Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Transformation Tuesday: Getting Started with Math Stations- Why Use Math Stations?

Today's post will be the final one of my "Getting Started with Math Stations" series. As the finale, I want to share all of the reasons why I love using stations in the classroom and answer a few burning questions that I receive regularly from teachers. The illustration below shows five reasons that I love using math stations. 

As I close out this series, I would like to address, or readdress, a few of the questions that I receive the most regarding stations:

1. How do I ensure that my students are working and not just playing around? 
It's important to be very specific about your expectations. Teaching students what math stations should look and sound like will help them better understand what is expected of them. Also, using a gradual release of control may help you, as the teacher, feel more confident about your students' ability to work independently. Read more here.

2. Using stations is an overwhelming task for me. How can I make the process flow more smoothly?
Organization is key! Taking a little extra time to set-up and get your system organized before beginning will save you tons of time in the end. Ideally, once your system is up and running, the only thing that needs to be done before each rotation is to re-fill the baskets and add the task directions. Once done, the task directions can just be printed and stuffed in the basket. Spend the time to make the first one and then it's done. Read more here.

3. I don't have time to make new resources every week, what ready-made or easy to implement resources can you recommend?
There are lots of resources that can be easily assembled once and then used over and over again. Using these types of resources allows the students to get started right away because they are familiar with the task and how to complete it. As a general rule, you may want to limit the addition of new resources in the rotation cycle to one per cycle. New resources take time for students to learn how to complete and you will need to review the directions thoroughly before beginning the rotation; however, using the resource during the learning cycle will help alleviate the need for this pre-rotation teaching time. Read more here

4. How do you keep up with all of the grading for the work that the students complete?
Because I view stations as an opportunity for review and practice, I do not grade station tasks. This does two things. It lessens the grading burden on me and allows the students to enjoy the station tasks without worrying about a grade. I purposefully create tasks that the students may not finish so that they have no excuse to stop working. Since some students work more slowly than others, knowing that the task has to be completed for grading purposes creates unnecessary anxiety. However, if you would like students to have more accountability, using a short formative assessment afterwards to assess the station rotation's included skills and content may provide more beneficial information about the students' understanding for both you and the students. Read more here

5. Where do you find the time?
Station rotations can be used in many ways throughout the learning process. In fact, they can replace something that you were already planning to do. For example, if I am teaching a lesson on multiplication and division of larger numbers, I can replace the independent work time with a station rotation. Or, I can teach students the multiplication and division strategies over a few days and then use a station rotation to provide independent practice. In this case, my stations may include basic algorithmic practice (using VersaTiles), a game with multiplication and division word problems, fact practice on the computer, and a teacher time activity involving estimation and assessing answers for reasonableness. 

In addition, I love to use stations to review. In fact, a few years ago, I created a massive station rotation to prepare for our state test with about 16 stations that reviewed all of our grade level content and skills. After I assigned each group a starting location, groups then worked at their own pace to complete the tasks to earn a completion sticker. Each station also included a multiple choice question that would better help the students prepare for the state test. The students had a week to work on the stations and collect the completion stickers. They loved it and I had the opportunity to float around and see how the students were doing. I called it the the Amazing Race: 5th Grade Math Edition! Read more here and here

If you have specific questions regarding how to use stations in the classroom, please post your comments in the section below. I would love to offer you more specific advice. 

New Product Alert! I will be launching my Tools for Organizing Math Stations pack in late December. You can be the first to know when it's available by going to The Routty Math Teacher Store on TeachersPayTeachers and clicking the green star under my store name. 

Sound Off! What burning questions do you have about station rotations?

See this series from the beginning! Click here!


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