There are three groups of kids sitting in front of me every time I teach a lesson. I think I’ve finally figured out how to get all of them engaged in math class!!
There are the kids the standards had in mind. Engaged. These kids are ready. If the lesson is adding fractions with unlike denominators, these kids understand the difference between the numerator and the denominator. They have an intuitive understanding of how multiples relate to each other and are connected to factors. They are ready to picture the part of a whole gallon of ice cream that Lucy and Jaden are about to trade their friends in a story problem. (When these kids are in front of me, I think I’m really good at this teaching thing!) It seems like everyone is engaged in math class.
Then there are the kids who struggle. These kids are missing a few key pieces to complete the puzzle. For instance, some of these kids are totally making sense of the ice cream problem- when they are presented with unlike denominators though, that added layer of work leads them to lose sight of the big picture. These kids might be engaging and working harder than anyone else in math class. They also might be frustrated and acting out.
Lastly, there are the kids that can push on further. These kids “get it” right away, complete all of the required tasks and don’t actually have to work very hard. We rarely see smoke coming from their ears. They also might be bored and acting out. When I used to see these kids in class, I’d feel guilty, like they were getting shortchanged. Despite their high scores, they weren’t very engaged in math class.
In my fifteenth year of teaching, I know this scenario well. I’ve watched kids in the struggling group work too hard, get frustrated and give up. I’ve also watched top students coast along and later fall apart in high school because I didn’t teach them how to truly work. It isn’t okay with me to meet the needs of only ⅓ of my students (even if on paper it looks like ⅔). So what’s the solution?
Differentiation. Personalization. Tiered Instruction. Hear me out! I am not suggesting you reinvent the wheel. (Please don’t. There’s NO time for that!) I’m talking about using what you already have in a purposeful way. In the next few posts, I’m going to focus on Differentiating Instruction in the Math Classroom. I will give you three strategies you can use immediately in the lessons you already have planned- to engage every one of your kids! I promise not to ask you to do ANYTHING that wastes your time. I promise to only save you time. Along the way, you’ll see that these strategies will also streamline classroom management and free you up to actually do some conferencing with students, instead of using all of your energy putting out fires.