Differentiation has been a "buzz word" in education for several years now. Differentiation is an effective teaching strategy that involves individualizing learning for diverse students within the same classroom using a variety of teaching strategies and lesson adapatations. As educators we love to say that we do this. However, do we? I know that I did not differentiate effectively in my math classroom until I started using ZONES Math. That was one of the big reasons why we created ZONES, we were unable to meet the learning needs of the diverse learners in our classroom teaching math "the old way".
Now that I use ZONES Math, I am able to effectively differentiate for my students especially during my small group or conferencing time. It is important that I organize and keep track of my data so I know if I am making gains with these students or to use in the future (see blog post here about MTSS and ZONES)
I keep an Excel Spreadsheet (Google Sheet) for all of my data. This is NOT my grade book. Some of this work may be taken for a grade (especially the final assessment), however the majority of it is assessment data from exit or entrance tickets or observational data from classwork.
This is my BEAUTIFUL spreadsheet. [Student names are listed on the left column but I have changed them to numbers for confidentiality.] I have data like this for each standard I teach.
I format the cells to be color-coded which is a very helpful tool for a quick look at the data. I also make the scores out of 3, 3 as the highest and 0 as the lowest.
This standard was the addition of decimal numbers.
I started with a pre-assessment (11/21). This told me my students' beginning knowledge. As you can see there was A LOT of red, which is a lot of students who did not know this standard at all. I looked at the student work on this quick check, noted the type of error in the next column, and noticed all of the errors were either precision problems (added wrong) or place value problems (not lining up the decimal points. Seeing the majority of the students had the same type of errors, I chose to teach a whole group mini-lesson (WG listed in the spread sheet) on place value and the importance of lining up the decimal points. (11/28) I also added a new resource in their resource journal that they could use to help them with place value and lining up the decmial points. I then gave another quick check exit ticket to see if their understanding had improved. And look at that!!! ONLY 2 still in the red! Violá! Teach to student need and see an awesome success! But we are not done yet. I then took this data and again looked at student need. This was the time right around Thanksgiving, so we had many absent students. I put those students into a small group (SG#1) and I had some students who still needed some help and put them into another small group (SG#2). The next day (11/29), during our ZONES rotations, I pulled 1 small group during each ZONES rotation and give them individualized instruction based on what they needed. I was also able to conference (C) with a couple of students who I saw some specific small mistakes while they were working in the ZONES rotations.
I thought that students were pretty close to mastery at this point. So my final check before the assessment was an entrance ticket (12/1). When students finished the exit ticket, they chose their ZONES rotation and got to work right away. I did a quick sort of this entrance ticket and noted the students who still were not at mastery. Most of my students were a quick conference or a check-in to isolate the errors that they were still making and to focus on precision. Student #1 was a strange anomaly for me. As you can see her scores were all over the place. I chose to pull her out and work with her one on one to really understand her thinking and what learning was still needed. **Super close to a Tier III intervention huh?*** :)
The next day was assessment day. I gave the final assessment and LOOK AT THAT DATA!! It is amazing to see how the student progressed and the growth they had made.
This does take a bit of extra work, and some organization. However, my quick checks are only 3 questions long. I can quickly sort them and enter them into my spreadsheet. I then use the small group planning form (found here) to set my groups and fill out the conferencing form (found here) to organize my student conferences for the next day. I would say in total it is about a 10 minute task per day to organize this information. And it is worth it! I feel so much better about my own teaching having the confidence that I am meeting student need based on the data. I know that this is true differentiation!
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