Differentiation in the 4th Grade Mathematics Classroom

This blog was contributed by Darlene Sanchez, 4th Grade Teacher at St. Patrick School, San Jose, CA.

In order to implement a successful differentiated math lesson in the 4th grade, it is important to have a solid understanding and familiarity with the curriculum, to implement a process of collecting student data while understanding learning progressions, and to maintain effective classroom management. Data from multiple sources, such as standardized assessments and formative assessments (i.e., observations, partner talk, work on practice pages, homework, exit tickets), should be utilized to consider student tier-leveled grouping. 

Upon understanding the student levels, the learning progressions of the standards to be covered need to be evaluated to determine what types of activities would benefit students the most at their particular tier level. The next step would then be gathering different resources for the station activities, such as technology software assignments, hands-on manipulatives and/or activities that incorporate different learning modalities. One common focus of the station activities is that they are all designed to encourage student engagement and attainment of the student learning objectives. 

Equally important as planning a detailed lesson and being prepared, is maintaining effective classroom management during rotations. Time should be taken at the beginning of the year to practice and model sampler rotations, where groups are shown exactly what working at each station looks and feels like. A whole class lesson and a review of directions before rotating will allow students to be more focused during their independent or partner work. Positive reinforcement rewards need to be used with those groups that are modeling independent engagement in their station. Familiarization with the curriculum, adequate collection of student skills data, planning a variety of lesson activities based on the student skills data collected, and effective classroom management assure success in the implementation of differentiated station rotations. Although this process takes a considerable amount of time to plan and implement, over time, student engagement results in significant student learning.