’re teaching reading, especially at the beginning of the school year
  • The ideal number of students for small groups, depending on the grade
  • The importance of collecting assessment data at the beginning of the year
  • Different kinds of small groups that you can create, such as book clubs and strategy groups
  • What the components of small group lessons are, and how to make the most of your time
  • What the teacher’s role is while students are reading to self during your groups
  • How teachers can accommodate for different abilities within a small group
  • What to avoid while planning for, and leading, small group work
  • Tips and tricks to keep the rest of your class engaged while you are running a small group (yes it is possible!)

Links & resources mentioned inside this episode:

I hope this information is helpful as you prepare for your first, second, or third year of teaching. Until next time, remember, just because you're a beginning elementary teacher, there's no need for you to struggle like one.

💛 Lori

Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor

Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at and at

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