Thursday, September 26, 2013

Need Help Turning a Negative into a Positive

I have so much I want to blog about!  I knew that once school started it would be difficult getting blogs written though.  I am not a writer, so a few times I have written stuff down and then deleted it.  Anyway, my blog today is really important to me and I am going to ask for feedback because I know people read this especially when I link it on G+ and Twitter.

So let me start by saying "I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my kids this year!!!" I always love my kids and I half-jokingly call myself the "Mama Bear" of the school because I do love them all.  However this year there is a certain magical combination of sweet, polite, studious 7th/8th graders that I've never seen before.  (I pray that I do not wake from this beautiful dream LOL)

Now to my dilemma...
My admin did decide to go with ability grouping this year.  I have three 8th grade classes and two 7th grades.  They literally took the NJ Ask scores and divided them up based on high math/low math etc.  We are a small school so our homeroom kids stay with the same group for the whole day.  I now have 2 high 8th grade classes and 1 high 7th grade which are awesome.  But that leaves a low 8th and 7th grade.
The worst thing is that the 8th graders have completely caught on. The low 8th class is so bummed out it is not even funny.  They are so depressed at being what they call the "dumb" class and it breaks my heart.  I've tried to tell them that they are not dumb and at the end of the day they are learning exactly what the other two classes are learning, its just the way I deliver it to them is a little different (which is somewhat true-I do also give them less problems for classwork/homework so we can get through them and go over them)
My 7th grade hasn't really shown any emotion or notice that they are in the lower group, but I'm afraid the other kids might start to say something...the higher group has already noticed they get a little bit more homework.

What I am looking for is some advice on building up their self-esteem and also how can I keep MY expectations high even when I know that it is going to be harder for them to do the more challenging work or have to move slower than the other class?

Basically how do I keep them from falling farther behind when the research tells me this is what will probably happen?  I really want to help these kids beat the odds and succeed even thought they are ability grouped!

On another note, I was able to get two or three "lower scoring kids" in the higher classes since we only have 12 kids in each 8th grade class.  I can't wait to see how much they improve being in those classes!
Any suggestions?


  1. Some thoughts...if you are not the only teacher at that grade level, could you at times heterogeneously group students with the other teacher, esp. when doing tasks so that your lower track students are exposed to what higher level thinking looks and sounds like? As an off shoot of that, perhaps design resource cards, or hints in the form of questions so students have access to the higher level tasks. When a group is stuck, they have a resource to help them.

    ..."building up their self-esteem and also how can I keep MY expectations high even when I know that it is going to be harder for them to do the more challenging work or have to move slower than the other class?"

    One thing you may want to consider is to have your students set goals and monitor their own progress. It will help them link results with effort. The goal is not an "A" or a "B". The goal is to meet or exceed the standard and identify steps to achieve that goal. Re-assessing is a given in this model. I've designed student goal setting sheets based on the standards. A 4 is a problem type that go beyond the standard; a 3 is problem type that meet the standard; a 2 is simpler problem types that is working towards the standard; a 1 is being unable to complete the simpler problems. I've written about it here if it helps. Good luck and keep us "posted!"

  2. I like the idea of them keeping track of their progress! I am definitely going to make up a goal sheet for them to track their progress through each chapter. What I like most about this is that it can benefit all of my students not just the lower groups!
    I am the only 7th/8th math teacher so can't regroup with anyone. :(

    Thanks for the suggestions!!