Quick Guide to Benchmark Advance: Whole vs. Small Group Instruction

Benchmark Advance is designed to be a workshop program. The program heavily emphasizes both small & whole group instruction. 

This post is for a series called “Quick Guide to Benchmark Advance,” which helps teachers with the basics.


There are three main whole-group focuses per day: word study/foundational reading, close reading, and writing. The lessons that support these areas are found in your TRS. They are meant to be kept mini, which takes a lot of practice! It’s not impossible, but it will take time to perfect your mini-lesson. Here’s an example of one of my mini-lessons. The key to keeping lessons mini is reminding yourself that you are not teaching to mastery each time. Set a clear objective for each lesson, find a few good examples in the text to model, ask for a teeny bit of student input, and then get into those small groups! You can use these Close Reading Companions to help streamline your mini-lessons and stay focused on the objective.

During whole group instruction, K-1 students are using the big books and the My Shared Reading consumable text. Second through sixth grade students use the Texts for Close Reading books. This is their consumable “magazine.” 


This is where you get your precious guided reading time, where you meet with homogeneously grouped students, reading and practicing the skills using a text at their level. Follow the teacher lesson plans that come with each leveled text, or continue practicing the skill you just introduced in your whole group time (which is what I like to do a lot of the time).

“But what is everyone else doing?” – every teacher


The rest of the students are working on center tasks that reinforce the skills for that week. It’s basically their independent practice. I have the following centers: word work, read-to-self, writing, and technology. My students always know where to go and what to work on with this poster displayed in our classroom. I printed it out, laminated it, and fill it out with a wet-erase marker. You can have this poster emailed to you for free (read on).

In the word work center, my students work on pamphlets that have spelling, vocabulary, and grammar practice for that week. In the read-to-self center, my students complete Close Reading Companions, answer text-dependent questions and then read a book of their choice. In the writing center, students practice writing to that week’s prompt or they work on a prompt from my Mentor Texts line. In the technology center, I have about 8 Chromebooks and students work on research, a Google Slides Graphic Organizer, Digital Word Work, or listen to their leveled reader read aloud to them on the Benchmark website. You may also choose to explore the “Practice” tab on Benchmark Universe to print blackline masters that can be used as independent work.


Display your small group schedule to easily manage your rotations.

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    Managing Small Groups

    Now that you have an idea of what students are doing in their independent practice time, it’s time to think about logistics. Managing rotations takes a little bit of time, but displaying some sort of visual helps everyone stay on track. My students work in teams and in reading groups, and these teams and groups are running all at the same time. One thing you should consider is to use a chart that shows where everyone is for the day.

    Each team member has designated roles to keep things running smoothly in their centers so that I don’t have to intervene during my guided reading time. Every student has something to work on. It’s a bit intimidating setting up centers at first, but it’s well worth it!

    A MESSAGE BEFORE YOU BEGIN: This is a good message to keep in mind as you get started
    SUPPLY LIST: A short list of items you may want to purchase for your students
    MATERIALS OVERVIEW: A shortcut page to reference materials in the program
    PLANNING: Tips for planning a unit and week effectively
    TEACHER TIPS: Advice from teachers who are already using the program

    Hi! I’m Toluca from Markers and Minions, where I help teachers feel more effective and confident with high-quality resources and an awesome teacher community!

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