When I first implemented ZONES in my classroom, my district had a curriculum we had been using for some time and I was comfortable with it. Transitioning to ZONES was not incredibly difficult during that time. Yes, there was a lot to figure out, but the curriculum we were using was not demanding. After the switch, I felt great about math in my classroom. It was engaging, purposeful AND I was using the district curriculum.
Fast forward to this year. Our district adopted the Engage New York Units and we blindly dove into the units, head first. It is not a curriculum you can look ahead at and grasp. It is one you have to experience and live in order to understand the flow of the entire year. Let me say this, there are things I love about Engage NY. This is in no way a critique of the curriculum. But, it is intensive and time consuming. I felt confident at the beginning of the year that I could easily blend ZONES and Engage NY. But, it was not that easy and it has been a year of growth and learning. As I reflect on this past year (I know, there are still 5 weeks left) and look ahead to next year, I wanted to share some of the things I have learned with you. Hopefully others with a similarly demanding curriculum, required by their district, will benefit from what I learned.
My lessons from the year . . .
1. Meshing a demanding curriculum and a guided mathematics framework might not be easy . . . and that's okay. Be kind to yourself.
2. It is absolutely important. Don't give up.
3. One of the best things with ZONES is that there is no set way you are required to do it. The framework is flexible. It took a lot of time for me to figure out how to mesh my new curriculum with ZONES, and in the end it didn't look the same as it looked in previous years.
4. Be kind to yourself. Did I say that already?
5. Talk with colleagues, a lot. If they are going through the same process, they might have some ideas that will change your whole mindset. If they are not, it's still great to have someone to bounce ideas off of.
6. Reach out to the creators of ZONES. We have a lot of varied experience and so much to give and share with you.
Back to number 3 and the flexible framework - here are some ideas to help guide what ZONES looks like in your classroom. In the information about ZONES, you will see that there is a structure to the program. That structure is important, but flexible.
1. Try doing only one ZONE a day. You will have longer for a whole group lesson and student are still benefiting from the ZONES rotations each week.
2. In that same vein, you could do 2-3 switches a day. It depends on your classroom, your time and what you are comfortable with.
3. Each day could look slightly different - depending on what you need to accomplish. Maybe one day you will have a longer whole group lesson and 1 zone and the next day you will have time for 3 zones.
4. Do math ZONES 2 - 3 days a week, in the structure ZONES gives, and whole group lessons 2 days a week.
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