How to incorporate small group instruction in civics

When teaching civics, I love to incorporate small group instruction. Civics is one of the most difficult branches of social studies when you incorporate the difficulty level of text. Throw state testing for civics into the mix and civics becomes more difficult.

I started using small group instruction after seeing an elementary teacher using this strategy in her classroom.  When I researched how to use this strategy in middle school, the information was very limited.

I knew then I had to be innovative and figure out how to incorporate small group instruction into my civics classroom.

What is Small Group Instruction?

Small group instruction allows the teacher to differentiate learning through small groups. 

Each group rotates from station to station. Eventually reaching the teacher. 

In the teacher group, the students learn reading strategies or skills.

How do I Use Small Group Instruction in my Civics Classroom?

I love using small group instruction in the following ways 

  • DBQ’s 
  • Review 
  • Analyzing text

I create 6-7 stations and students rotate. At one point during the rotation, a group comes to me. As a group, we work on their individual needs. 

I use during DBQ’s to help students develop a thesis, refine writing, and finding evidence in the text. This helps my students actually complete the DBQ because I have individually instructed students.

Small group instruction is especially important during civics review time. Based off of my student’s test scores, I place them in groups to review topics.

What if I Want to Focus on Literacy?

In your groups, you can focus on literacy in social studies text. You can pull a small group and teach them reading skills to help them understand complex text (i.e. The Constitution, Federalist Papers)

Some skills to teach are 

  1. Building vocabulary 
  2. Using context clues to determine word meaning 
  3. Identify the central purpose 
  4. Summarize 
  5. Making inferences 
  6. Self-monitoring for comprehension
  7. Vocabulary development
  8. Creating questions based off of text 
  9. Distinguishing between fact and opinion 
  10. Analyzing primary and secondary sources 
  11. Annotating text

During small group instruction, you can model each of these strategies to your students. 

What am I Supposed to Have My Students Do While I Instruct?

Each station should be filled with activities for students to complete without your help. When I complete small group instruction, students are completing STEM activities, puzzles, or simple worksheets.

Incorporating small group instruction is one of the best practices to include in your teacher toolbox. There is a lot of planning, but the benefits for our students is immense.

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