Thursday, April 25, 2013

Word Problems: Differentiated for IWT!

Do you have IWT (Intensive Workshop Time) at your school?  We just started it up this year and we are definitely still figuring out how to make it work for our very diverse students because it is a really valuable intervention for some of our struggling students.  In kindergarten, we create IWT groups as our center groups and when students get to the teacher-led center, we give them their intervention time. That's not the traditional way to implement IWT, but it's an experiment we've tried the last couple of months and it's been going great.  Our next round is going to be all about word problems!  We have some students who are masters at word problems already and we have some students still struggling to use addition when they see + and to use subtraction when they see -.  How do we help them?  Differentiated instruction, of course!

I created a pre-assessment so we could appropriately place students into their IWT groupings - they had to answer addition and subtraction problems.  Then, they had to do a page of mixed problems.  Last, we gave them 2 word problems just to see if they knew how to do them.  You can see the grouping system we used at the bottom of the rubric.
So once they've been grouped, they each get their very own solving book to fill up with word problems!  I printed  up lots of copies of the solving page shown here and I used the booklet feature on our printer to make them little books.  Why solving books?  Students can choose which problems to solve in which order so they have maximum buy in - they chose their own problems!!  Also, students can work at the pace that is appropriate for them without "finishing" a page so quickly that they don't feel challenged or "not finishing" a page and feeling unsuccessful.  However many problems/pages they finish in a day is fabulous for them and they can feel good about it.

So now: the problems! I created four levels of problems so that all students can be challenged but not overwhelmed.  Here is the same problem at the four different levels so that you can see how I did that.

Students in the advanced group showed an ability to already solve word problems and now I want them to solve word problems with three numbers in them.

 In the proficient group, students have shown strength in adding and subtracting and in differentiating between the two operations on a mixed solving page.  They need to learn how to read word problems for key information and determine which operation to use.
 Students in the emerging group are still working to master adding and subtracting in a mixed solving situation, so they have visual cues built into the problems (the same problems as the proficient group) to help them focus more quickly on how to solve the problem.
 The at-risk group is for students who are still not consistently solving addition and subtraction problems.  They still need to learn how to solve word problems, but they need the task as streamlined as possible.  Therefore, they are only exposed to the phrases "are left" for subtraction and "in all" for addition.  They also have significantly decreased reading demands and very repetitive, predictable language between the problems.
So what about my students who are working on alternate curriculum?  They get to have a fun book too!  These students will be working toward IEP goals of counting to and identifying numbers.  They will choose a problem like their friends, glue it into their books like their friends, and count to find the answer.  Here are the modified pages for those friends:

I have to admit, I spent a lot of time cutting out all of the word problems and making little packets for each of the students to use as their bank of word problems.  But the prep time was totally worth it, because all of my kids will get to feel like smart, talented mathematicians!  What else can I ask for other than a class full of inspired learners?  I promise to post pictures of my little solvers at work.

You can get Differentiated Word Problems in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

Happy solving!


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