Level Your Games: More Small Steps for Differentiation

Recently, I had two first grade teachers approach me about fact fluency. They were feeling both frustrated and scattered. They weren’t sure how to organize the time, how to organize the many games, or how to reach students at all the different skill levels they were at.

It is the same story we all have where every child that we teach is functioning at a different level. Some students didn’t even know their combinations to 5, many were learning combinations to 10, and even a few of the students could work within 20.  The games that we were using were just not reaching every student with what they needed…they were flat and one dimensional. WAY too difficult for the students who weren’t on level, and WAY too easy for the students that had already reached mastery.

Enter the post-it note.



In “Steal the Cubes” each post it assigns each group to a level that is right for them.

Those sticky things are my savior when it comes to flexible grouping.

After talking it through, we thought that we would choose just FOUR fact fluency games that the students could rotate through daily. Once they get bored with the same four, we might introduce a new one.  Time in the day is precious, so we knew that they had to be “go-to” games that could be setup, played and cleaned up quickly. We also knew that students grow fast as they learn, and that our groups had to be easy to change in and out.

So here is what we did:

  1. We taught ONE game to the students each week.  They played them for a week until they understood the ins and outs of them. Then, once the routines of the games and the game playing behaviors/expectations were taught, we were ready to rotate through them.
  2. Each day the teacher chose the game by putting the color of the game out first, leveling the game like in the photo. Each game can be easily modified with different numbers, different cubes, etc. by just changing the post it note.
  3. We attached a third level of post it notes for the partners/groups that stayed in the same place for each of the games, the teacher can simply change up the post its when students move levels.

So once again, differentiation can truly be a little small step.  While this one takes a little bit to set up, the students aren’t bored which makes that classroom game time so much more productive!



Fit: A Free Multiplication Strategy Game Using Arrays

Tis’ the time of year to learn multiplication! I’ve created a new game (TOTALLY free for you to grab) for my students. My third graders have gone absolutely *bonkers* over it.  We had been studying arrays as a way to represent multiplication, when it hit me that legos are a beautiful and motivating way to explore arrays!  Truth be told the idea came to me at about 3:00 A.M. (isn’t that when our best ideas come to us?) to try to make this a game.

In this game the student multiplies the array of each piece they lay down. (Example: a 2 x 4 piece is written on the recording sheet as 2 x 4 = 8.) They can only lay down a piece by connecting corners, which makes it challenging to fit as many pieces as they can. In the end there is a good amount of mental math addition of multiple numbers that is required to determine the winner. There is a challenge mode included where the students multiply the two blocks together (and in some cases three blocks where the corners touch). This is more appropriate for the practice of facts, as well as for multiplying two or more numbers together.

This resource includes:

1. Introduction, and game set up tips
2. Recording sheet
3. Regulation mode instructions
4. Challenge mode instructions

Right now we have a tournament going on, in which the winner chooses a $25 lego set as a prize.  They are so motivated that they are staying in at recess to play practice games.

Check it out!

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Thanks to Nancy for the link up!

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Thanks to Charity Preston for the link up!
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