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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Resourceful Reflections

The semester came to an end 2 weeks ago.  Some of my students "graduated" out of resource, others floated in.  As the semester ended, I reflected over what I liked about the past semester and what I wanted to change.

In my head, I wanted my resource class to be completely differentiated so that each student was working at their own pace... easier said that done - I had never taught a resource class, I had different grade and ability levels... some days were chaos (at least to me, many have observed me and loved what they saw).  Last semester we did TONS of fun projects and activities, but we all worked at the same pace.  Some finished faster than others and then became disruptive... that bothered me.  Yes, I know there are ways to fill in time, and other activities that can be done, but something was always slightly wrong with each situation. I also noticed how needy my students were, and I let them run the show just a bit too much.

As the semester changed over, it seemed like the perfect time to switch things up!  First day of the new semester I implemented a new "Sweet rewards" plan of action.  The concept is simple.  The students have a list of activities they need to work through.  They can work through the activities at their own pace and as they finish them, I sign off that they completed the task.  As students are working on various activities, I am free to work with them as they struggle with different concepts.

Click on the above picture to download this FREEBIE now!

There's a kicker though... remember how I said my students were needy and disruptive? Enter part two of the Sweet Reward tracking system - the behavior sticker!  Yes, I know, you wouldn't think a sticker would do very much, especially for my 8th graders, but it isn't so much the behavior sticker they are working for, it's what the sticker means.  I'll get to that in a minute.  For now, let's talk about the sticker.  Students earn a sticker at the end of class if they have been working - ON TASK - for the class period.  Each student can have one warning without losing their sticker for the day - if I speak to them about their behavior a second time, they lose their sticker.  The last 5-ish minutes of class, I make sure to make contact with each student (I only have 10 kiddos in any class) to see where they progressed to and reward them with their behavior sticker.

This is the sticker tracking page.
 Each sticker resembles a gum ball.
 I put 47 placeholders in. 45 for each day of the
semester and 2 for (wishful thinking) possible snow days. 

(Aren't those glass jars the cutest?!  
Check out Ashley Hughes on TpT!  She has some of my favorite clip art!)
This is the assignment tracking page.
There is a small spot for my signature/initials once completed. 
So what does a typical day in my class now look like?  Well, 5 days into the semester, each student has fallen into a pace that works for them.  At the beginning of class each student comes into the room and grabs their folder.  Then they pick up where they left off the day before.  If it's a Monday, they write down the new activities on the list.  I have a specific area that has been devoted to picking up all the activities.  Everything is laid out neatly and students can easily grab what they need.  When they finish an activity, they show it to me, I check it and approve what has been done (or we chat about how they can fix things).  Then they pick up their new activity, I explain to them what they need to do with it and they go to work.  I work with students on different activities throughout the class.  Then, at the end of class we have a 5 minute clean up and reflect on our day session.  I am able to meet with each student to see how they are pacing themselves and award the sticker for behavior....

OH yes, the sticker!

So, the buy in for this activity is HUGE!  My kiddos LOVE computer lab time.  So, now in order to earn computer lab time, they must have 4 stickers (one for each day of the week other than lab day) and have completed a specific amount of the list (this amount, unbeknownst to the kiddos, is different for each student). If they haven't met their goal, they continue working instead of using the computer to play math games.

Because I only have 10 kiddos in each class I can make these folders and activities incredibly differentiated.  As students are working, I can work with individuals and give them "their goal" for the week.  We keep the goals between them and me and no one knows any different. Some activities are modified, some are truncated, some are just skipped.  Also, I have two different round tables in the back of the room.  I tend to sit at the round table with the kids that need the most help - they pretty much keep pace with each other and are able to ask me questions without it being obvious to the rest of the room.

So far, I have been extremely satisfied with how well this is working.  My students have been very productive, misconceptions are being worked on, questions are still answered, behavior has been great, and the best part, is we're still having fun.  We're just doing it in a way that works for each student.  We aren't doing worksheets.  We're doing sorts, matches, fill in the blanks, task cards, creating word problems, stuff that involves the students being engaged.

I don't want to say this will work forever.  Maybe it will, maybe it won't.  Regardless, I will remain reflective and keep trying to make this resource class the best it can be for each student.

If you would like a copy of sweet rewards, click on the cover page above to download a free copy to use.  In the copy there are two gumball machines - one with the dates of my quarter and one with blank gumballs for you to use.


  1. I love it! Differentiation at it's best! And working with 10 kids is a dream!!

    I had a drop-in table at the back of my room, also. They could drop in whenever they needed extra support and leave as soon as they felt they could handle it. Some stayed there the whole period, but that was what it was for.

    You really should clone your process to other math resource teachers! Thanks for sharing! Pam

    1. Thanks Pam! I was worried about posting this one. I'm not sure why, but it almost seems too good to be true and like I'm somehow cheating this system... does that make sense?

      The math resource class, at least the way we are trying to work it this year at our school, is pretty new. I'm in a new position where I work with students 1/2 a day and teachers the other half. Some days I feel as if I'm being pulled in 10 different directions. I think this method is going to be something that works for each one of my kiddos.

      Anyway, I digress, thank you so much for your kind words! I'll be updating how this progresses in the future!

  2. I'm wondering if this would work for my third graders - who are pretty motivated by rewards. Our new math curriculum is making me teach in differentiated centers all the time - I just can't manage to do whole class teaching when the whole class is at different levels - but then I find that there is disruption (I have a "dancer" this year and a "talker" and a "singer" and between them they can cause chaos in 5 minutes!) I think they might really like the gum ball :)

    1. Oh Lynn, I completely understand about your 'dancer', 'talker' and 'singer' - I have all of those too, only out of 10. HUGE personalities in my classes - probably because they've developed them to cope with not understanding the curriculum for the last 5+ years. This has worked so well with my class (even the 8th graders!). I spent a day explaining the system, where to find everything and how the day would run. The kiddos have to check in with me to get things "graded" and to be told what to do next. In my head, I keep a mental checklist of who I have, and have not been in touch with each day. My 5th graders got a bit squirrely on Friday (I'm sure it had nothing to do with the 2 hour snow delay, or the fact that the talent show and dance were that afternoon) so we put the activities away after about 15 minutes of realizing it wasn't going to work and played a math game together. There was no use spending 50 minutes with both them and me being frustrated - everyone needs a break in routine occasionally! I would LOVE to hear how this works for you! Keep me updated!! I'll be posting more about it later this week :)

  3. I love this idea but when I tried to download the file it says it doesn't exist. :( Is it possible to re-link it?

    1. I am so terribly sorry! It wasn't on my google drive anymore for some reason! I have re-linked it. Please let me know if it doesn't work for you!

    2. It works now! Thank you for the quick response!

  4. Thanks for linking up your freebie at TBA this week. I'm having a Great, Big Pout-Pout Fish Giveaway and I would love for you to enter!
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