Creating & Using Rotation Charts for Small Group Learning

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  • 0:03 What Is Small Group Learning?
  • 0:49 Creating a Rotation Chart
  • 2:51 Using the Rotation Chart
  • 4:15 Options with Rotation Charts
  • 4:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Derek Hughes
In order to have a small group system in your classroom that runs smoothly and efficiently, you're going to need a rotation chart that facilitates learning. This lesson will detail how to create and use a rotation chart in your classroom.

What Is Small Group Learning?

Throughout the school day, you are going to want to engage your students in a variety of different activities and learning settings. Sometimes, you might want to use direct instruction to the whole class to teach a new skill. Other times, you might want students working independently. Most of the time, however, your students will be working together in small group learning.

Small group learning is a teaching strategy in which your students are split into groups according to a number of factors to accomplish a goal, solve a problem, or work on an activity. To facilitate this process and make it more efficient, you will need to use a rotation chart, which shows who is in each group, what that group is working on, and where they are working in the classroom. Creating and using a rotation chart is a key part of small group learning and will be discussed more in depth in this lesson.

Creating a Rotation Chart

Ms. Lu is a 4th grade literacy teacher. In order to create activities that are engaging and accessible to all of her students, she uses small group learning a lot in her classroom. Over the years, Ms. Lu has perfected the art of organizing her small groups by using a rotation chart. By having this chart in the classroom, she can train her students to consult the chart when it's time for group work, which makes the process very smooth.

Ms. Lu's rotation chart has several key elements, including:

  • Which students are in which group
  • What each group is working on
  • Where each group is working in the classroom
  • What materials groups will need
  • The jobs of each group member

Ms. Lu's chart has several columns with pockets under each column. To make all the elements clear and to make it easy to arrange the charts each day, Ms. Lu uses a card system on her chart.

At the top of each column is a colored card. The colored cards represent a specific center or activity. For example, Ms. Lu uses a blue card for her shared reading activity. Students whose names are placed under this card know that they are to meet with Ms. Lu that day to do some shared reading in their small group. Other colored cards represent different activities.

The colored cards in her rotation chart also serve a few additional purposes. They indicate which color bin holds all the materials, instructions, and other things students will need to complete their activity. So, a student in the red group would get the red bin for his or her group. The colors also tell students where their group will be meeting. For example, yellow means they are meeting on the rug in the front of the room.

She also created a card for each student with their name on it, which she puts in a pocket under each column to indicate what activity each student will do that day. She can easily mix groups up and move students around just by moving each student's card.

Ms. Lu also created job cards. Each assigned job card goes in the pocket with the student's name card. The job cards are a bit bigger than the name cards so they are visible. Some activities don't require all jobs, so Ms. Lu only places the jobs she knows groups will need.

Using the Rotation Chart

The rotation chart is created before the school year even begins so Ms. Lu can have it hanging up and ready for the first day of school. However, that does not mean that students will immediately understand each element of the job chart. Therefore, Ms. Lu spends some time teaching each element, letting students get practice as she moves along.

For example, Ms. Lu will only introduce the idea that the chart shows who students are working with on any given day. To help students practice this, she places names in the job chart in columns and students have to find their group members by walking around the room and sitting with them. Once she feels her students have mastered that step, she introduces the more complex aspects.

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