Several years ago when I was teaching first graders, another teacher in my building and I decided we would try something we called "Math Exchange." Weekly we gave our kiddos a short formative assessment on targeted math concepts or skills we were focused on at the time and then sort our kids according to their level of mastery. Not surprisingly, we found groups of kids who had reached mastery, another group of kids who just needed some practice, and some who were totally lost.
This led us to enlist the help of some of our parents. We would develop an activity so our students who had reached mastery could be challenged to the next level and typically our parent volunteers would lead those groups. We would also have groups that just needed practice. Again, this was a perfect fit for parents who could help those kids. The two teachers would then focus on those students who needed some extra help on the skills they really needed to know. We spent about 20 minutes on a specific practice, activity, or intervention.
We found this time to be not only valuable educationally, but also an experience our kids looked forward to! We began doing this once or twice a week, and our kids worked really hard so they could be in an "E" group, which were our enrichment groups! In other words, they were highly motivated to master the math skill!
When I moved a year or so later into fifth grade, our building had added two teachers focused on RTI. We were also developing our focus on standards-based learning, so our kids were becoming more aware of and taking more ownership in their learning. Our fifth grade team worked to develop and enlarge the concept of Math Exchange and ended up calling it I & E, which stands for Intervention and Enrichment. Eventually, we were engaged in I & E four days each week, with two days focused on math and two on language arts.
This past year I moved to fourth grade, where (hopefully!) I'll be for the rest of my teaching career. My teammate and I implemented I & E, much to the delight of our students! We were able to enlist both of our RTI teachers along with education majors from our local university, some of our incredible parents, and even our principal at times. We found that it helped our students in some profound ways at all points on the spectrum.
In order for you to get an idea of the nuts and bolts of this, let me share with you what a typical week would look like in fourth grade.
Formative assessments: These are absolutely a must. Formative assessments must be focused on the targeted learning goal. They should be quick to complete (five minutes or less) and quick to check. Some examples for math are 2-digit by 2-digit multiplication or comparing fractions. Examples for language arts include nouns, verbs, or any other part of speech you're working on, or students' development of a piece of writing (beginning ideas all the way to published writing). Our goal was (and is) to give our formative assessment late in the week and plan our time for the following week according to the results.
We then grouped our students so the more intervention that was need the smaller the group became. We also made it a point to have parents with groups that needed the least amount of guidance.
I & E Time: We scheduled math for Monday and Thursday; language arts was on Tuesday and Friday. They were always toward the end of the day and we made sure it was part of our RTI teachers' schedule. Sometimes in language arts we simply gave kids who needed more time to work on their writing that time while other students developed iMovies from writing they had done. Once or twice during the year we had kids practice readers' theater and grouped them according to reading levels (although we never told them that's how they were grouped). They loved it! They would practice for several days during language arts I & E time and then perform for the rest of the fourth graders, typically during a Friday I & E time. They were engaged, often suggested props and/or costumes, and looked forward to the day they could present to their classmates. We often invited our kindergarten or first grade reading buddies and that made it even better!
The following is one week of just my kiddos and where they were slated to go for the week. The other fourth grade teacher did the same for her kids.
Double Digit Division
Double Digit Division
We found this to be an extremely valuable tool to help our kids all reach the next level of learning, no matter where they were on the learning curve.
This coming year, I know we will tweak our formative assessments according the needs of our kids, but it is gratifying to know we have discovered an exciting tool to engage and challenge every single student!
Questions? Please comment! Do you have a similar strategy in place?? I'd love to hear about it!
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