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Flexible Ability Grouping in Math
Old 03-10-2010, 01:48 PM
 
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My team and I are going to present the idea of flexible ability grouping for our next math unit to our principal this week. I teach second grade and the range of abilities are all over the place. We do differentiate within our own classrooms, but there are such low lows and high highs it is like a juggling act. We feel if we group for the next unit the students who take a longer time to grasp the concepts can receive slower paced instruction. The higher students can be fully enriched. We are getting ready to teach money. We have some students who have no coin recognition while others can make change and amounts all different ways.
Has any one grouped in math? What are the pros? Cons? How can we convince our principal to let us give it a try.
There are so many standards now and expectations on the students that some of them are getting lost and not getting a solid foundation. We just keep piling everything on them.

Thoughts/comments/suggestions?


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Ability Grouping
Old 03-10-2010, 06:44 PM
 
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We start ability grouping for math in 5th grade. But, it's not like you're suggesting. The students are placed in the accelerated class and kept there all year. I know that some of the kids and parents aren't ready for the fast pace of the class. I also know with RTI that a lot of our focus is on the lower level child so it would be great to focus something on the upper level student. Just be careful when deciding on the kids for the class and keep the parents aware.
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Mastering Skills
Old 03-10-2010, 08:07 PM
 
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The main argument against ability grouping is that it can deprive some students of opportunities. Your approach give those students who are getting lost a chance they might not get otherwise. With all of the emphasis on assessment, you should have good data to support grouping decisions and to present strategies for advancing each group. Fortunately, math is probably the easiest area for assessing skills mastery. Your flexibility in moving students among groups will depend somewhat on sequencing. If the foundational skills mastered in each group are not sufficient for the next higher group, only downward movement will be possible.
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Old 03-12-2010, 08:13 PM
 
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We ability group math in kindergarten! Even in kg., we see extreme highs and lows, and I feel this is the only way to meet my student's individual needs.
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within my own room
Old 03-19-2010, 01:32 AM
 
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I group multiple ways. (6th grade)
Math with Teacher- this is the lesson. I have 1 group that gets it the first time, one that has to hear it twice, and the third I have to simplify everything and they might get it the fourth time.
Math by Self- independent work, this is the stuff that I grade. It may also be timed drills, which I don't grade but monitor progress.
Math with partner/group: these are games or problem solving activities. I make the groups hi/lo so that the lower ones can work with and see how that higher one works problems. 2 students have told me that they finally understood a concept after their partner explained it to them.


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We've done it
Old 03-19-2010, 03:41 AM
 
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and I see both pros and cons. We did it for 2 years in 3rd grade.

We pretested before the unit began, and then grouped according to pre-test scores. Sometimes the score cutoffs were:
below 60% - group 1
61% - 75% - group 2
75% + - group 3
However, we adjusted based on the kids. We were grouping 70-75 kids, so if 40 were in the 75+, we moved the 75 up. In the group I taught, I think I saw all but 10 kids throughout the year, as the units were very skill based, and some kids excelled at one skill, but not at the rest of them.

We then set the pace of the unit based on the needs of group 1 - if they were going to need 3 weeks, we took 3 weeks. It might mean that group 3 finished the unit in 2 weeks, and had a week of enrichment.

Pros:
  • Moved really smoothly - within group 1, kids that never "shined" in math, had the chance to shine.
  • Within group 3, lessons were accelerated, there wasn't any waiting for kids to finish, as they all pretty much finished within minutes while expressing solid understanding of the concepts
  • HUGE growth was shown in all groups
  • Teacher was able to target specific skills needed in the group, which was more homogeneous

Cons
  • Time - the schedule, though not locked, made it less flexible
  • Lessons always started and ended on time, due to the flipping kids around - which meant that if you were in the middle of a fantastic science lesson or reading lesson, you had to stop and switch to math.
  • Management - it was a lot to manage at times, as you're dealing with one group of kids for 3 weeks or so, then a completely new group for the next 3 weeks - classroom management can get tricky as the kids adjust - especially at that level
  • Kids and parents are smart - though the groups were not called "high," "medium," and "low," the kids and parents figured it out, and it brought about some interesting self esteem issues (though in the classroom, even in the low group, the kids were doing great!)
Good luck with the decision!
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