Flexible Groupings

This last week we joined 3 classes that have math at the same time and regrouped students into 3 semi-homogenous groups. We based the groupings on diagnostic data from iReady, an adapative program that gives us the grade level equivalency of students based on their performance across different strands in math:

  • Number and operations 
  • Expression and equations
  • Geometry
  • Measurement and Data

My initial hesistancy when this was proposed was that this would become tracking and we’d be doing disservice to students who were below grade level. Here’s what we’re doing to ensure that this remains flexible grouping.

  • We’ll be revisiting the groupings often. We’re open to moving students as needed. 
  • All groups take the same standard aligned exit ticket at the end of the week. The idea is to get students to be able to complete the same task,  but the process and time to get there might be different. For example this weeks goal was for students to solve ratio word problems by generating equivalent ratios. My group, Group A, where students are at grade 5 equivalency or above immediately went into solving word problems without any scaffolds, group B (grade 2-grade 4) also solved word problems, but were given a table to organize their thinking. Then group C (below 2nd grade level) started with analyzing number patterns and then moved into the same lesson as group B.

Here’s some work that my students did the first day of the flexible classes.

I haven’t yet had a chance to look at student work from the different groups yet, but I’m excited about this a lot more than I was when it was first proposed. I’m looking forward to seeing students move around between groups in order to get the support that they need. 

Post 4: Defeat and Humility…I guess

While my tweet from yesterday was specific about a task, the feeling of defeat is something that has been lingering with me for a while. I have attempted to give my students tools to persevere in problem solving, but seeing so many of them give up so soon yesterday reinforced the feeling of defeat. While I recognize that there are so many factors beyond my control in order to make my students effective problem solvers, the little that I can control keeps me up at night. It’s all consuming of any (seeming) free time I have. I guess it’s a humbling reminder that we have one of the hardest jobs. We’re directly dealing with students and are their intellectual and emotional caretakers far beyond 8AM-3PM, even though some people may tell us otherwise.

One way to keep my self sane is to think forward and reflect on what I can do differently. It’s also that time of the year, where I begin seriously thinking and reflecting on what I need to do differently next year. However, I have about 2 months of school left, where does that leave my students right now? So while I am really grateful because, “there is always next year”, I don’t know how to get over this heavy feeling I have at this moment. Of course, recognizing that my students were not having a productive struggle in my first section, I made neccessary-ish adjustments for my next section. However, that seems more like plugging holes in a pipe, as an after thought — very half-hazard. So while part of the feeling deals with my students inability to problem solve, much of it is about my own teaching, my own planning, and my ability to control the things that I am in control of right now….not so happy with it and it’s a feeling that sucks.


Because I felt like a plastic bag…

February and March are brutal months and recently I’ve found myself going down a negative slippery slope where the negativity just cycles. As I began reflecting on this feeling, for some reason this song popped into my head and I don’t think I have ever connected my life as a teacher to a song so strongly. So strong, that I’ve accompanied my reflection with some visual aids.

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?

Do you ever feel already buried deep six feet under?
Screams but no one seems to hear a thing

I feel like a plastic bag!

Yes, Katy Perry…I feel like a plastic bag! When not teaching, I can be found running all over the building trying to accomplish 73652 things during my preps. I teach on the 4th floor and make at least 5-6 runs between the 1st and 4th floor each day.  I find myself in self-preservation mode trying to make it through the end of the day, end of the week, to a 3-day weekend. YES! I want to start again. By February of this year, I’ve been ready to start the new school year with a new set of students and a revamped curriculum. We finally have all three grades in the building (6-8 since we’re a new school) and I look forward to tweaking vertical alignment. I am so ready to start again! I’m buried deep in papers that have to be graded. I have one section, where I am so drained and feel like I am wasting my breath (I hate the fact that I dread walking into the room some days…I constantly narrate the positives, I set clear guidelines and expectations, etc. and I’m drained and exhausted and feel like a first year teacher with them sometimes). I’m definitely not screaming at children…but no one seems to hear a thing.


I’m a firework DAMMIT!

I’ve had to check myself on that point. It’s not true. There are students who are listening and working really hard. There are students who are trying really hard to ignore the usual foolishness, which I need to acknowledge. There are good things that are happening. I’m working my butt off. Students are engaged and excited about math. They are persisting and engaged in math conversations in class.

That’s clearly how I need to enter a room and begin teaching. #highlyeffective #danielson3c

‘Cause, baby, you’re a firework
Come on, show ’em what you’re worth
Make ’em go, “Aah, aah, aah”
As you shoot across the sky-y-y


You don’t have to feel like a wasted space
You’re original, cannot be replaced

Thanks, Katy, for reminding me I’m not a wasted space. I need to remind myself that everyday I show up to work, it makes a difference. It makes a difference to Student B. who craves maternal attention and his dad is so emotionally detached that he doesn’t realize that his son just wants him to say “I am proud of you” and doesn’t realize what an intelligent son he has. So he responds by acting out. It makes a difference to Student M. who is moving through transitional homes and mom while there are some domestic issues, so she misses a lot of school, but she manages to catch up by speaking to her peers and getting help outside of class and has one of the most genuine smiles on her face. Makes a difference to student J, who probably has gone through most schools unnoticed because she is really quiet, usually does well, but is super shy and doesn’t mingle as much with peers. But then she asks to come up with you during lunch with a small group of students and forgets she’s an introvert. I might not be original and maybe I can be replaced, but then again maybe I am. Either way, I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do and there is always at least one moment every day that reminds me its all worth it. Bad moments and bad days are just that: a sliver of time when things seem to be the worst and we deal with it (or decide to not deal with it — learning to choose my battles) and then we move on. And then it gets better. And then…


So thanks Katy Perry, for reminding me that I don’t have to feel like a plastic bag, because I’m brighter than the moon and I have it within me to deal with it. Just got to let it shine from within.