Math Groups- How I'm Making EngageNY Work for My Mini-Wheats

Where to begin? At the beginning? Sure! Two years ago my district adopted the EngageNY curriculum and we were told to follow it TO THE LETTER. To say it's been challenging would be an understatement. I find the math modules to be especially challenging to work with if you are not given a lot of leeway. The lessons are very difficult to complete in the time allotted and the pacing of the skills is just...insane. At times I find myself wondering if the people who wrote this have ever even MET a first grader, let alone taught one. Luckily, as time has gone on, the powers that be have allowed us a little bit of wiggle room as far as following this curriculum with complete fidelity.

While it's refreshing to have back some input into how and what we teach the task was still daunting.
When I returned from maternity leave this winter my kids were just about to take the second round of district tests. Their scores showed that many of them were still struggling with basic number concepts. The first grade modules for EngageNY assume that all students have a strong foundation in numeracy, that they understand that 5 is 5, and it is also 2+3, and it is 1 less than 6, etc. Clearly, this was not true for a majority of my students.

I work very closely with the classroom next to mine, which happens to be a new make-up of classroom for my district. The classroom has a General Education Teacher and a full-time Speech Language Pathologist. We put our heads together and decided that we would break into small groups for math and try to remediate some of the areas of need. I took the neediest groups and the SLP. :)

Now on to the hard part. What would math groups look like? How would we fit it all in? A what would the kids be doing when they're not in a teacher directed group?  I decided to fall back on my math groups of the past and use the same acronym and group labels, just with an update.
Click the picture to download for free! 
Our Math block falls right after lunch so we have the kids come back to their respective classrooms and do a quick bathroom break and fluency activity while the kids move in and out of the bathroom. I believe the fluency piece is very important and it's actually something the kids look forward to so, we didn't want to cut it out. When we've finished, the children transition into their math groups for the classroom switch. I meet my math groups at the gathering area and we begin. 

Each lesson begins with a quick review of our Rituals and Routines posters, that I project onto the Smartboard, and a look at our schedule for the days group rotations. I do all of my EngageNY module lessons on the Smartboard. Some of the lessons were made by colleagues, some by me, but I find this to be the best way to get through them. 

Next, I do the application problem, whole group.  I know that the lessons call for the kids to be working independently on these and then sharing their answers but a. the time frame for this is 5 minutes! (again, I must ask if the authors of this curriculum have ever met a six year-old) and b. many of the kiddos, in my groups, are not independent with these skills. So, whole group it is. The students work in their 'Math Journals' while I lead, think aloud, and ask for suggestions for how to solve the problem. Currently, my students are using the My Jumbo Journals from to record their work.

 The EngageNY curriculum calls for "personal white boards" but I found these to be challenging. I bought a case of shop ticket holders last year and used those for both the 'application problems' and 'concept development' but I was going through dry erase markers so quickly and the shop ticket holders were not very durable and were constantly ripping and cracking. I also didn't like that the kids couldn't look back at their work. I like their solutions to these problems to be a reference tool the we can use again and again if necessary.

Finally, I do the concept development portion of the lesson. Again, I always struggle to do this portion within the time suggested. I have been known to stretch a lesson for two days and/or scrap the entire thing and teach the 'concept' and 'standards' in a way that I know my Mini-Wheats NEED it. I'm glad to have a little more flexibility to do this. 
 Now that our time at the gathering area has come to a close we transition into our groups. I have 4 groups, organized by ability. 

This is still a work in progress. I wanted to be sure that each group got valuable teacher time. Ms. Booth is the SLP and she leads the students in a targeted skill lesson. Because she's an SLP she does a wonderful job with vocabulary development and helping students through some of the challenging concepts and language. I'm pretty lucky to have her, I know. :) She meets with each of our neediest groups for 25-30 minutes each.
At my table, I meet with 3 groups for 15-20 minutes each. I do the 'problem set' worksheet with my groups and/or lead them in a math game/center that I hope to introduce so it can be added to our 'Hands On' Centers. This past Thursday I introduced a center from my Making 10 With 8 and 9 as an Addend Unit 
Each EngageNY Inspired Center has a matching worksheet and fluency activity.

We are about to begin the second half of Module 2. Students will no longer be "making ten to add" they will now be "decomposing teen numbers" to "take from ten". I plan to use centers from my Teen Numbers Unit to reinforce the skill of decomposing those teen numbers into a ten and some ones. 
Each EngageNY Inspired Center has a matching worksheet and fluency activity.

While Ms. Booth and I are rotating through our groups the other students are working at Technology or at the gathering area with Hands-On Centers. 

Technology Groups are working on iPads and math apps. My iPads are district owned so I can only load them with free apps or with apps purchased by my district. I'm always looking for great, free apps. If you know of any please feel free to comment with some in the comments section!

So, there you have it. As I mentioned before, this is a work in progress, we've had good days and bad days, the kids are still learning the routines and Ms. Booth and I are still working on our timing. You'll notice that "At Your Seat" is one of our rotations. This was supposed to be the exit ticket but we STILL haven't found time to do it!! I am determined to figure it out and get to a place where we can squeeze it in. I think it's so valuable to have that quick assessment and to track the progress of newly taught skills.  I'll update in the coming weeks to tell you how we've grown.

For now, I'm going to get prepared for a week long break from school! February recess is here and I'm so in need of some time at home to play with my babies and get caught up on all this TpT stuff. Creating and blogging are so much fun for me but it's so time consuming! I'm hoping to carve out some time to update some units, finish some things I've been working on, and BLOG! I promise I will be better at this and not every post will be a long, rambling, bunch of drivel. (oops, see above!)
Stay warm, everyone!! For those in warmer temperatures: shut it! Just kidding. Not really. Us Northern folks will like you again come Spring. :)

In celebration of my week off and the fact that I have FINALLY blogged about my math groups you'll find my whole store 20% off for 48 hours! Thanks so much for visiting and taking the time to read. If you have any questions, success stories with EngageNY Modules, or advice I'd LOVE to hear from you!


  1. Your blog is so cute! I totally understand how time gets away from us and then months pass before we post another blog entry! I'm jealous of your products- they are wonderful and engaging! Thank you for posting about how you have set up your math rotations- I'm always interested in how other teachers set up their classrooms and schedules. One question, do you meet with the groups that your SLP meets with, or do you each just meet with certain groups?

    Teaching Special Kids

  2. Thank you SO much. This is perfect. I get observed this week and am slightly nervous that my principal will see I am unable to fit every aspect of the lesson in . . . it's comforting to know that other people are in the same boat. How do you assess? That is something I definitely struggle with . . . the mid and end of module assessments are longggg and take forever, and it feels like I am losing valuable instructional time by doing them. Plus, I have a difficult time matching each question to the standard and giving them a grade for it. :( What do you do? Because whatever you do, I'll probably do it, too. :) This was exactly what I needed to read. Thank you thank you thank you!!! Amy and I are your biggest fans! We love everything that you write and create. :) You're the best!

  3. I would love to chat with you if you have any time...yeah right! I am anticipating using EngageNY this year as we don't have any workable curriculum that is Common Core aligned. I am going to first grade this year after teaching third last year and middle school before that! I just can't reinvent this wheel for every subject this year and keep my sanity. I was wondering how long your whole group concept development section lasts? I tried this with 3rd grade last year and it was pretty difficult. I'd love to pick your brain.

    Thank you so much for the info and have a great day!

  4. Hi, Thanks for the great info. Do you do the concept development whole class on the overhead/smartboard/projector?

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. HI! I was trying to download your math group and templates freebie and when you click on the link it isn't going to the math groups and templates on TPT. I also looked to see if maybe it changed to where I could buy it but I couldn't find it that way either. Can you tell me where to go to get it? You are so creative and love your blog!

  7. Thanks for this blog. I was trying to get the freebie/template too. Is it somewhere else in your store?

  8. I would love your math group freebie and templates but I can't find them either!!

  9. Hello any news or update on the math group freebie?

  10. On Sale Now! 20% OFF.

  11. I would also like to have the math group freebies and templates!


Back to Top