Mild, Medium & Spicy Groups
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.
Rotations for Practice is a way to deliver new content in small, controlled doses in a station rotation context. Unlike Workshop, where students are more fluid and learning at their own pace, Rotations for Practice is done with groups that cycle to various stages of understanding of a concept. These stations always include a collaborative product, teacher led instruction, and practice or learning on technology.
The basketball problem is a built in way to teach the students about rigor. At the beginning of the year, we discussed how math is like an onion. There are many layers and each one is more complex than the last. The "shot" is an opportunity to reward risk-taking and get the students really thinking about the most high-complexity questions that I can ask. For this reason, students are doubly invested in this part of class. One because they want to challenge themselves, and two because they want to get up there and take the shot.
Data Review is a strategy I use to keep my students motivated to master our Math skills. Every day before class, I place a check mark by the names of students who have mastered a skill according to the previous day's Exit Ticket (please see the "Daily Exit Tickets" strategy video). During class I call out the names of students who have made progress towards mastery (only focusing on positive feedback), and we publicly celebrate those students who have reached mastery on skills that we're focusing on in that particular week. This quick cheer gives students a sense of gratification and success for their previous day's work. As for my students who haven't yet reached mastery, they hear about their peers' successes and consequently feel motivated to work harder to get a check mark for the following day. Because of the power of this quick public feedback, my students are invested in the work that they do throughout the day and the Exit Ticket they take at the end of each class. Data Review helps them see the connections between their daily effort and progress and the achievement of their overall goals.