I am blessed to have a class of 17 students this year! Any teacher would call this a dream – and at times I do find myself wondering how I got so lucky to teach in a school that has such a great teacher : student ratio. Keeping those wonderful factors in mind, there are also some very interesting facts to tell you about that helped shape this specific blog post.
Fact #1. Eleven out of seventeen students are boys.
Fact #2. Nine out of seventeen children follow individualized education plans.
Fact #3. Three new students arrived from other schools.
Knowing the class that I was going to be working with for this school year and not knowing which new students would be thrown into the mix, I decided to read and learn as much as I could about differentiated instruction. Through my research, I realized that I really needed to shake things up and make some changes to what I taught, when I taught it, and most importantly, how I taught it.
What I have decided to do is to teach Grade 1, 2 & 3 all at the same time. I am choosing to do activities which incorporate 3 different levels of learning – 1 level for those who are struggling, 1 level for those who are “getting” it, and 1 final level for those who could use a good challenge. My goal is to have all students engaged in learning a specific concept using the same activity – but to have the activity tailored to each student’s learning style and capability. Not an easy task to undertake… but I love a good challenge!
This activity worked wonders when my students were learning, applying, or mastering their number pattern skills today in class.
We began by working on our skip counting patterns by using a 100 chart and bingo chips. We started skip counting by 2’s and placed a bingo chip on every second number. What was fascinating to see was that there were several methods and strategies being applied. Here are some of the strategies I noticed.
Strategy #1. Counting 1-2-1-2 and placing a bingo chip when the student said 2.
Strategy #2. Skip counting by 2’s (2, 4, 6, 8…)
Strategy #3. Recognizing the pattern after the first few lines and placing the rest of the bingo chips visually.
I even noticed that some children were taking it a step further and adding a colour attribute to their patterns! AWESOME!
We continued our practice with 3’s, 4’s, & 5’s (as we are working on skip counting by 5’s this week) and then as some children were finishing faster, I began to give some of them more challenging activities. For example, I would ask them to start at a certain number and skip count either forwards or backwards to the end of their 100 chart. For some, this type of questioning was way too hard, however those students were still engaged in the previous level of activities and the ones who “got” it weren’t waiting to move on to something new. WIN! WIN! WIN!
My class was so wrapped up in this activity that you could have heard a pin drop!
The idea of having to differentiate is overwhelming but it is not as hard, or as daunting, as you may think. Give it a try! Your students will thank you for it and they will be so into their “work” that you can snap some awesome pictures of them being little geniuses!
Have a great day!