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.

 

differentiation-fact-fluency-practice.JPG

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!

 

Get Them to Skip Count: Moving Toward Automaticity

I love when math becomes a natural part of our lives. When my five year old mastered counting to 20, we began counting by two for fun.  Now we count by two all the time, it is faster and she gets to see and hear herself say even numbers. We always make sure to pair up whatever we are counting. For example, this morning as we were coloring she paired up some of her colors.

Teach-Count-By-Two

When I asked her how many she had, she answered “Six!” without even thinking about it.  She is now at the point where seeing three pairs means six without having to count it up.  That intentional practice sprinkled throughout the day leads to great number sense in the long run. We never sit there and recite it, we do it authentically when we have a lot of things to count up.

Maybe next we’ll start to tackle groups of three. Skip counting is so fun!