Q&A #293

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: One class, different abilities

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From: Gail

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2000052611:50:36
Subject: Re: Ability grouping

I teach fifth grade, and tried something a little different this year.
Let me start off by telling you that my "math time" schedule was
horrendous. I began most of the mathematics periods this year with a
short quiz of some sort, often a "pretest" over what I was
introducing.  Students could complete the quiz, turn it in to me, and
then either congregate in the back of the classroom to go over the
answers to the previous night's homework, (if it was the type of
assignment that could be shared that way), or use some of the
mathematics activities in the classroom individually or with a

As they shared answers (making changes in pen, when convinced by a
classmate that their homework answer was wrong), or used geoboards,
calculators (they enjoy playing games generating random numbers using
our math explorer pluses!), tangrams or any of the other math
materials in the room, I quickly checked over the pretest answers and
then grouped students according to their ability to demonstrate
understanding.  The remaining minutes before lunch were used to go
over questions they had on homework, or to share any "insights" they
had about the materials they were exploring.

After lunch, the ones who seemed to know what to do were assigned a
corresponding enrichment activity to complete "in the back"
independently, with a partner, or alone.  The ones who did not appear
to understand worked with with me to have some practice with the
concepts we were studying.  For the last ten minutes or so of the
period, I gave the ones in front time to work alone or with a partner,
and went to the back to review what that group had done, bringing it
to some closure.

While not a perfect solution, it seemed to create an opportunity for
those who were "ahead" to work a bit deeper, while those who were a
bit confused were able to get more attention.  The students complained
on days when we could not follow this arrangement, so I assume they
liked it.  The groups were very fluid, with different students
"qualifying" to work independently on most days.  Almost 80% passed
the Virginia Standards of Learning test this month, some with advanced
scores. Several, who did not pass, were very close to the cut score of
70%. I thought it was pretty effective in helping them learn the

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