This past week, predictably, was crazy. Halloween in the middle of the week? Seriously. Why even bother having school that day? I know people think it’s important for kids to have good memories from their childhood associated with fun things, like a costume parade on Halloween at school. But I think we can all agree it’s gone too far.

It’s also been a weird time for our math class. As you may recall, 4 of my grade 3 students were my students last year. Two of my grade three students were in a 1/2 split, and the rest of my class are grade 2 students who are all new to me.

My grade 3 students are solidly moving along as a group. They make a beautiful cohort – teaching important things to their younger, less experienced classmates. Up until now, I was satisfied with how they were helping to scaffold the class through Number Talks and Number Strings. I was happy with what they were teaching the grade 2’s about communicating their mathematical thinking. About mid-week last week, the tide shifted. I started to feel that the grade 3’s were dominating the conversation too often. They were figuring everything out way before the grade 2’s. If I plotted the 2’s and 3’s on a Landscape of Learning, they were in two very different spots. So different in fact, that I felt I had to do something about it. That something, I decided, would be to split the class into two entirely different Context for Learning units.

Now, I have taught split grade classes for most of my career. I have, many times, had the kids in one grade working on something different from the kids in the other grade. In math, this usually looks like one grade continuing on in a Context unit that we started together, while the kids who are not ready to go on work on something else to help them solidify the part they are A) ready for, and B) required to learn thanks to the curriculum. You’d see this, for example, when it comes to multiplication and division. 3’s and 4’s have a similar starting point, typically, based on their needs. But 4’s need exposure and practice with dividing that 3’s don’t. To be clear, if I have some 3’s who are developmentally ready to move forward, and keen to move forward, I would take them along on the trip. But if they need to hang out at “multiplication up to 7×7” for a while, I let them. This would probably include them repeating some games we had played, or something like that.

But this time, I was feeling strongly that I needed to be pushing both groups, not just letting one group sit in one place for a while. Here are two of the Number Sense and Numeration Big Ideas for Grade 2:

- demonstrate an understanding of magnitude by counting forward to 200 and backwards from 50, using multiples of various numbers as starting points;
- solve problems involving the addition and subtraction of one- and two-digit whole num- bers, using a variety of strategies, and investigate multiplication and division.

And for Grade 3:

- demonstrate an understanding of magnitude by counting forward and backwards by various numbers and from various starting points;
- solve problems involving the addition and subtraction of single- and multi-digit whole numbers, using a variety of strategies, and demonstrate an understanding of multiplication and division.

My grade 3s have mastered the grade 2 concepts. (As they should have last year by June.) My grade 2’s, however, are still needing a bunch of work on this. (As they should until this year in June.)

So what was I going to do??

Well, I started two Context units at the same time. Seriously. In the same week when Halloween was on a Tuesday.

As part of my evolving thinking about Guided Math, I thought I could have one group working independently each day, while another group was mainly spending time with me and getting my attention. So far, it’s been chaotic. But I feel like we are accomplishing what I want to accomplish. I’m really wishing I could do more observing and conferring, so I will be addressing that in my planning this week. I don’t want to be occupied with whole-group teaching and missing out on the conversations kids are having while they do their work. I did throw in the towel and have a “Fun Friday” during math because I felt that instead of moving on I needed to regroup.

Grade two’s are still working on unitizing single digit numbers and using the 5 structure to help them add. They are working on the “Double Decker Bus” unit. We ran into some problems because I am a paper-saver and had given them one day’s work on one side of a page, and the next day’s work on the other side. I know: rookie mistake. Even though I clearly told them and showed them were to start, 3 out 5 groups tried to do the wrong side. Learning experience for all of us!

Grade three’s are working on the same things, but using the “T-Shirt Factory” unit to move into hundreds, using the 10-structure, and building a deeper understanding of place value into the hundreds. They need more help with the use of a T-Chart to organize information.

I congressed with both groups on “Not-So-Fun Thursday!” as I am now calling it. One group was working on something while I congressed with the other. I think I’ll keep this.

Moving forward, I am going to continue in both of these units. After Fun Friday, I discovered that there are still some counting issues for grade 2s. I think they can have a “Count-Everything-in-Sight Monday” or maybe a “”Put-All-These-Numbers-in-Order Monday” while I get the 3’s started on the next part of their unit. Then on Tuesday Grade 3’s will be able to work independently while I get the two’s started on their unit, and then I can wander and confer.

And it is going to take me the rest of the day to figure out how I can work Number Strings and Talks into it all. Cause we have different needs there, as you probably guessed.

Thankfully I have lots of Halloween candy to get me through!

*It’s such a big week in math that I’m blogging twice!! See the other post, about a Number String, here. *