Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Transformation Tuesday: Getting Started with Math Stations- Who Participates and How to Manage Them

Today's post answers the question who participates in stations? The simple answer is any and everyone. However, participation may vary based on the purpose of the station rotation. For example, if the station rotation is to prepare for a test, everyone may be involved; however, if the purpose of the station rotation is for intervention or challenge, only a select group of students may be involved. I have used them in both ways and see the value in varying how and when a station rotation is used in the classroom. 

The next consideration is in regards to how students are grouped. Again, this decision is based on the purpose of the station rotation. For example, if the purpose of the station rotation is for intervention, grouping students by performance or ability level may be most appropriate. I use a weekly station rotation to review previously learned content and as a responsive tool to support students who have not mastered a recently taught skill. Because the re-teaching needs of my students vary, I group them by the skill I plan to work on with them. In other cases, I randomly place the students into groups and allow them to work with a variety of ability levels. As an additional strategy, I frequently use stations for after school tutoring groups. It allows me to structure this extra time in a manner that supports their learning needs in a fun and engaging way after a long day of learning. 

The last consideration is in regards to managing stations. Teachers often ask me how I get my students to complete their work when I am not standing over them managing them individually. Here's my response: It is the expectation-- completing the work is not optional. But, I know what you're thinking, my students are not independent workers; they will not be able to complete a station task without reminders of what to do and to keep working. My next response to you is that you have to teach your students to work independently and to follow station expectations. Then. Practice. Practice. Practice.  

The chart below shows a common set of station rotation expectations for my students. However, I usually develop them with the students before implementing a full station rotation.

To begin, I may only use a two-station rotation to give students the opportunity to practice the expectations and allow me a little more control over what the students are doing. Gradually, we move to more stations as the students demonstrate that they are able to do more work independently and I can trust that they will follow station expectations accordingly. Eventually, when we reach full station rotation mode, students are expected to self-manage their behavior and their groups as I am unavailable to answer questions or to redirect students when I am working with a small group (but I always have a watchful eye). 

Here are some other ideas I have tried or have seen others try over the years: 
* Ask 3, before Me- students must ask three other group members a question before interrupting the teacher to ask. 
* Focus on improving one station expectation during each set of station rotations and provide specific feedback on that goal. Reward students accordingly. 
* Reward groups who exhibit on-task behavior. 
* Use sticker charts to "catch them being good." 
* Include a formative assessment task at the end of the station to check for station completion and understanding (more about this in next week's blog post).
* Have students rate their own participation and behavior and ask for a written justification.

Many teachers believe that the best checking system to see whether or not students stay on task and complete the station work is to assign a grade. While I will admit that I have collected an assignment every once in a while because I needed a grade for something, station tasks in my classroom are not graded. This is mainly because I view station tasks as opportunities to practice, not to assign grades. I do, however, give formative assessments after stations that may result in a grade-- more on this topic next week.  

Here's a challenge for you: As you read through this series, think about a time when a station rotation can be used to replace something that you are planning to do in an upcoming unit. In the meantime, check-out my Math Stations Board on Pinterest.

Sound Off! How do you manage your students during station rotations? 

Up Next: Where Do Stations Fit in the Learning Cycle?


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