Sometimes the only thing holding students back is practice time. It's amazing how much they can get done when they get themselves into a work frenzy. During Rapid Fire, we create a "controlled crazy" by playing techno music while students work in pairs to solve as many computation problems as possible in five minutes. This is a great strategy to use before taking the lesson to word problems, and provides a break from sitting quietly and attentively during the lesson. There is also always an element of choice in what the students want to focus on, helping them to adjust their self-evaluation for later on.
Before my students begin our system of rotations at the beginning of the year, I take time to make it very clear where they will go, what they will do, and what materials they will need. I also make sure to do frequent checks for understanding. Dedicating extra time to review Rotation Expectations at the beginning of the year helps to ensure that rotations will run smoothly throughout the year. Class tutors are also selected for each rotation. They walk around to support their peers who need help and even help to manage class behavior. Class tutors are given an iPad with access to our ClassDojo site, where they award "positive points" to students following expectations and "needs improvement points" to those who are not following expectations. Through explaining my expectations and leveraging the class tutor to reinforce these expectations, I ensure that my students are giving their best efforts during our rotations.
I group my students into three proficiency groups - Mild, Medium, and Spicy. This is a system of general differentiation that allows me to easily assign practice or even homework. Students know their level and know that the assigned practice is likely best for them. Their level is also assigned to them based on various factors, including benchmark assessments, formative assessments, and informal observations made in class on a daily basis. I encourage my students to challenge themselves to try a "spicier" level when they're ready. This gives students the flexibility to try harder material and excel at an appropriate and personalized pace.
I use the Turn and Talk strategy to get my students to discuss mathematical concepts. Given the shift to using technology (both in and out of the classroom), my students are becoming more and more used to sitting behind a screen and only interacting with the virtual world. I utilize Turn and Talks during lessons to build conversational and interpersonal skills. These quick conversations help students explain their thoughts and practice their articulation skills.