For the first few days, use small group time as an opportunity to introduce your children to the areas in the room. Show them the materials and talk about the importance of putting things away before going to another area.
The following information was shared with me by Maryann Perez, the site director of Cartwright Head Start in Phoenix, Az. Maryann is also a HighScope Trainer.
Small Group Time from Beginning to End
Have the necessary materials ready beforehand in individual units or on a tray. (You might have more of the same and/or different materials ready as “back up” materials. See Middle Point #9).
Get the entire group’s attention before beginning.
Make a brief statement about the activity or begin by sharing ideas: “Here are some things we found on our walk yesterday; let’s see what we can find out about them.”
After a few brief words, let the children start right in on the activity.
Watch and listen to see how the children use materials and approach the activity.
Each child will probably be doing something different with the materials. Be ready to support and work with these differences.
Physically move from child to child to observe and interact. This works best when the adult is at the child’s eye level.
Help children think about what they are doing and discovering by talking with them conversationally and by asking questions” “The bear must be a very good swimmer to be able to jump off the highest diving board.” or “How could you make your paper strip stand up?”
Encourage children to talk and interact with each other. One way to do this is to refer children to each other when there are problems to solve: “You know, Jack, Lori had the same trouble getting her wood to stick together. Why don’t you ask her to tell you what she did?”
Draw the group’s attention to what individual children are doing so that they see new possibilities.
Talk with children about what they’re doing, seeing first if they can describe their action. If they can’t, you describe what they are doing.
Give suggestions to children who have trouble getting started or who don’t know what to do next (after trying to refer one child to another).
Consider adding a “backup material” once children have had time to try out things with the original materials. In addition to stretching rubber bands abound nails on the geoboards, children might also enjoy tying ponytail bands or pipe cleaners.
Use the materials yourself in order to try out, and thus support, children’s ideas and suggestions.