How can I manage equity in a classroom filled to the brim with students of many ethnicities, learning abilities, and family backgrounds? This is overwhelming at best. Here are a few steps that are helping get me on the path toward equity.
- Who is participating most often?
- Who is participating least often?
- Do I call on certain students more than others?
- Are group task work shared equally? If not, why is this happening?
- Are students desks located in relation to race, gender, language, or learning ability?
- Are all students able to relate to tasks from their own personal experiences?
- Are math tasks engaging and rich?
- Is my homework benefiting my students?
A more detailed list of questions.
I analyzed my answers and knew I needed to work on the following:
- Equal class participation.
- Group tasks being equally shared.
- Random seating.
- Establishing background knowledge for all students in the real life math tasks of the day.
- Change homework.
- Encouraging and acknowledging all students to share their abilities with their classmates.
1.Equity cards-(I use playing cards.) This is an easy way to have participation, questioning, seating of students, group roles, and partnerships established without bias.
- Questioning– Students can be called randomly from of stack of cards after questions or ideas have discussed in groups. Students can go back to their group if they don’t feel ready to share.
- Group work roles. Students are given an assigned job for tasks according to their card symbol. This is super fast, easy and fair.
- Partners-This is a quick way to assign partners in activities, for example today all spades and clubs will be partners in a table group.
- Seating-As students enter the room each week I give them a card, they will easily find their group and desk.
- Reporters- For example, today as we go around to all the table groups the diamonds will report out their results.
- Assign a student to…This works great if I want one team member to tell the rest of their group an explanation, repeat instructions, a definition, or if you need a table group member to clean up, go get, ect.
2.Wait time-
- This gives all students time to think about their thinking.
- This also allows my more introverted students time to get the courage to answer a question or share an idea.
- Holding high expectations-
- All children can learn, however it might need to be done in different ways.
- All students can participate, having their team ready to help and encourage. No one is “off the hook” to answer or participate in class.
- Acknowledging students for their individual contributions to their group work.
4.Technology–
- Technology has a way of leveling the playing field for students. If for example we are doing a task about visiting a zoo, and only half of my students have actually visited a zoo, we can visit one online.
- Inquiry based tasks that are rich and engaging
- Project Based Learning -Previous post with PBL.
- Positive Group tasks– According to Stanford University, Complex Instruction is all about achieving equity in the classroom. The goal “is to provide academic access and success for all students in heterogeneous classrooms.”
- Low floor, high ceiling tasks where all students can feel successful. Entry points need to be possible for every student to start and possibilities for students to extend the task.
- Change homework
- Studies have shown that homework either doesn’t increase or negatively affects math achievement.
- Homework also could have a negative effect on the love of mathematics.
- After two months my students love getting a new seat every week.
- Some don’t “love” being randomly called on and some do, but it keeps all students on their toes.
- Everybody participates-it is not uncommon to go through my whole deck of cards in one class period. Which means every student has participated.
- Students love hearing their ideas shared with the class from their teacher as ” the great thinking of ___” or “super strategies from ___”, or ” _____ had great perseverance in ____”.
- Students are participating in their group tasks. They each have a role in their group work. Not perfect, but doing better.
- Since students aren’t with any group for very long so there isn’t the labeling on who is the “smart one” of the group. Everyone helps, everyone contributes, everyone learns.
- Wait time has been great, giving students opportunity to think and reflect is so important.
- Parents and students are grateful for the reflective homework that I have been assigning. More family time, game nights, and less stress for all.
I can celebrate the gains I have made, but I know that this is “a work in progress”.
My new goals
- Continue to work on group work and help students realize the importance of being a team player.
- Help students learn responsibility for their own learning.
- Continue in observing students and acknowledging their strengths.
- Help students to be aware of their own strengths and increase in confidence.
- Continue in finding great tasks for my students.
- Continue in growing relationships with students and families.
These steps have helped give equal access and participation in quality learning experiences to all students. I know this is just the beginning of my work with equity, but it is at least a start give opportunity to learn.
Patty Reed
Latest posts by Patty Reed (see all)
- What Do You Notice? What Do You Wonder? - December 5, 2016
- Reciprocal Math Teaching - November 26, 2016
- 5 Steps Toward Equity - October 30, 2016
Carina Stillman says
You have so much here–I so appreciate the comprehensive list of think-abouts and strategies. I currently have each student’s name written on an index card and use them to randomly call on students–mostly. I must admit, though, that recently I have found myself flipping past a few students I know will struggle to come up with a comprehensible response. This is wrong! I need to find a better way to support these students. Maybe the equity cards mentioned above… with a lower risk personal question buffer could help… Thanks again for the ideas!
Douglas Ferguson says
Great suggestions and ideas for engaging ALL students! While I also teach in a VERY diverse environment, I think these strategies are equally applicable to all environments because it’s so important to engage 100% of our students. Thanks!
Jill Escalera says
Patty, this is a great self-reflection. I love to hear when teachers actually take the time to consider what they can improve on when it comes to equity. Although your point on technology was brief, I’d like to expand on it a little. Technology is fabulous and absolutely does help level the playing field for students of different backgrounds and experiences. Interestingly enough however, I am noticing that although some teachers are taking advantage of technological practices for their students, not all are as ready to jump on that ship, and that’s a problem. The diverse population of the classroom next door is NOT looking at equitable access to technology, even though your class might be. This causes a big disparity in the educational experience of each student. I kind of think of it like being given the chance to go to preschool or not. It’s a big deal! Therefore, I encourage anyone who is on the same self-reflective quest you are on to improve equity in the classroom to ALSO consider reaching out to colleagues by motivating them to use technology! This way, every child in a school will have similar opportunities and access when it comes to tech.
Patty Reed says
Great comment Jill, causes deep thinking on my part.
Brooke Carlyle Perry (@brookster29) says
Patty, what a great post. I remember not even realizing until my administrator brought it up to me after having observed me, that I relied on the same 5 students to share out their thinking every time I posed a question to the whole class. That led me to including the use of “equity sticks” in my instruction. You’re absolutely right, some students don’t appreciate being randomly called on. I try to provide some think time or even pair sharing so that ideas can be developed before I put a child on the spot for a complex question. Over time, I most definitely noticed an increase in engagement, as students wanted to be prepared if called on. I watched a teacher the other day, and when using equity sticks, a student was selected and wasn’t sure of the answer. She said, “class, what do we tell ____(students name)?” and the class responded with, “YOU CAN DO IT!” It was so inspiring to see the combination of all voices being valued AND such a positive classroom culture. I can only assume the two are very closely related.
Patty Reed says
I love that Brooke! Thanks for sharing. I want to use that in my classroom. Positive messages of encouragement make the world of difference to a child and adults too.
Mary Moser says
This sounds similar to the ideas I just learned at the AVID ALL training, for ELL students and academic literacy, this past weekend. One idea that would switch things up some days from the playing cards was the Equity Cards that our instructor had us write our names and one thing about ourselves that someone who truly knows us would know. Then, when he pulled a card at random, he would read the fact and see if we guessed and otherwise, the person would tell us and then share their response.
What’s key is that students are given the prep time and the group support so it turns an “I gotcha” moment into a collaborative, safe space moment.
Patty Reed says
Thanks for sharing your idea about equity cards, I know my students would love that. And I agree with you on group collaboration-it makes sharing safe and no student is ever “on the spot”, by themselves without help.
Patricia Gustin says
Thank you for sharing the quote from Dr. Treisman. What an amazing leader in the field of mathematics! While I very much appreciate your grouping strategies, what really impresses me is the way you broke down the process of addressing equity into manageable (& replicable) steps. Thanks!
Elizabeth Johnston says
I use GLAD inspired grouping and call on a random number and color when I am wanting students to share out what they worked on in their groups. I have 8 colors and numbers 1-4. I also keep track of group points for various privileges and rewards. It works pretty well for me and all students know they may be called on to represent the group.
Aaron Brecek says
What a great list of ideas and resources. Thank you for sharing, I will definitely be sharing this blog as I work with other teachers.