5 Simple Ways to Make Virtual Small Groups a Success

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I have a feeling we’ll be doing a lot of virtual learning this year. Our special education students need structure and routine more than ever, and it’s our job to help make virtual learning successful with our small groups.

Here are five simple ways to make your small groups a success as you dive in to virtual learning.

Set a Schedule

When will you meet with your virtual small groups? Set a daily or weekly schedule where your students KNOW that they’ll be meeting with you using a platform like Google Meet or Zoom.

Communicate with Parents

Let your parents know when you’ll be meeting and what their child will need to do. It’s important to let them know how critical these small group times are. Although it can be hard sometimes, communication with parents is so important.
There will be things that arise and prevent students from joining my groups, but I try to be in constant communication with my parents. I want them to be comfortable sending me a text or email to let me know what’s up!

Record Meeting

Now, there are 101 rules around recording meetings, so do some checking to see what you’re allowed to do. If a child cannot attend your meeting, many platforms offer the ability to record the session. If they can’t attend live, they can watch the recording of all or part of the meeting at a later time.
What can you record YOURSELF doing to help them continue to grow and progress at home? It doesn’t need to be student faces and the silly things that are said and done in the small group. Think about how you can let your students make up missed “classwork”.

Share Screen

Learn how to share your screen. This will allow you to share PowerPoint files, PDFs, and other lessons with your students. I love to be able to model and walk through activities that we would have typically completed in class. Is it different? Sure. But it is a great way to share REAL lessons with your students.

Prep Supplies & Communicate

If you know students are going to need specific items for your virtual small groups, bag them up and do your best to get them to your students. I know that this step isn’t possible in all scenarios. For me, I want to send home highlighters, markers, pencils, hundreds charts, and several weeks of our printable booklets.

Fun and Simple Virtual Rewards for Students

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Some of us will be starting the school year doing virtual learning. For others, like myself, I’ll be starting the year in the classroom, but Lord knows how long that will last. I feel like we’ll quickly be finding ourselves back in the virtual learning world.
Last year, I was looking for a way to motivate my students and give rewards to them during virtual learning. Here are a few fun and simple virtual rewards for students to make virtual learning more successful and motivating for our students.

“Lunch Date”

A lunch date is a great motivator for students. Using Zoom, Google Meet, or another video conferencing platform, you and your students could have lunch together. They’ll love it!
You could make this something that multiple students can earn or one on one with a parent present! Either way, it will be a great way to let your kids get some quality time with you in a casual setting.

Special Share

Some of your kids might not like this option, I know I would have rather died than share a story with my class. Other kids? They LOVE the opportunity to share a story with their teacher and classmates. Use this to your advantage and let them share something special at the beginning or end of your virtual small group.

Be the Teacher

What routines do you have in your small group that you could turn over to a student? I’ve let my students greet others as they join the group, choose students to read aloud, or keep track of our time.
Either way, they’ll feel special and motivated to keep working hard in your small group.

Choose the Game or Greeting

If you play games, sing songs, or do various morning meeting style activities, let your student earn the right to choose the activity.

Bingo Night

One of my favorite fun and simple virtual rewards for students is Bingo Night!!! My kids love bingo both in person and online. When I played with my kids, I used sight words. I drew a blank board for them to copy. Then, I gave them a word bank and told them to fill in their homemade bingo board with the words.
I also added a printable board, but many of my students weren’t able to print it. But that was ok, it gave them an example of what their board should look like.
This could also be done digitally, but I wasn’t brave enough to tackle it with my first graders! 😂

How to Use Google Meet in Special Education

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Google Meet was a HUGE blessing to me as a special education teacher. I was able to continue to hold small groups throughout distance learning and meet with parents for case conferences. I couldn’t have continued to teach my students without Google Meet.

How to Set Up a Google Meet

For special education, I found myself constantly needing to schedule a Google Meet for one reason or another. I used Meets for small group sessions, one on one tutoring sessions, and annual case conferences with parents and other staff members.

How to Generate a Permanent Meeting Link

I found that my students got a little overwhelmed with the Google Classroom Stream. By creating a permanent link, my students could just click the link and join the Google Meet without scrolling through homework assignments and announcements.

How to Share Your Screen in Google Meet

Whether you are walking through general education material, sharing a PowerPoint presentation, or teaching a lesson with a PDF, sharing your screen is extremely important.
I think this is great asset for our special education students. With a screen share, they can continue to participate in activities and have help with difficult tasks. I used screen share to explain general education tasks with them one on one.

How to Use Your Phone as a Document Camera

Walking through your daily lessons WITH your students is extremely valuable. By using your phone as a document camera, you’ll be able to share written documents with your students. I love this for our students with disabilities because so many rely on copying from their teacher. This is one important strategy for helping them complete tasks while digital learning.

How to Use Zoom in Special Education

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Zoom has been a life-saver since we were thrown head first into digital learning. I especially loved Zoom in special education. It was a great way to continue to hold small groups even though we weren’t together in person. It was also useful for annual case conferences and other special education meetings.

How to Set Up a Zoom Meeting

After setting up an account, you can set up meetings with many different features. Decide what is right for you and your students. I like that I can set recurring meetings for my small groups.

How to Share a Meeting with Students

Since I use Google Classroom, I can easily share the meeting information with my classrooms. My small groups can continue to meet as usual by clicking the URL that is sent to them.
If you don’t use Google Classroom, that’s ok! Just share the link in the platform that you prefer or are required to use.

How to Use Your Phone as a Document Camera

For my students, I find that they need a model. They need someone to guide them through assignments. In some cases, they need step by step instruction. I found that using my phone as a document camera is a valuable asset to our students.

How to Share Your Screen on Zoom

If the tech involved in the last post has you worried, this is a much SIMPLER solution! You can still share lessons, Power Points, or other files with your students. You can even pull up assignments and walk them through it or read it aloud to them. It’s an easy feature that can allow you to do so many things with them during a small group or one on one session.

How to Use Your Phone as a Document Camera {Apple Users}

My mind was BLOWN! When I went to record the screen sharing video, I discovered that I could use AirPlay to create a document camera. If you are an Apple lover, check out this video!

How to Use Boom Cards in Special Education

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I have not been a long time Boom Learning user, but I have been in LOVE with it for special education. Here’s why: Some Boom Cards have audio that will read aloud to students. Using Boom cards in special education has been a live saver . In my mind, they have endless opportunities.

How to Set Up a Class on Boom Learning

Setting up your class on Boom Learning is very easy! You can add your own list or bring them in from Google Classroom. With a few clicks, your students will be ready in no time.

How to Assign Boom Decks

Assigning Boom Decks to your students can also be done with just a few clicks.
I also encourage you to explore some of the options, like hiding cards, allowing students to surrender if they don’t know an answer, and whether you’ll allow students to complete the deck multiple times. This is one of the things that make Boom cards in special education so versatile!

How to Use Boom in Special Education

What can Boom do anyway? In this video, I’ll show a few examples of how I plan to use Boom with my students. There are so many options that make Boom great for students with disabilities.

Purchasing Boom Decks

Once you purchase points, you can use them to buy Boom Decks to use with your students. The options are endless!

How to Access from a TpT Purchase

I absolutely love that TpT sellers can add Boom Decks to their products. I’m working on converting my reading series over to Boom decks. I think it will make accommodations and independent learning much easier.
This video shows you just how it is to add them to your account.
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