Today was a really good day for math class. We had designated it as a Problem Solving day, so I had the kids work in groups to solve word problems. We've been going over subtraction for the past couple of weeks, so I had written up 5 subtraction word problems -- none of which used the word "left" -- and gave one to each group.
The groups then copied the problem onto a larger piece of posterboard and went through the steps of solving the problem.
For the most part, the kids worked well together, talked out the problems, and took their fair share of the work. We had made up a rubric for groupwork beforehand, and the kids graded themselves and their partners after they were done with the problem.
After that, though, the really enjoyable part began. I posted the problems on the walls around the room and had each group choose a "docent" -- a group member to stand by the poster and answer any questions or explain the process to the groups that would rotate around during the gallery walk.
Once the gallery walk began and groups were checking out each other's work, I walked around and listened in. I really enjoyed hearing discussions of which number in the problem was the "whole" and which were the "parts;" how "difference" means the same thing as "how many more;" how you are supposed to round numbers if the question has the word "about" in it; how there is no possible way 38 dogs still need to be fed if there were only 21 dogs to begin with and 17 of them have already been fed.
I still have some incredibly low kids in my class, there is no way around that. But I also have a large group of kids that are really beginning to show great thinking skills and the ability to share their reasoning.