How to Reach All Learners

Today was the 1st day of the 3rd marking period. So that means it was my 1st day of teaching math!! WOOT WOOT! I teach in a departmentalized 1st grade, which in my opinion, is fantastic! I've taught a different subject each marking period. First it was small group reading--like a daily 5 rotation, second marking period was opinion writing, just started math today, then fourth marking period I'll be teaching our phonics program- FUNdations by Wilson and 2 small guided readings groups a day per group.  I absolutely love everything about this year. But that is for another blog post :)

During our 2 PD days we had on Friday and yesterday (Tuesday), I sat down with my team, and we re-arranged our groups. We grouped the kids homogeneously, which of course, there is good and bad things about that. But no matter how we group the kids, every teacher asks, and every teachers' concern is HOW DO I REACH ALL LEARNERS?

From the high flyers that are working above grade level, to those low babies that struggle to get close to grade level work (but aren't quite making it). We need to be able to reach all learners! So here is just a couple hints/tips that I can suggest that may help with your math instruction.

MODEL!! I think our young friends learn so much from seeing us model what we want them to do. I also think modeling it with one of them is helpful as well. Today, before I sent them off to play spin-a-roo, I had a student come up and we played spin-a-roo in front of the class. The class was so engaged watching one of their own playing with the teacher!

MATH TOOLS!! Ok, so this is probably obvious, however, sometimes I think we forget (or I forget) to give students math tools to work with. Now yes, at times, they play with them when you are wanting them to use them to help them solve the problems. But for me, I had a talk with each group of kiddos, and told them they were math tools, not math toys. As long as you give the students your expectations up front, they will know what to do with the tools or what not to do! Today I offered the student 4 different tools.

CHOICE!! How simple that sounds, but giving your students some sort of choice, helps them to 'buy into' what you are selling! I gave them the option of picking their math tool. I offered links, rik-a-raks, counting hippos, and number lines. How many kiddos do you think picked number lines? Yep, if you guessed 0 you are right!! Do they need to know how to use a number line?? Of course!! However, today's lesson was focusing on using whatever tool they choose to add 3 addends. With this option of being able to choose, many student picked the links. Some picked the counting hippos, and some picked the rik-a-rak.

MAKE IT PERSONAL!!! If the students know that name of the person in the word problem, they are so much more engaged than if it's a random name!! I know that sounds ridiculous, HOWEVER, it works!! Take my warm-up problem this morning.
It states, Dillon picked 3 ears of corn. He picked 6 tomatoes. How many crops did Dillon pick? Dillon is a student in first grade. When I read them the word problem, I head, "Dillon, I know Dillon!!" Because they know him they were that much more engaged. Also, were I teach, it is a very rural community. There are farms, and many families have their own gardens. They related to picking crops, like Dillon is this word problem. Yes, I think it's important to expose kids to different cultures. BUT, I also think when it comes to getting them engaged and hooked, you need to get them interested and invested by linking to something they know or are familiar with.

USE YOUR GUT!! Do what you think feels right! You went to school to become a teacher, you have teaching experience, whether you have been teaching 20+ years, or you are finishing up your student teaching internship. You went into teaching for a reason! Trust your instincts.

Luckily with how we grouped our students this marking period, I have one group of 12 students (YEP you read that right 12!). Now there is a trade-off the other groups have 21, 19, 21, and 25, BUT it is going to be extremely helpful to have 12 students in that group. Today with teaching this group to add 3 addends, and using all the advice I listed above, it went beautifully! I used my Spin-A-Roo game, allowed the students to write with crayon (if they wanted), allowed them to choose their math tool. I had 6 students at one table working, 5 students at the other (one was absent). I was able to monitor their addition skills. With this group, I had each student working on their own paper, so they were less likely to be distracted. BUT, with my other 4 groups, I gave them the option of working independently or a partner that I choose for them. I felt like this lesson worked well for all students. The important thing is to remember to be flexible because at any moment there may be a fire drill or vomit, or LORD KNOWS WHAT ELSE that would interrupt your flow! :D

You can also find my Bundle for Common Core No Prep Printables for 1.OA and my Warm-Up 1.OA.1 Problems .

Wishing everyone a fabulous day!!


  1. So many great ideas! Modeling and using hands-on materials are priceless for helping our struggling learners. Incorporating choice is such a great way to empower them. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

    Adventures of a Schoolmarm


Back to Top