Association of Teachers of Mathematics in Maine

Chapter 5 Response Choice 2

23 Feb 2019 9:41 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Consider the grouping practices in your classroom. What strategies do you use to form mixed-ability groups and to ensure both group and individual accountability? What new ideas from this chapter could you use to ensure more rich and rigorous collaborative work in your mathematics classroom?

Comments

  • 24 Feb 2019 11:01 AM | Anonymous member
    I pride myself in my ability of providing a classroom that feels safe so that all are comfortable participating. I also do an effective job with seating and small grouping for discussions and projects. I am pretty satisfied with my discussion portions of my teaching in all subjects, particularly math. However, I did see many ways I could improve my teaching and discussions using the strategies and ideas in this chapter. One example was using nonverbal signals so that all students are expected to actively participate throughout the discussion/lesson. I also use some of the talk moves more often and more effectively than others, so I will practice using all of them when I return from vacation. My students are comfortable with the ones that we ARE using regularly, and I do not think the discussion and modeling would take long to successfully use the others, and the benefits of these additions would be worth it for the rest of the year.
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  • 24 Feb 2019 2:15 PM | Anonymous member
    This chapter made me realize how much I can grow in this area. I change seats (and seating arrangements) on the first of every month, but admit that it is probably more for classroom management purposes than for student learning.

    I have two periods of an accelerated 7th/8th grade math class and two periods of 7th grade math. While all classes do have differences in abilities, it is definitely more pronounced in the 7th grade math classes. I honestly really don't even know how I would go about starting to make good use of flexible / mixed ability grouping. But, I am looking forward to reading and listening to see how other teachers do it.

    While I do often ask students to explain their thinking on paper, I do not provide enough opportunities to share their thinking out loud with their peers. (As a side note - thinking and sharing was something I incorporated more when I taught science classes. You would think it would be even easier in Math!)

    When I do ask students to share with their desk partners, it is no where near the level of discourse outlined in the book. While they may compare answers, they do not always verbalize their thinking about how they got there. I wish I had read this chapter a month ago when we were studying order of operations with negative numbers and decimals. Students were getting wildly different answers and that would have been a great time for them to have rich discussions about how they got there.

    Part of the challenge will be finding those appropriate tasks for collaborative work - as the book states, they need to be complex, but not too complex, allow for agreeing and disagreeing and provide language support.

    I feel like I could read this chapter multiple times and each time find something different and important to focus on!
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  • 24 Feb 2019 4:23 PM | Anonymous member
    To do random grouping of students in my classroom:
    The grouping practice I use most often in my fourth grade classroom is clock partners. At the beginning of the year I give each student a clock sheet with areas to sign up with 12 different other students on the clock. For example they have a 1 O'Clock partner, a 2, O'Clock partner and so on. Then whenever I need the class to be in groups or work with a partner I just say, find your 3 O'Clock partner and they look at their chart to see who it is. If I want a group of 4, I will have them find their partners and then put 2 groups together.

    When I have wanted to have bigger groups, I usually have the students count off and then make groups by what number they are. For example everyone who has a number that is a multiple of 3 sit here, even numbers on this side and odd numbers on that side, and so on.

    To ensure both group and individual accountability, I usually give an individual grade and a group grade. I will give them a scoring rubric for both so they know ahead of time, what they will be graded on. I also tell them that when the group presents their project, they will need to tell what each person has done. Sometimes I will also give a group job list and tell the group that each person must be responsible for at least one of the jobs.

    What I have learned from this chapter is that I need to give students more time to student discourse and student interaction with their peers. The chapter is recommending students do that at least 50% of their classroom time. I think I probably only do that 25% or less. Most of the time they are working in groups to solve a task or playing games in a partnership. I need to give them more time to discuss and problem solve with a peer.
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  • 05 Mar 2019 11:05 PM | Anonymous member
    In a recent math grouping exercise, while balancing behaviors, I also balanced those who love fractions, those who are good leaders (can keep others on task), and those who need redirection often. I had a particularly slower group with a strong leader who I spent more time with than others. I hoped that after 100 days of school, students would be a little more motivated to complete the work and a little more comfortable with each other. Of the 4 groups, one that I worried about a lot, really worked hard--didn't always have right answers, but was super-willing to try again, to figure it out when I said 'sorry'! They were my model--they dug deep, they didn't ask me more than a clarification question or two. Another group worked almost as hard, always going back to refigure the problems. The other 2 groups spent more time bickering and splitting! This is why grouping needs to be flexible, so I can change it up the next time. I interjected a 'mini lesson' or reminder every once in a while. I also had students work alone on a separate day before returning to groups.
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  • 09 Mar 2019 4:02 PM | Anonymous member
    Up to now in my 2nd grade classroom my grouping consisted of math partners, and math partnerships changed occasionally. For most of the year I organized my class using a math workshop model where students are worked in partnerships at math workstations as I met with small groups for direct instruction. In the recent unit we just finished (addition of 3 digit numbers) I did more whole group teaching with lots of turning and talking of heterogenous partnerships. After reading the chapter section about groupings I will incorporate more movement into the math hour by having students create 'around the clock' learning partner sheets. I know they will love doing this. As we gather, in the meeting area because I do all my mini lesson teaching in front of the easel in the meeting area, I will continue to incorporate peer support but allow more movement and variety such as Think-Pair-Square.
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  • 10 Mar 2019 10:11 PM | Anonymous member
    I like to do a mixture of small group and whole class discussions. I like to have small groups that I randomly assign and I will switch up the groups during the class period at least twice. The students work with all there peers and move between groups. I don't use this strategies every day but it is one that students enjoy.
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  • 13 Mar 2019 11:18 AM | Anonymous member
    Mixing groups is often a challenging process, and can be super hit-or-miss. In the High School Mathematics Visible Learning book, one of the example teachers uses assessment scores to create groups. By distributing the best 6-8 scores into different groups, then the next 6-8 scores, and so on down to the lowest score, he can make it so the groups are equally matched in terms of overall understanding. While this idea sounds great on paper, I can see situations in which the students start to pick up and acknowledge who the "smart" and "dumb" kids are. It would also create a situation where two students who are academically inclined and enjoy working together would never be able to, as they would be expected to break off and help move other teams.

    In my classroom, as I'm sure you all do, I feel I have a very solid understanding of not only who "gets it" when it comes to the concepts we're practicing, but who is a leader in group work. I usually have a small group of students who are my "go-to" students when it comes to productive in-class work, and I try and use them to build effective teams around. I will, however, occasionally group those high-achieving students together, in a way of kind of throwing the scent off my tactics, and making it so students don't feel the "smart kids" are always carrying their teams.

    In most classes, what I try to do, if possible, is pick a certain characteristic that creates an equal division of talent and worth ethic across the groups. For example, while my students work on the warm-up problem, if our next task is to break into groups, I will look around for things like same colored shirts or sneakers vs. boots, or silly things like that. In doing this, when I say "OK, I want everyone in a red shirt sitting over here", it looks like a random selection, but it comes from the fact that I've already noticed a student with high ability and a student who might need additional help wearing red.

    In Pre-Algebra, where I have a co-teaching partner, we often group based on achievement. For example, I will take the group of students who did well on an assignment the day before, while my co-teacher takes the group that struggled, and we teach lessons independently based on that.

    Meanwhile, in Advanced Pre-Calculus, I never assign groups. There are only 10 people in my class, and they work well collaboratively to get stuff done. I never call on anyone individually in that class, and I never have to worry about non-productive groups.

    I think, overall, ability grouping really depends on the clientele of the class. It's important to vary who works with whom, but it's also important to maintain a comfortable environment for all students.
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  • 20 Mar 2019 9:21 PM | Anonymous member
    Sorry to be so late in responding... My favorite grouping practice was picked up at an NCTM conference and I apologize that I don't remember the presenters name. It is called Suit Stations (as in Suits of Cards: hearts, spades,..). Each student is given a unique suit order to follow. The students go to the station marked with the first suit on their list, and then continue through their order as I move them through the four stations. I like this grouping method because the group changes every time, bringing new people together and not allowing any kind of bad group dynamic to continue through the entire activity. Of course the down side is that the abilities are out of my control. I really liked the idea of matching the top half together and the bottom half together, and I would like to try this technique. I will admit that I don't do too much formal group work due to my own terrible experiences with group work, which is not a good excuse!
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  • 25 Mar 2019 10:04 PM | Anonymous member
    I often allow students to work in pairs to give each student a "support" person that they feel comfortable with. Groups of four are also relatively functional as long as a clear purpose of outcome is given / understood (with additional discussion of habits of work prior to starting an activity). I find that high school students (with low confidence in their math skills) benefit from mixed ability grouping because they can see someone model examples (besides me) and those students that have mastered one method of doing things are exposed to another student's processing method.

    With Geometry, one student might make a drawing, while a 2nd students sets up an equation, a 3rd student can solve, and a 4th can check and / or interpret the results. Each task is important. Students can switch roles on another problems, if you want them each to experience an entire process - with the support of their team.

    I like the idea of contribution checklists and haven't always been this specific (in order to promote collaborative learning).

    Pam
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  • 03 Apr 2019 8:20 AM | Anonymous member
    I feel that students feel that my classroom is a safe place to learn and share ideas. When grouping students, initially I went to ability grouping to work on strengths/weaknesses within the small groups. Given the current dynamics in the classroom, I had to move away from the math workshop and small groups due to the lack of independence in the classroom. Currently, my instruction consists of a whole group and more 1:1 session with students who need additional help or support.

    My district went to pre-assessments, and CFA's (Common Formative ASsessments) for us to routinely check in with student progress and learning, and provide a flexible grouping for students. Due to scheduling, and me being the only one that meets with students for math at my grade level, the discussions about flexible groupings for students don't take place, and I am the one that provides all the interventions and does all the grouping, which makes it difficult when "discussing" students.

    So, strategies are looking at areas of strengths and weaknesses as a whole class and then gearing instruction to address the deficits, modifying work for students to ensure that I get what I need to make informed decisions about their learning, while also giving them a feeling of success with math. I give challenges and increase the rigor for everyone, as some students are able to shine when thinking "differently" about math. We utilize "think-pair-share" and the physical layout is flexible in my classroom, and we are always moving it around. Daily we use accountable talk to encourage whole class discourse, and as we utilize it more, there is more participation from others who feel like they can share ideas without judgment.

    I really like the idea of the conversation roundtable. then there is evidence of what was discussed, participation, and students are encouraged to listen and reflect on the thoughts of others. I really feel that this can be as valuable as "restating", when I have students repeat what others have just said, so that I know they are listening and reflecting on the conversations taking place int he classroom,
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