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?