I have been teaching second grade for five years and I have been using the same program for this entire time. Saxon Math. Kinder, first, second, and third grade teachers always seem pretty positive about the program, but upper grade levels aren't crazy about it.
There are pros and cons to every program out there so I would like to touch up on both aspects of Saxon.
- Daily word problems
- Daily calendar with all the prompts
- Assessments every five lessons
- No COPYING (All the guided practice/homework worksheets are boxed and ready for your use)
- Reading in math
- Lots of manipulatives
- Group work
- Scripts if you need them
- Daily addition/subtraction fact practice
- Homework is difficult for children who cannot read at grade level
- Teachers feel forced to stick to the script
- Very little independent practice with new skill on guided practice.
- Jumps around from concept to concept each day
- Teachers feel pressure to keep going instead of staying on one concept
There are probably more negatives, but these are the ones I hear a lot. While I was student teaching I was at a school with another packaged program and the teachers didn't like it very much. The students were confused and didn't pick anything up. The program was "pretty," it had lots of color and tons of practice with the one concept that was learned that day, but no one liked it. This was a trend I noticed in many of the classrooms at that school. So when I began teaching, I was scared that math was going to be my weakness because I had no clue how to teach math to second graders (I interned in K and 1st grade rooms). I went to my team lead and asked her advice. She said just follow the script and make sure you teach math every day. I did just that, I followed the script and did exactly what it said to do. The scripts even include ideas on what the children might respond with! What I found was shocking! The kids LOVED math and looked forward to it. The majority of the class understood the concepts. Those students that didn't understand the concepts got it after meeting with them to review the new skill. My kids flourished and did well on their district benchmarks.
Each year I have tweaked and changed some of the aspects in the program. Saxon doesn't include many problems for the students to do with the new skill that was learned in the lesson. I learned that I had to add a lot of independent and guided practice based upon what I see my students are struggling with. Most days I don't even look at the script and just use it as a guide so that I know what I need to teach next. Some days (when I'm feeling totally drained) I use the script to guide me on my lesson. The lessons I didn't like, or the students didn't like needed to be reworked to fit into my teaching style. The lessons do jump around a bit from concept to concept. Many teachers don't like that, but it worked for me. This gave me a chance to extend a lesson if my students needed it, and if a student didn't get a concept one day, they still felt successful when they worked on their worksheet because it includes many other concepts that they do know how to do.
Somethings that I really love about the program is that it is very hands on and it includes some classroom management advice that helped me out so much! It includes a classroom calendar with all the posters that you need and it even tells you what numbers to use. Sadly I had a very difficult time keeping up with calendar because something else always seemed more important. What I had to do was create my own bell work that included many of the concepts that I liked about calendar and some other ideas that needed some reinforcement.
This month I am going to go through all my Saxon lessons and see how they fit in with Common Core (I think much of it will fit) and I will be changing/adding ideas to incorporate the new standards. I'm thinking of cutting up the standards and taping them to my lessons so that I can stay on track.
Would I say it's perfect as written? No, but it sure did help me get me over the fear of teaching math and now math is my favorite time of the day.
Here is how my daily routine works:
- 10-20 minutes whole group instruction
- 10-20 Minutes guided practice (usually problems I make up and the students solve on their whiteboards or small group work using manipulatives.)
- 10 minutes worksheet (I pull students that struggled with guided practice during this time)
- 5 Minutes reviewing worksheet as a class
I'm excited to see how other teachers teach math and how they fit in the Common Core. If any of you use Saxon, please let me know how you are going to be tackling CC. Now head over to Ms. Alley's Class and link up in her first linky party;)