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Redefining the (digital) Classroom

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Differentiated Math, v5.2

In the years that I've been teaching math through differentiated groups, my routines and strategies are ever-evolving. Each summer I spend time reflecting on how the year went, pouring over data and student anecdotal feedback to determine what could be improved the following fall.

Ever since injecting my classroom with a rush of technology, I've found myself having these reflection and rebuilding sessions more often. Currently our school is on a 2-week fall intersession. This time off has encouraged me to consider how our new tech-niques (get it? tech? techniques? ha!) and the introduction of the Promethean board can positively impact the routines in our classroom. In this first quarter of school, we have been refining several new math activities and routines using the iPads; now I'm ready to consider how we can make them a more effective and efficient part of our math period.

After a lot of brainstorming - considering what would be best for the students yet manageable for me as their teacher, I came up with a rough draft of a plan. Below is the latest version of math grouping in room 313. As this is my fifth year of differentiated math grouping and the second iteration of the model this year, I have dubbed it version 5.2. 

I invite any comments, questions or ideas for further improvement and promise to write more as I see successes and... less than successes. Special thanks to Autumn Laidler for being a thought partner and to Dan Meyer - whose blog reminds me to try and keep it real when teaching math.

Differentiated Math, version 5.2

Math Block: 70 minutes, daily
Number of teachers in the room: 2
Curriculum: 4th and 5th grade Everyday Mathematics (EM)
Number of Students: 32

Everyday Math Lesson (30 minutes)
> EM Mental Math & Reflexes Routine - iPads as slates w/ MentalNote App (2-3m)

> EM Math Message (5m)

> EM Lesson & Math Discussion (15-20m)

> Exit Ticket / RSA - EM daily formative assessment (3-5m)

Differentiated Groups (40 minutes) 
> Teacher Center 1: EM Lesson Targeted Review
- Who: Based on Exit Ticket; teacher will use the Google form's conditional highlighting to determine which students need to be in this group immediately after they submit their responses
- Length: Two to three 10-20 minute centers
- Where: Tables 1 and 4 - at Promethean Board
- What: This is the part of the lesson that most teachers continue to teach whole-group... so their entire 60-minute block is a mixture of whole-group instruction and workbook practice. I've found that breaking up the group after half an hour and doing this more focused differentiated instruction is more effective for my students. During this group, I will teach content from lesson objectives utilizing the Promethean Board's interactive features and student iPads / SplashTop app.

> Teacher Center 2: Strand work 
- Who: Students will be able to work on math strands in which they need extra practice. This will be informed by their MAP test RIT score and daily formative assessments from class.
- Length: Two to three 10-20 minute centers
- Where: Meeting Table
- What: Teacher creates five word problems to address strand content. The first word problem will be a "Do Now" for the students to work through collaboratively (and will be a pre-assessment to help gauge student learning during this center). The second will be a "I do" model problem. The third and fourth problems will be "We do" problems for the students to "chew" through concepts. The fifth problem will be the exit ticket formative assessment to determine if the student gained any understanding from the group.

> Student Independent Work: Personal Learning Plan
- Who: All students not working at a teacher center
- Length: Full Differentiated Block
- Where: At seats
- What: Personal Learning Plan will follow the same four activities weekly. PLP to be distributed through Edmodo.

Student Personal Learning Plan (M-Th); Friday is self-assessment day 

> Goals of the Personal Learning Plans:
- To increase student self-efficacy
- To increase student curiosity in and enjoyment of math
- To support our school in its quest to increase student test scores (Regardless of personal beliefs, this is a task that must be addressed as a high needs school in a large urban district.)

> To be assigned weekly - students work through plan at their own pace.

> To be assigned to students via Edmodo (student completes Edmodo reflection after each activity)

> Each student will be assigned variations on the following four activities, weekly:
1- Instructional Level: Flipped Classroom - Content Videos Students watch content videos on their iPad for further practice in week areas. Then they complete a short assessment on Study Island to assess whether the video had a positive impact on their understanding. Initially these videos will be assigned, but my hope is that my students can eventually self-select videos based on their own understanding of their learning needs.
2- Instructional Level: Real-world math problem posed by photo or video (see Dan Meyer's blog for examples) - Students will work out their thinking aloud and on the virtual whiteboard using ShowMe, then type up an "extended response" version of their thinking on Edmodo (they will also link their ShowMe to their Edmodo extended response)
3- Grade Level: EM Math Boxes using the free PaperPort Notes App
4- Instructional Level: Math Choice Board 
- Everyday Math Project
- Respond to real-world problem on math blog
- Create math story on Toontastic for your own real-world problem
- Math Games (prescribed math games apps to strengthen student understanding)


Student Peer-Assessment
> Show Me Review (ON FRIDAYS)
- Display student video on the board
- Students respond via "tweet stream" on Edmodo
* First time, students submit responses through "Turn In" button (so only teacher can view comments)
* Teacher will review and display exemplars
* Once students have "mastered the art of feedback" students can respond via the "Reply" button so all may see their comments
* Students can eventually self-select their own videos from the ShowMe site to provide feedback to their classmates

> Math Boxes Self-Assessment (ON FRIDAYS):
- Teacher places corrected math boxes in DropBox
- Partners correct classmates' work (by pulling them up from Dropbox)
- Students address mistakes in their own corrected Math Boxes
- Students fill out reflection on Edmodo regarding their mistakes/learnings

Teacher-Driven Assessments
> Study Island Assessments

> Written Extended Responses on Edmodo (response to math problem)

> Teacher Center exit tickets and work

> Math Choice assignments

Roll-out / Implementation Plan

I do realize that someone reading this draft plan may be thinking... "My goodness... this crazy woman is biting off far more than she can chew." Perhaps. However, my students already have the requisite skills to all of the above activities in isolation. They may just need some scaffolding to get into a daily routine. Therefore we will take the next week to model expectations for what this looks like in an individualized and self-directed setting. We will discuss methods for getting support when the teacher is working with a small group as well as strategies for self-assessment of effort and work. 


  1. Hey Jennie! Did you end up using this model for the entire year? Anything that worked well/didn't work?

  2. I loved it! It worked well; I had to take a break because of my family leave, but once I came back it was good too. I'll be glad to talk to you more about it one on one if you'd like :).

  3. Quick question - what methods do you give kids for getting support when you are working with a small group? What strategies for self-assessment do you use? Thank you, thank you, for taking the time to have this blog!

    1. They have differentiated exit tickets so I know how they're doing, but those provide real-time feedback as I now use Schoology to create these assessments... and it allows them to see if their own accuracy. I also found the awesome app Ask3 where they can get support from one another when confused. I highly recommend that one!