You are here

30 Big-Idea Lessons for Small Groups

30 Big-Idea Lessons for Small Groups
The Teaching Framework for ANY Text and EVERY Reader

April 2016 | 248 pages | Corwin

Intermediate grade readers are not an M, an N, or an O—they’re idea-wranglers, ready to comprehend when we honor who they are as thinkers first

In 30 Big Idea Lessons for Small Groups, educators Rafferty, Morello, and Rountos provide an amazing framework that gets students interacting with texts. You prompt and guide, but they think! Big-Idea groups are the piece that’s been missing from small group instruction: engagement from the get-go.
Follow this unique 4-part process to develop students’ literal, inferential, evaluative, and analytical skills: 

  1. Engage: Before Reading Using a tactile tool like a topic card or a pyramid, readers literally move ideas around on their small group table as they debate a question related to the text  and to big ideas about courage, persistence, love, and honesty, and more. 
  2. Discuss: During Reading Students read and mark up a short text, exploring questions that get at the author’s take on the big idea, noticing key vocabulary, text structure, moments of inference, and more. 
  3. Deep-See Think: After Reading Students re-read, synthesize, and revise their interpretations together and tweak the tactile tool, based on questions that probe the big idea in new and deeper ways. 
  4. Connect: After Reading Students summarize, and begin to transfer their understandings to other texts in independent reading and the world beyond, primed for this all-important transfer because they’ve been engaged in topics that clearly relate to their lives.  

Tap into 30 lessons organized by text complexity, reproducible forms, assessments, and a bank of engagement tools so you can switch it up. Use these lessons across the year as a warm up to a whole-class novel, to augment your core reading program, to challenge your capable readers and bring your striving readers in to rich yet accessible reading experiences. 

Chapter 1. Big-Idea Groups: Scaffolded Reading Instruction Where Engagement Rules
The Ultimate Goal: Real Student Independence
Now Look at Student Independence During Big-Idea Groups
Four Facets of the Framework
How Big-Idea Groups Fit Within Other Small-Group Models
A Few Important Frameworks for Reading Closely
The Effective Environment Around Close Reading
What About Guided Reading and Strategic Reading?
What’s Ahead in This Book?
An Introductory Big-Idea Lesson
On Another Day: Adapting the Introductory Lesson With an Informational Text
The Great White Space
Chapter 2. The Lesson Design
The Tweaks to DRTA
Five Phases of the Lesson
Time Factors
When to Begin?
How Do They Fit Within Units of Study?
A Trial Run: The "Why" Behind Each Phase
Phase 1: Engaging
Phase 2: Discussing
Phase 3: Deep-See Thinking
Phase 4: Connecting
Phase 5: Assessing
Chapter 3. The Tools of Engagement
Interesting Texts
Real-World Instruction
Expository Expectation Map
Important Versus Interesting
Ranking Characters
Ranking the Table of Contents
Semantic Word Ranking
Staircase Label
Vocabulary Karaoke
Teacher Involvement
Chapter 4. The 30 Lesson Planners
Chapter 5. Transferring Thinking Across the Day
Teacher Variety During Small-Group Instruction in the Reading Block
Agency: The Ability to Fly on Your Own
Connecting Conferring to Big Ideas Across the Day
Creating a Community Connecting to a Common Beacon
Making Homework a Matter Worth Doing
Chapter 6. Assessing Readers Within and Beyond the Group
The Rubric
Classroom Examples
Phase 1: Engaging
Phase 2: Discussing
Phase 3: Deep-See Thinking
Phase 4: Connecting
Responsible Talk
Assessing Speaking and Listening
Tracking Data to Help Drive Instructional Adjustments
Chapter 7. Useful Forms and Lists for Big-Idea Groups
Tactile Tool Forms
Box and Bullets
Character Karaoke
Charting the Chapters
Moving to Make Meaning
Pyramid of Perspectives
Semantic Circle
Tactile Chart
Vocabulary Karaoke
Topics Card
Other Big-Idea–Worthy Texts
Formative Assessment Data Sheet
Build Your Own Big-Idea Lessons Kit


Michael J. Rafferty

Mike Rafferty is the Director of Teaching and Learning in Region 14 Schools in Connecticut. He has worked as a classroom teacher, a Reading Recovery teacher, a reading consultant, and a curriculum leader for language arts. He has worked with numerous schools to develop coherence from curriculum to classroom.  He has led workshops and presented at conferences on ways for schools to ensure meaningful small group experiences for all students as well as how to implement a successful RTI program. He is also a Graduate Instructor at Southern Connecticut State University, leading courses in reading assessment, intervention and... More About Author

Colleen A. Morello

Colleen Morello is the Language Arts Specialist for the Fairfield Public Schools in Fairfield, Ct. She coaches elementary teachers, works with struggling readers and writers both in and out of the classroom, provides district-wide professional development to staff, as well as develops and presents various workshops to the parent community. Colleen has also consulted for an international literacy corporation (Lit Liife Inc.) She traveled to various schools around the state of Connecticut offering professional development to staff, coaching in classrooms, and leading curriculum writing projects with district... More About Author

Paraskevi Rountos

Paraskevi Rountos has been a Language Arts Specialist in Fairfield, CT for eight years. She has coached and modeled lessons for teachers of Grades Kindergarten through 5th Grade.  She has also worked with students requiring reading intervention.  Prior to being a Language Arts Specialist, Paraskevi taught 1st Grade in New York, NY and in Wilton, CT.  She has presented numerous professional learning sessions to classroom teachers, Special Education teachers, paraprofessionals, and parents on topics including small group instruction, higher level thinking and reading response,... More About Author

Purchasing options

Please select a format:

ISBN: 9781506334387

SAGE Knowledge is the ultimate social sciences digital library for students, researchers, and faculty. Hosting more than 4,400 titles, it includes an expansive range of SAGE eBook and eReference content, including scholarly monographs, reference works, handbooks, series, professional development titles, and more.

The platform allows researchers to cross-search and seamlessly access a wide breadth of must-have SAGE book and reference content from one source.