Divide and Succeed

One of the biggest concerns a teacher is faced with is the number of students they have to work with and thus the needs to be met in their classroom. Amongst that class of students will likely be special need students from both an academic and/or behavioural need, students who work very quickly and students who need extra time to consolidate their learning, students working below grade level, at grade level and above grade level. The class profile has a direct impact on the teacher’s plan of action. A successful strategy that has allowed me to ensure that I have direct, 1:1 contact with every student is a divide and succeed.

What I do is to start with a two week cycle (10) school days. I then look at my class number (I will use 30 for a working example) and divide that group into 5 groups. Thus I will end up with 6 students in each group. Each group will be assigned a conference day. Group 1 will get Mondays, Group 2 will get Tuesdays and so on. I then divide those 6 students into 2 groups of 3. Student A, B and C in Monday’s group will meet with me on week 1. Students D, E and F will meet with me on week 2. That means that during each academic day I have to build in time to meet with 3 students. That is a doable strategy. The end result is that I get to meet 1:1 with each student at least once every two weeks. What occurs during that quality time is up to you. I currently use it to conference on reading, writing and personal check-ins.

As I get more efficient in my conferencing and pinpoint exactly what I want to check up on, assess or discuss I am able to move it to a 1 week cycle where I now meet with 6 students a day. At this point I know my students very well and know which students need more conference time and which students need less time. There are many ways to revise this strategy such as when week 1 is used to conference with all students and week 2 is used for necessary follow-ups or teaching students to lead their own conference. There is no interrupting (unless an emergency) during a conference. The class has built in peer supported strategies when the teacher is in a conference. All of the above require routines that need to be taught to the class. This time serves me so effectively when reporting times arrive as I know so much more about my students.

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Updated: December 8, 2014 — 1:28 pm

The Author

Mike Beetham

I am currently entering my 32nd year of teaching and work with the Waterloo Region District School Board in an area behaviour class. I am actively involved with ETFO at both the local and provincial level. My passions are my family, teaching, the outdoors and personal fitness.

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