This week I did something that I’ve never done before. I introduced a new math concept to my Grade 2’s without working with the full group of students. Instead, I taught the lesson three times in small groups of 3-4 students.
My Grade 2’s are just starting multiplication, and this is something that I do not teach to Grade 1’s. Usually when beginning a new math unit like this one, I would get all of my Grade 2 student together and do an introductory lesson as a large group. I may even speak to one of my Grade 1 teaching partners, and see if my Grade 1 students can join their class for a period or two, so that I can just work with my Grade 2’s.
Over the past couple of weeks though, I noticed that my Grade 2 students already had a beginning understanding of multiplication. When working on balanced equations, some students even used multiplication for some different examples (e.g., 5+5 = 5X2). I thought then that I would try something different. During math centres, I worked with a small group of my Grade 2 students. I showed them a multiplication question (e.g., 5X2), and we spoke about what this question means. Students told me that it either means five groups of two or 5, two times. Then students used various tools (e.g., manipulatives or number lines or rulers) to solve this problem, explaining to me what they did and why.
Some students recorded their thinking using a video camera. Others wrote out how they solved the problem. I was less concerned with the answer than I was with the process. Working with such a small group though allowed me to support the students that needed it, question others on why they solved the problem the way that they did, and even encourage others to solve the same problem in a different way.
By the end of the week, all of my Grade 2 students worked with me on multiplication, and all of them have a great foundation for more multiplication activities and word problems. This week made me realize that we don’t always have to teach lessons to a full class. Structuring our time in such a way as to allow for lots of small group learning opportunities, allows us to support our learners even more and meet their individual learning needs.
What do you think of this? Have you ever introduced a new unit to a small group of students instead of the full class? What were the results? I’d love to hear your stories as well!