To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
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 partner. 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 objectives.
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