Thursday, July 3, 2014

Diane's A Year In Review

Here it is!  Another end to a whirlwind of a school year!  As happy as I am to enjoy the summer at home with my two little ones, I’m always sad sending my students off to the buses on the last day of school.  It sure is bittersweet.  
This past year was my fourth year implementing The MathGNOMe and Common Core Four.  (How is that even possible?!  Where does the time go?!)  This year definitely was a testament to the flexibility of The Math GNOMe and Common Core Four as I moved grade levels (up to third grade from second), switched classrooms (for the hundredth time in my teaching career), was the inclusion/co-teaching classroom (challenges within itself), and implemented New York State’s Math Common Core Modules for the first time.
I must say that having utilizing The Math GNOMe and Common Core Four made the grade level transition seamless.  The setup of my math block was truly exactly the same as in second grade.  I still taught GNOMe minilessons, just utilizing the third grade standards now.  I still had rounds of Common Core Four with the same independent activities – Mathematical Practice, Math Facts, Math Games, and Technology.  I simply made sure the materials used in each of those activities were aligned with the third grade standards.  Switching grade levels was a lot less overwhelming because I already had such a strong sense of what my math instruction was going to look like.
New York State’s Math Common Core Modules definitely come with mixed reviews.  Some teachers are all about forging ahead with them while others are resisting with all their might.  I honestly think that the uproar really is coming from fear of the unknown as well as the fact that the modules can seem somewhat daunting and are not very fun to look at.  There are hundreds of sample problems squeezed in to each 60 minute lesson.  The way the lessons are presented on paper it seems as though it is whole group instruction for the entire 60 minutes. There is worksheet after worksheet given in each lesson… boring!  Who wants to do all those worksheets, let alone grade them!
Once again, The Math GNOMe and Common Core Four came to my rescue!  Each Math Module Lesson is broken into four parts – Fluency Practice, Application Problem, Concept Development, and Debrief.  The Fluency Practice section is usually about 5-10 minutes long and includes things like Sprints (Mad Minutes), Skip Counting, and quick review of strategies.  The Application Problem is another 5-10 minute section that includes a key word problem to get students ready for the major part of the lesson.  The Concept Development is the bulk of the lesson where the major concept is developed.  It can last anywhere from 20 – 40 minutes, or longer.  Finally, the Debrief usually includes some class discussion and an exit ticket.
Here is how I chose to set up my classroom.  I am fortunate enough to have 90 minutes for math instruction.  I would devote the first 30 minutes to the Fluency Practice minilesson and a first round of Common Core Four.  The Fluency Practice would take 5 – 10 minutes followed by an almost 20 minute round of Common Core Four.  Those 20 minutes allowed me time to work with students individually and in small groups.  As far as The Math GNOMe goes, I simply presented whichever MathGNOMe strategy matched up with the objectives of the Fluency Practice activity.
The middle 30 minutes were devoted to the Application Problem.  I approach this as a Word Problem of the Day.  Students would work on the problem in their math journals on their own or occasionally with partners.  We would then review the problem as a whole class.  During the whole group discussion I would pinpoint students who were not “getting” it.  We would follow the Application Problem with another 15 – 20 minute round of Common Core Four.  During that round I would meet with the small group of students who struggled on the Application Problem.
The last 30 minutes were devoted to the Concept Development.  Depending on the lesson, I sometimes would start this portion of math even earlier if needed.  Sometimes the Concept Development lesson would take the entire 30 minutes and there would be no third round of Common Core Four that day.  (This ALWAYS disappointed the students.  They would beg for more math time!)  Other times there would be about 10 minutes left for a short final round of Common Core Four.  Once again the Math GNOMe strategy I presented to the class went along with the standards being addressed by the Concept Development.
While we always would discuss our learning before ending our math block for the day, I would save the Exit Tickets for another time.  The Exit Tickets were either given at the very end of the day as a reflection of what we had learned.  Or I would give them as Morning Work the next morning.  I actually preferred to give them as Morning Work.  When students turned them in I would quickly look to see who “got” it and who didn’t.  I then would meet with those students who didn’t  get it either individually or in small groups during the first round of Common Core Four that day.
What did I do with all those worksheets you ask?  Good question!  I put them to use with the Common Core Four as well!  I did not like sending the Homework worksheets home because often times it confused parents and I ended up with way more phone calls and emails than I wanted to deal with.  So instead, I used the homework sheets to make my Mathematical Practice packets.  I also included the Problem Set worksheets in the Mathematical Practice packets as well.  This resulted in a nice, thick packet for the students to work on with no chance of any of them finishing it before the Module was over.  I allowed students to skip around in the packet if they’d like.  This allowed more advanced students to challenge themselves with problems on worksheets from lessons we had not yet done.  I also was able to direct lower level students to particular lessons that I wanted them to focus on.  Obviously, no student ever finished the packet.  When the Module was over, I would send it home with a note explaining that it was part of independent work, it did not need to be completed, and students are free to use it as extra practice if they would like.
Wow!  That was a lot of rambling on all about how I utilized The Math GNOMe and Common Core Four in my classroom this year.  I will say, it was key to the success I found in this school year that was full of challenges on many fronts.  I would love to hear how others use it in theirs!  Does your School District or State (as in my case) have a Math Program you are required to use?  Are you able to adapt it in order to utilize The Math GNOMe and Common Core Four as well?  What successes and struggles have you had?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

It's Official !

Happy Friday Blogging Friends ! 

We have some exciting news to share ... The Math GNOMe and Common Core 4 has now been officially published. Thank you to Creative Teaching Press, our humble little teacher resource has been turned into 6 books! You can now purchase The Math Gnome and Common Core Four specifically for grades K - 5.  We have really set out to present a user friendly Common Core Standard Based resource for teachers by TEACHERS.
PS: it's also available as an eBook! Instant gratification :) 

Here's the link - Check it out!!!! EEEEEEeee can you tell we are excited??? 

Creative Teaching Press - Math GNOMe Resource Books and Management Sets

Side note: As a result of this exciting news - Our products related to the Math Gnome will no longer be available on Amazon or Teachers Pay Teachers. However, you can still visit our Teachers Pay Teachers store for other teaching resources and tools that we have created! 


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Big Hugs To All Our Fellow Teachers!

We Did Not Know That!

Did you know that Teacher Appreciation Day or Teacher Day is celebrated in many other countries as well?? For instance in Ecuador, Teachers Day is celebrated on April 13th in honor of Juan Montalvo, an Ecuadorian teacher who planted the seeds of developing young minds.
In India, for Teacher Day on September 5th , students and teachers report to school but classes are replaced by activities of celebration, thanks and remembrance. For some schools on this day, the responsibility of teaching is taken up by the senior students to show appreciation for their teachers. On May 15th in Mexico teachers are celebrated with festivities and cultural events. Most schools stop normal activities to promote the importance and dignity of the teachers’ role in society. In Singapore, the first Friday in September is an official school holiday. Celebrations are normally conducted the day before where students put on performance to entertain and honor their teachers.
For us educators, this week marks a time to stop and think about the impact that our own teachers have had in our lives and the influence they may have had in molding our own craft of teaching. Please take the time to in some way dispense gratitude and appreciation for teachers before us, next to us, and those come.

Take a gander at this little Soul Pancake Video entitled – If I Knew Then: A letter to Me On My First Day Teaching

Another plus (on a less mushy note) DISCOUNTS!

Many businesses are showing their deep appreciation for all that teachers do, by offering special freebies and promotions this week, May 4-10, 2014!  Here are just a few that I found.

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery(Buffalo,NY)Offering free museum admission for educators (with a valid ID) from Saturday, May 3, through Friday, May 9, 2014. During this week, educators will also receive a 10% discount in AK CafĂ© and Shop AK and a 15% discount on the opening of a new membership.
ChipotleOn Tuesday, May 6th, from 4:00PM to closing, in celebration of Teacher Appreciation Day, all educators – teachers, faculty, and staff – bring your valid school ID to any Chipotle in the US and you’ll get schooled with Buy One, Get One burritos, bowls, salads, or orders of tacos.  Limit one free menu item per educator/staff ID. Additional restrictions may apply.
New York and CompanyAll nurses and teachers receive 30% off in stores from May 1-7, 2014.  Need School ID or Paystub
A.C. MooreTo receive a teacher’s discount, simply present one of the following credentials at checkout:, School ID
AerosolesEnjoy 15% off footwear items priced at $39.99 or higher.  Simply present your teacher ID or a pay-stub in one of our stores, or call 800-798-9478, to place your order.
Ann Taylor LoftRegister as an Ann Taylor Loft teacher to receive 15% off your full-price purchase in-store, everyday!  Offer must be presented at time of purchase and you must show a valid Teacher ID.Barnes & NobleAll year-round, save 20% off the publisher’s list price on all purchases for classroom use, get up to 25% off the publisher’s list price during Educator Appreciation Days (next event is in October), and receive valuable email offers and information on special Educator events.
Big LotsBig Lots offers special teacher discounts, contests, and giveaways.  When you sign up for their email, be sure to check the email me about teacher-only specials box.
New York & CompanySign up for their Teacher Rewards program and receive 20% off your next purchase – then, you’ll receive 15% off in-stores year-round.  Just show your ID.
J.CrewAll teachers receive 15% off any in-store purchase with a valid school ID.  This applies to full-price items only.
MichaelsAll teachers receive 15% off their in-store purchase with valid school ID.  Some exclusions apply please see store associate for details.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Choice Words

Professional Book Suggestion: Choice Words : How Our Language Affects Children’s Learning by: Peter H. Johnson   *96 pages and an easy quick read J

One of the professional books I have been perusing lately is Choice Words by Peter Johnson.  This book provides examples of “apparently ordinary words, phrases and uses of language that are pivotal in the orchestration of the classroom.” As I think about providing students with productive feedback and guidance I can understand how the choice in my words can really impact the direction in which the student moves forth. Here are a few examples of teacher talk…

“One of the things people do when they start a story is think of what they know. Mathematicians do this too… Let’s try it.” (pg.45) Here the teacher is reminding the student to begin a new activity by taking stock of what they already know by activating prior knowledge.

“That’s like … OR What if…?” (pg. 46-47) Both of these allow for an imaginative act and can expand context by creating metaphors and making connections which is at the heart of comprehension.

Strategic Questions such as “How did you figure that out? What problems did you come across today? How are you planning to go about this?”  (page 30-32) invites students to review a process or strategy used to accomplish a goal.

One of the most successful teacher talk moments to me is actually not talking at all. “Wait time” or “Thinking Time” conveys the message that the teacher expects a student to accomplish an answer, self-correct or figure something out.  Failure to wait conveys the opposite message. Thinking time allows for more extended responses and opens up the possibility for more collaborative inviting conversations. (page 56)

I would encourage everyone to take a step back and reflect on how you lead your questioning.

Do you allow for students to drive the direction of an answer?

Are you patient with your students when opening up the forum for answers?  

Do you encourage a variety of responses?

The way you question your students is the model for the way they explore their own curiosities. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Everyone Has Genius in Them

Are you always looking for a way to motivate and engage your students? I don’t know about everyone else but once I thought I found the perfect inspirational speech, reward system or negotiation tactic it quickly seemed to have a shelf life and fizzled away. Back to the drawing board I was. We all want to our students to love learning and to want to learn without the need for the speech, reward or negotiating.  Well, what if we looked at motivation and engagement on a larger scale?   Think back to that one student (every year I felt like I had at least one) that is an expert in something... for me it was Evan, a dinosaur expert. He knew EVERYTHING about dinosaurs. I had my very own personal first grade Paleontologist. Perfect. Clearly, he was not discovering his love for Paleontology in my classroom. We had a fully packed schedule that did not offer time for Evan to further his career.  I mention this because Evan is so interested in dinosaurs that he went home and read ; and before he could read words, he was reading pictures and watching videos on dinosaurs; and playing with dinosaur toys; and the best part … he was teaching anyone that would listen about dinosaurs. Evan was a genius when it came to dinosaurs. Evan’s genius did not develop after one project or reading one book.  What if we handed students the time to discover the genius inside of them? What if we gave students the opportunity to teach us something? What if we gave students the chance to engage in learning in a way that interested them? Enter in Genius Hour.

What is Genius Hour you ask?
Genius hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom.  It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school.  In a nutshell, it is letting students follow their passion using inquiry to read, work on new designs or master new skills.

“Genius Hour is a precious time.  It is when students are allowed to develop their own inquiry question about whatever it is that they want to explore, learn, or create. I want students to be engaged in their learning. This does not mean that we'll be playing games, laughing and joking the entire class period. This means that I want students to be invested in what they're learning. I want them to "own" the learning. “(Joy Kirr - 7th grade teacher)

From what I have researched:
·        * This idea stems from : businesses like 3M and Google
o     3M started it in the 1950's with their 15% Project.  The result? 
 Post-its and masking tape.  Google is credited for making the 20% Project what it is today.  Google asks its employees to spend 20% of their time at Google to work on a pet project...a project that their job description doesn't cover.  As a result of the 20% Project at Google, we now have Gmail, AdSense, Google News, and my favorite, the Google Teacher Academy.  Using 20 Time in the workplace allows innovative ideas and projects to flourish and/or fail without the bureaucracy of committees and budgets.
·      *   Genius Hour is NOT everyday
·     *    Teachers incorporate this concept in many different ways in ALL grade levels
 If you want to look further into Genius Hour start here:
I have also started a “Genius Hour” board on my Pinterest account.

Instructionaly Yours, 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Year Just Passed Us By

WOW! A lot has happened this past year. I went on our blog to update a few things and noticed that our last post was over a year ago. Having young kids people tell me all the time “treasure every moment because before you know it a year goes by, then 5, then 10 and all of a sudden they are married and have kids of their own”. YIKEEEESSSS a year has gone by in a blink of an eye. So, to those that have been following our humble little journey here are some updates.

·     Kelly got hitched this October and is loving life as a newlywed. She is currently the Math Coordinator at one of our local BOCES.

·     Diane is currently a 3rd grade teacher at a local rural school. After the crazy day of managing a classroom she goes home to her husband and 2 beautiful kiddos (4 year old and a 14 month old).  

·     Michele (that’s me!) I am the Instructional Coach at another local rural school in Western, NY. I am also a proud wife and mommy to a 3 year old and 20 month old.

·     Our book: The Math GNOMe and Common Core Four: Creating the Math Common Core Classroom has been picked up by a fabulous publishing company called Creative Teaching Press and is scheduled to meet the masses by catalog in a few months. We are beyond excited. This has been our humble little project for close to 3 years now and we are delighted by the journey by which is has taken us.

Our intention has been to create resources and share ideas for educators by educators. (Which we knew was very difficult to find - which is what lead us to this project)

We want The Math GNOMe and Common Core Four to simply be a theory of practice.

We hope and expect that teachers take this idea and make it their own.

We look forward to creating a community in which we can all share all our educational ideas as well as our adaptation experience of the Math GNOMe & CC4. 

We are inspired by amazing educators we have come across (well-known and unknown) and present to you framework, a starting point, and vision to create lifelong independent learners both for teachers and students. 

 Welcome (back) to our Blog ~ The Work Wives 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Amazing Resource

Quick post for an amazing teaching tool ... check out !
 Real real classrooms...using common core !  - you're welcome :o)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Time to Shop!

Ahhh yes, the holiday season is all about giving thanks, spending time with those you love, joy, peace, happiness &... SHOPPING

Visit our Teachers Pay Teachers Store on 
November 26th & 27th for 28% off ALL our products.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Something for the Parents

Last night I finally got to catch up on some light magazine reading. As I was perusing my October 2012 Scholastic Parent & Child Magazine I stumbled upon a short article about CCSS.  It is entitled Cheat Sheet - Common Core State Standards (written by: Stephanie Eckelkamp - page 20). The short half page article laid out simple noticeable changes that may occur in your child's classroom as a result of CCSS. Amazing. I was looking for a short simple way to explain Common Core to my parents! Here are a few other resources for your parents to visit. Think about printing out an article you like and handing it out at your Parent Teacher Conferences.

On this site you can print out grade specific parent information brochures.

This site also provides a Spanish version

*You can also check your state specific CCSS site. Ours is New York State.

PS: Make sure you go VOTE TODAY!!!

Conference Update

It was an honor to participate in the NYSSBA Rochester Expo. We met many board members, administrators and education advocates. It was nice to share with them how we have adapted to the CCSS using the Math GNOMe. The feedback was wonderful and from the comments we received this was something that will be brought back to many surrounding districts to have a closer look. Thank you to all that stopped by our booth!