Low Tech: Levels of Learning

I would love you tell you I invented this. I didn’t. I don’t remember where I found this, saw this, or read about this, but it works. Its pretty straightforward. After I do a mini-lesson, I ask them to write a number 1-4 on a post-it. I tell them a 1 is “I need 1 on 1 help”. Four is “I got this”. At this point I multitask. I collect numbers, briefly look at numbers, and I tell them that I reserve the right to move anyone at anytime for incorrect placement or off task behavior. I reinforce the idea that levels of learning is about getting what they need to be successful. I designate a table for each group based on quick check on numbers, tell them 30 to move and start the countdown. I countdown 30 seconds verbally and physically countdown on my hand in the air.  I sit with the ones and get them rolling. While the ones are working, I very quickly move around spot checking the other groups. As a class we do check ins about every 15 – 20 minutes depending on the level of engagement and task.


  • Designate groups as needed.
    • Sometime I will mix ones with two or threes and fours if I have small ratios of any given number. NEVER ONES WITH FOURS!!!
    • Students dictate the groups NOT vice versa.
  • Be consistent
    • They may not be honest the first few rounds because they want to save face. Who doesn’t? This is where all that relationship building comes in handy. I find that even my most defiant or reluctant students will move if I approach them in a way that saves them face.
  • Build in some incentives
    • Music is life. Allowing some of the levels (usually not ones) to listen to music is great motivation.
  • Be flexible
    • Allow students to move from level to level as you or the student feels necessary.
  • Allow Noise
    • You can’t be at each level all the time, right? Empower the students at every level to discuss the work.
    • Model the conversation expectations. Give them a few it sounds like, looks like examples based on your expectations.
    • Post some conversation anchor charts around the room.

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