Jessica Doughty teaches at a Title One, rural school in Daviess County, Kentucky with 52% of the students receiving free breakfast and lunch. She will transition into the role of instructional coach this upcoming school year.
This is year one for implementing Eureka Math at my school — Whitesville Elementary. We discussed whether or not we should roll it out slowly, starting with primary grades and then expanding to intermediate in the subsequent years; the staff ultimately decided, however, to dive straight into learning what this curriculum had to offer. Now that I’m at the end of year one, here’s what I’ve noticed about the curriculum and some of the unique activities my colleagues and I have done to make the program work for our students.
There definitely is more focus within the standards, and this is reflected in the Eureka curriculum with more time devoted to the Major Work of the Grade. The modules are tagged to the grade-level standards taught in each lesson, so I’m quickly able to see the focus areas. I also see the elements of Rigor outlined within each lesson. For example, I appreciate the daily fluency lessons that are built in at the beginning of each day. This is a regular routine for the students and they become accustomed to this practice – building fluency became a regular part of each day. A lot of review is hit in the fluency lessons, allowing confidence to build over time. In my classroom, we have added some “Count By” songs to this fluency time, as well. I found several teacher-created videos by Mr. DeMaio (like this one – a cover of “Uptown Funk” to help practice the 3 times tables) that have helped to pump up the engagement level of this fluency time. He creates covers of many popular songs the children are familiar with to incorporate counting by 3’s, 4’s, 6’s, and so on.
Each day also provides conceptual learning time for students to dig deeper into the standard we are studying. This is a time that I have really encouraged team work within my classroom. The text doesn’t specify how to differentiate for the needs of your various learners, but I have grouped my students so that they have student coaches scattered throughout the room. I approach this learning time with a “teaching up” mentality and the students really embrace working with one another.
In addition, application work is provided each day through word problems. In my classroom, we have math notebooks for each one of these problems- students are encouraged to first attempt solving the problem on his or her own. After an allotted amount of time, students begin to share their answers and we collect student responses at the board to analyze the various responses and tally how many students produced each different answer. (These are strategies I have added on my own that are not provided in the teacher instruction.) The curriculum encourages a process called RDW in answering and modeling these problems (Read, Draw, Write- Equation, Sentences). This is when they add Mrs. Doughty’s way to their notebooks to compare their answer to mine for similarities and differences. I love this part of the lesson because, when the students and I have the same answer but took different approaches to get there, it really demonstrates that there’s not simply one correct way to arrive at a solution. It also provides feedback on their thinking, but pushes them to become independent thinkers, as well.
In terms of Coherence, while I have not sat down specifically with other grade levels to look at each module as a whole, I feel that I have a unique perspective since I not only teach at the school but also am the parent of two students who attend the school. My oldest son is in 5th grade and my youngest is in 1st. I have been dazzled by the Coherence I have seen through their work and what I am teaching in my 3rd grade classroom. So much of what my 1st grader brings home excites me for what lays before him. This curriculum presents strategies early on in kindergarten, such as number bonds, tape diagrams, and so on, that they see repeated over and over throughout the years. The language becomes common to the children and parents, as well. I am predicting great growth over time and usage.
I have not had to rearrange the content to be more coherent. During our initial training, it was highly encouraged to allow the modules to play out in the specific order they were presented. The idea is that the learning would take place like a story over the course of the year and I found this to be very true. As we are working on our final module, I am seeing how the modules before this one are being tied into the work in this module so cohesively.
Likewise, I have not found the need to supplement any part of this curriculum with other resources. I have incorporated a strategy called, “My Favorite No” in order to utilize my exit slips as an opportunity for deeper learning. In this activity, all students answer the same question, I sort the answers in piles of “yes’s” and “no’s” – right and wrong answers. Then I choose my favorite “no” and we look at the process used for solving the problem together. This strategy was shared with me before I began teaching with Eureka Math and I have found it to be highly effective and useful with the exit tickets provided by this textbook. If you would like more information on this strategy, see this link from The Teaching Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srJWx7P6uLE
Eureka Math is scripted for the teacher and anticipates student responses, which is very useful for studying in advance. This makes each module easy to follow and easy to understand what is expected. While some teachers may find this a bit confining, you can make it your own by how you build relationships within your classroom to support the diverse learners in your environment. There are not many scaffolding supports in place in the curriculum, which could leave room for the teacher to determine some best practice strategies for implementing each lesson. Another simple plus to the scripted lesson plan is that when you need to make plans for a substitute teacher, it is very specific in what the substitute should say and do.
As a whole, I am more than impressed with Eureka Math as a core curriculum for teaching with the Shifts of Common Core in mind. It is evident that the material was written to challenge and engage students at all levels, and the scaffolding that is embedded becomes obvious as the children progressively move through each lesson of the modules. I anticipate that our school will continue to head in the direction of aligning our goals to college- and career-ready standards, and am looking forward to seeing what our students can accomplish over time.