Talking Turkey, Differentiation Style

There’s something about the November air that brings out the best in me when it comes to differentiating math. I love when inspiration strikes and my little gobblers all get to work on things that look the same but, upon close inspection, are very different.

It’s a rare bird of a day when I’m able to work with my entire class in math, reason being that 40 percent of them are 2nd graders and 60 percent are in 3rd. It’s even rarer when the lesson comes out of the oven perfectly cooked, but that’s what happened yesterday.

The basic premise was to have a bit of a review day. Sandy, election day, and a race to report cards’ due date have made this week confusing, discombobulating, and inconsistent to say the least. So, I really wanted to do something fun and educationally valuable to get kids back into some sort of flow. A colleague had placed a good idea on a silver platter for me: make some kind of turkey template and have the kids make turkeys.

Ah, but in our current situation, such frivolous activities are frowned upon. So I figured I’d make it into a math lesson. Kids would make the turkeys, oh yes. I decided each grade would use the turkeys to demonstrate their knowledge of what they’ve recently learned (or go ahead and get extra practice). The premise: write the concept on the bird, write examples on the feathers. FUN!

Second graders worked on showing numbers different ways. To differentiate, my most advanced second graders had to show more than two ways to write each number. They also had several examples with zeroes, which are often confusing.

This student, the most advanced, was required to write numbers in three different ways. I also love how some of his designs on his turkey involve math!

The more average performing second graders were able to choose one or two ways to represent numbers and they had fewer numbers with zeroes. They also found value in using base 10 blocks to continue to support their understanding.

This student wrote numbers only one way.

Over on the third grade side, students worked on regrouping. At the most basic level, one student added two-digit numbers. Even this presented her a challenge – she is expected to add three-digit numbers – but it also provided me the chance to reteach the concept to her. I’m proud to say after a few examples she was able to move on to three-digit addition and that’s why on the following turkey, you see two-digit and three-digit problems.

Note the two-digit plus two-digit problems on the right, and the more complex problems on other feathers.

This student’s enrichment required him to add numbers that totaled over 1,000, which is something I have not taught. I wish I had given him more examples like the one on the rightmost feather!

Gobble, gobble!

This was fun. It also gave me a great excuse to drag out all those amazing things kids never get to use anymore: buttons, feathers, sequins, and pipe cleaners! The kids couldn’t wait to get their birds up on the board. Here’s a fuzzy picture of the finished products…I’ll try to snap a better one and post it.

2 responses to “Talking Turkey, Differentiation Style

  1. Matt,

    Great idea with the turkeys. You mentioned regrouping with your third graders. Are you finding the change to common core difficult? Our third grade teachers are discouraged from teaching regrouping in lieu of “number talks” by math solutions. It has been quite an adjustment. Hope you are well.


    • Because of the nature of their disabilities (mostly speech/language) and that they all qualify for ESL, my students are having a lot of trouble with word problems. Other than that, I think it’s going okay so far!

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