It’s Not a Script

FAQ Response

If you’ve seen the 1990 box office comedy Kindergarten Cop, then you likely recall Arnold Swartzenegger snapping at a precocious 5-year-old boy who suggests that his headache might be a tumor. In Swartzenegger speak he retorts, “It’s not a toomah!” Sometimes I wish I had the thick Austrian accent to blurt out, “It’s not a script!”

From Google images.

The writers of the Eureka Math curriculum deliberately designed lessons in the style of vignettes that illustrate what it might sound like in a classroom that is rolling out a rigorous curriculum. The downside? There is a general misunderstanding among some teachers that lessons are to be read as a script.

This was not our intent. Rather, it was to provide teachers with exemplars of instructional situations. We wanted to provide our users with a lesson design that captured the following:

  • A carefully crafted sequence of problems increasing in complexity.
  • In many cases, movement from the concrete to pictorial to abstract.
  • The terminology, language, models, and tools to say and do what is intended by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
  • Evidence of content being presented as part of a coherent story (PK-12) wherein skills build upon skills and conceptual understandings are developed as themes unfold.

If you’ve felt constrained by Eureka lessons, then this is good news! All of us at Great Minds believe that lessons should be customized to suit the needs of your students and the culture of your school. The vignettes of student-teacher interactions are meant to spark discussion among colleagues and foster a collaborative community.

With this in mind, let’s examine a Grade 2 lesson with renaming (G2-M4-L11). After studying this lesson, teachers might highlight specific places for emphasis as they guide the students through solving 35 minus 9.

I can break apart, or un-bundle, a unit of ten into 10 ones. We also call this decomposing. So if I decompose one of these tens to make 10 ones, how many ones will I have?”

This notion of composing and decomposing can be intimidating for teachers who “borrowed” and “carried the one.” The instructional decisions being modeled in the vignettes are meant to provide coherent learning sequences to support teachers as they sharpen their teaching craft and guide students along a continuum of knowledge. I have found, through reading and studying these vignettes, what a classroom that is fostering a much deeper level of understanding looks and sounds like. Because our curriculum spans PK-12, the instructional decisions presented in the vignettes stem from what came before in the previous grades and anticipate the work of subsequent grades. Our hope is that the sample dialogue is able to unify content and make it more coherent throughout the grade levels without being stifling for teachers.

Those teachers who are not bogged down by the notion of a “script,” are telling me that they feel supported. They feel that they have the tools to support students on the road to a more comprehensive conceptual understanding. They also tell me that they “don’t get it all right.” I don’t either!. Sometimes it’s messy. But as a writer, I can sleep at night knowing that teachers have the support they need to feel empowered and to communicate to students in a way that honors the integrity of the standards.

This blog post was authored by MaryJo Wieland, a Eureka Math writer for Pre-K and Grade 2.

© Great Minds 2016