When I first started teaching middle school, I guess you could say I was a generalist. I tended to see my students as a single body. I thought about what they knew or didn’t know as a group. I would look at mastery levels on tests and then decide that I needed to do some reteaching on specific concepts based on the performance of the whole group.

Over the last few years, I have shifted my focus to the specific. Now, I track each student’s performance on each of the standards or skills that I address in my course. I use an excel spreadsheet with the various standards/skills as the column headings and the kids (grouped by period) as the row headings. At the start of the year, I give a pre-assessment for the course so that I know where everyone is starting. After each quiz or test, I update levels of mastery in the spreadsheet based on each student’s demonstrated mastery. I use this data on a daily basis to ensure that each student is working on things at his or her level. My goal is to have every single student with full mastery by the end of the year. I don’t always completely meet this goal, but I come a lot closer to it than I did before I started doing this.

As I said in yesterday’s post, I use the last five to ten minutes of class every day for review and reteaching. I try to make the review focused and fun. Since it is a review/reteach, I have already taught the concept conceptually. Sometimes, the review continues to be conceptual. Sometimes, it is just working with a skill.

One of the activities I use is Decimal Division Jenga. I like the use of a game to practice. Everyone knows a game is more fun than a worksheet and Marzano’s research supports this in The Highly Engaged Classroom.

I have decimal division problems on Jenga blocks. Students pull blocks from the Jenga tower and have to do the decimal division problem. They check their work with a calculator. If they got the problem correct, they keep the block. If they made a mistake, they put the block back on top of the tower. If a player topples the tower, he or she must put all of his or her blocks back and rebuild the tower (the other players keep their blocks). Their are several free blocks in the tower. No player is allowed to have more than 3 free blocks. If he or she does, the free block must be replaced and another block drawn. The player with the most blocks when I call time is the winner and receives a piece of candy.

I have three versions of this game. The first version has problems in which a decimal is divided by a whole number. The second version of the game has problems in which a decimal is divided by a decimal. The third version of the game has problems in which a decimal is divided by a decimal resulting in a solution with zeros in the quotient. I assign students to the appropriate version of the game based on their pre-assessment results initially. I circulate between the games and monitor their work. I work with students individually on their specific errors. As students demonstrate sufficient levels of mastery over time, I shift them to a more difficult version of the game. Eventually, everyone is playing only the most difficult level of the game. You can download the file with the problems for all three levels by clicking on the link below the photo.

I let students know which version of the game they are playing using an index card system. I have an index card for each student with his or her name on it. I write the name of the game they are playing in colored ink. The color of the ink matches a piece of paper under the Jenga tower. They match the color on their card to the color of the paper and go to the correct game pretty seamlessly.