September is around the corner! I would love to hear that all of you teachers sat back and fully enjoyed your holidays, but we all know you planned, prepped, and thought about the upcoming year. The problem is, you have no idea what the new year will bring! New students, new student groups, changes, new curriculum, so much new- how can you prep effectively for the upcoming school year?
In today's classrooms, with so much diversity, you need to learn about your students as individuals and as part of the whole group before you can really prep materials. You can organize your class theme, but really you want to wait and let the students do most of the decorating- it is their space after all! You can get some 'busy work' together and map out the curriculum, but you should wait and understand your students' needs before planning too many activities and lessons.
What you can do is plan out the systems and structures you want in your classroom to ensure all students are fully included as members of your class community. Your systems and structures need to be in place from day one. Of course you will adapt and revise them as necessary. BUT it is your systems and your structures that give shape to your classroom and meaning to your actions. They will ensure that all your prepping and all your planning is welcoming, accessible, and inclusive.
And ENJOY ENJOY your holiday!!!!
What are your systems and your structures?
Your systems are the routines, the physical set-up, and the environmental cues that ensure your structures are consistent and easily implemented.
Your structures are the mechanics of your class. They answer the questions: How do you want your classroom to run? What do you need to ensure ALL students are included as members? What is the general vibe of my classroom?
In this blog, I will focus on one aspect of your classroom systems, planning and organizing differentiated math groups.
The goals of math groups are:
1) Practice what the students have learned
2) Review what the students have learned
3) Give students responsibility & independence
4) Provide students with a more casual learning atmosphere
To achieve any of these goals, you need to have consistent, concise, and clear structures in place AND you really need to know your students. None of this will be covered in this piece, but stay tuned- it will be!
STEP 1) GROUPS
Once you have knowledge and thorough understanding of your students' individual needs, or, you are at least on the road to achieving this piece, you can easily introduce group learning. For the most part, it is important to group students based on their approximate levels in math. Groupings are going to vary all the time across the school context, in math, keep the levels together. Think of it like reading groups, you can really target students' current levels when they are paired together. Keep the groups fluid- kiddos' levels change and so should the groups.
Things to keep in mind when you are planning and organizing the groups:
STEP 2) LESSONS & MATERIALS
After you form your groups, you need to decide what you’re going to teach and how you’re going to teach it. Finding quality material for each group can easily turn into a time consuming task. Try not to let it! I prefer to use what I have available to me and come up with ideas on how to use the materials for more than one purpose. Do not get caught up in pretty and shiny materials and resources. THINK: Does the material serve the purpose? Will my students be able to easily access the resource to practice and review the skill?
HOW DO I DECIDE WHAT TO TEACH IN MATH GROUPS? You can teach any of you math outcomes (curriculum or individual) through math groups. By splitting your class into small groups, it allows you to target students at their current levels. It is hard to teach one lesson, differentiate it 20 ways, to one large group. BUT breaking your class into smaller more manageable teaching groups will allow you to support your students, teach your students, and keep your sanity!
HOW DO I DECIDE WHAT ACTIVITIES TO USE? Easy- your activities need to allow your students to practice and review the new skill. If you have many groups, then you can have a an activity that practices and reviews past skills too. Think of your curriculum as circular, you should always come back to what you have already done. CONSTANT REINFORCEMENT of skills. Also, they need to be accessible to all- keep them simple!
SOME EXAMPLES OF ACTIVITY THEMES:
- Lesson with teacher: introduction of new skill: the mini-lesson
- Review with teacher: review and explicit practice of the new skill
- Activity 1: an independent and/or group activity that practices the new skill (activity allows for ALL levels to access)
- Activity 2: an independent and/or group activity that starts with the pre-skill to the newly taught skill (ensure it has an extension to allow for practice of the new skill once taught)
- Activity 3: an independent and/or group activity that reviews a past skill (not necessarily connected to the new lesson/unit)
The below table represents a simple SYSTEM that can be used in your class consistently to ensure all your students are participating in the group activity. The system never changes, but the groups should change and the activities will change.
click pic for to claim a few freebies!
STEP 3) ACTIVITIES
It is important to clearly display the math group rotations. Not only is displaying the rotation cycle important, but ensuring all expectations are clearly understood is imperative to your math groupings success. All your students need to know where they are suppose to be, for how long, and what they are expected to do when they are there. Some students will need constant reminders, some may even require your close proximity in order to have success. If you know your students, are planning on meeting them where they are, you will already know how to manage the physical systems to ensure you are supporting your students the best that you can. For example, if you have a student who requires frequent check-ins, make sure his/her group is always working close to your point of instruction. If you do this, then you can constantly be directing the student back to their task- they will quickly learn that you are watching and supporting them. It goes back to having clear, concise, and consistent systems and structures in your class.
WHAT DO STUDENTS DO DURING EACH STATION? When finding material for each station I ask myself the following:
In order to successfully implement differentiated math groups, you will need to…
Something to keep in mind: For any program to be successful, you need to ensure you know your students well. You need to understand their current levels in order to bring them forward, you need to know them as a learner (at least a little bit), and you need to know when you can push them and when to hold back. As well as knowing your students, you need to make sure you have clear & consistent expectations in place for all your students. Consistent systems support students in understanding your structures. Without strong systems and structures, even the best program in the world will be a flop in any classroom.
stay tuned for our freebies : 10 differentiated math group activities & 5 of the BEST math materials to teach to all your learners.