Because of that, in my planning this week I am planning ahead to be ready to free myself up to pull small groups as much as possible. I know that some students already know the standard algorithm--and others are still not really even confident with arrays. This is going to take some navigating and planning! If you are interested in any of the resources pictured in this post, simply click the image to learn more about it.
Here are a few of my "rules to live by" when faced with this type of situation. After all, if I'm going to be working with a small group--I want to do way more than just keep the other students "busy". Right?
1. Know where your students are and where they need to be. Make sure you are clear on your content--and have a plan for assessing students formally and informally throughout your teaching so you can really target your instruction to exactly what they need. I'm not a huge fan of pretesting (I think it's tough to make decisions about concepts based on one or two problems) but I am a HUGE fan of formative assessment along the way. If a student can demonstrate mastery, they may need SOME work to build fluency--but their time is better spent doing other things. I use my formative assessment resources all the time to take quick snapshots of progress.
2. So what if they need that "something else"? I love to immerse my students in challenging, open-ended tasks. For this unit, I am presenting my Thinker Task Valentine Challenge to the class as one of these options. Notice that I said TO THE CLASS. I make sure ALL students have access to these quality problems. Some students may not get as far into the challenge as others--but we so often "dumb down" our instruction for our struggling students and don't give them access to rigorous and meaningful tasks. I might encourage them to use a calculator...to work in teams...or to use the easier version (I love that these have 2 levels for just this reason!). Again--if I am pulling small groups, there will be time for students to do other work--and this is a great way for students to ALL have a common task.
4. Another great thing for students to work on when they aren't with you is word problems. Whether you have them try them alone or work in partners--problem solving is NEVER a bad use of time! Try to find problems that will be engaging (these all have a February or Valentine's Day theme) and are at a variety of levels. I keep mine cut apart and in a pocket chart on my wall and try to put the easier ones toward the top. Many of these also have an "extra" component so students can tackle that piece if it is a good fit for them. As I transition between groups, I'll do some laps around the classroom checking student choices and doing some coaching along the way--but they really do a nice job of coaching each other!
Want to pin this for later? Here you go!