One of my dear teacher reader friends, Sherry, recently wrote to me and asked me if I could put together an example of my math stations for the beginning of the year. I know I did a complete example of this in the spring when my students where already well acquainted with the Math Station routine and well after I had the opportunity to assess their readiness in the standards we were covering . . . but the beginning of the year is a completely different bird.
One of the three guiding principles of differentiated instruction is that assessment and instruction go hand in hand, but when those sweet little kindergarten cherubs waltz through the door those first few days, we really don’t have ANY clue what their readiness is or isn’t.
On top of that, they still need to learn routines and rules and expectations! YIKES! It really easy a great deal for a little one to pick up but here’s the good news . . . they pick it up rather quickly.
But what do you do in the meantime? For me, I make stations that are exploratory in nature (we all know if you don’t give them a chance to play with the materials before hand they’re gonna play with the materials the entire time they’re suppose to be working) so that they can familiarize themselves with different math materials and manipulatives and also develop stations that will give me a very quick picture of what they know in regards to initial standards that I will be covering in the first weeks of school.
And . . . I try to cover many of the different multiple intelligences during this time as well. What I don’t hit in one area like math stations, I try to pick up in learning centers. My regular math stations usually last for three weeks with students going through each station twice before I change or add to them, but this first set will last only two weeks at the most because, I like to do them everyday and for a shorter amount of time than usual. Once they are complete, I will have a good understanding of where each child is and will be able to start tiering my instruction.
1. Play-doh numbers . . . This is going to appeal to your kinesthetic learners and, let’s face it, every kindergartener loves play-doh. These fabulous little play-doh mats are free to you from Make Take Teach and I suggest you grab them up. (Just click on the picture for the link.) They have them all the way to 20 but I start out with 1-10. I usually place them face down and tell the kiddos they have to pick the one on top. Tell their partner the number and then make the number and that many pieces of whatever the picture is with play-doh. As you’re gonna here things like, that’s not 7 or this is easy it’s 8 (that’s you cue to stop and engage and take some quick assessment notes).
4. Pokey pin shapes! I love these things. Mrs. Miner’s Monkey’s presents these wonderful, engaging activities that are GREAT for fine motor and reinforce basic skills such as shapes. Best of all —-INDEPENDENT!!!! All you need is a push pin and you’re ready to go. (Click on the picture to find out more about these great little activities.)
5. Hot Rod Tens Frame – Self-correcting and independent. Students can use the car cards that come with activity (in case you don’t have any toy cars. Myself, with 3 boys, I always have cars.) or use toy cars. There is a number showing and once they have counted that number onto their 10s frame, they remove the clothes pin to see if they did it correctly. I love INDEPENDENT and this one fits the bill.
6. Geoboard numbers. Another great visual, kinesthetic activity. Get the downloadable geoboard cards from Marking Learning Fun website for FREE. Just click on the picture.
7. I Spy Speeding Numbers – They spy the numbers on the sheet and match it up to the tens frame. It’s a way to introduce them to I-spy’s which they love, love, love. They love to figure out where all the numbers are and it’s tiered so you as soon as their you see a kiddo that needs a little more challenge, they can have the same kind of activity at their level. (Click on the pic for more information).
8. Race Around The Room… This is a tiered activity, but to start out with, I would only use one level and the very first tiered activity. If a student finished early, you have the other activity available for them to complete. And you have a really good idea of where they are at counting objects and their letter formation. This is a classroom favorite because kids get to move around and look for the cards. It’s also a good one to teach them the rooms and routines for ‘write the room’ activities.
9. Stamping number stations. I like these stations from Krissy Miner. Krissy has really great independent activities that I can tier easily and the kids LOVE them.
Ok, so those are an example of some stations for the first two weeks of school. Of course, you could change any of these out with a math songs cds for one station, math books at another or whatever you think you (and your kiddos can handle).
Thanks for making me plan them so early. I have a whole month before school starts. Remember that when you start these out there won’t be much tiering but you can have your materials available so that if needed, you can students the next tier of I-Spy or Stamping or whatever it is. Be ready to carry around a clipboard (my tool of choice and make notes and check off where your little cherubs are in terms of readiness so that you can (as quickly as teacherly possible) start tiering. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks and give you an example of how that might look too. Until then, a few suggestions for those first several days of math stations when you are ready to pull your hair out . . . remember to MODEL, MODEL, MODEL the activities they will do. Don’t get to bent out of shape if things are completed EXACTLY as instructed. Stop the activity and use it as a teachable moment.
Also, start right away, showing students how to take and get materials on their own. I assign a materials handler for each group. That is the ONLY person who gets, takes out, hands out and returns materials.
Any questions? Please don’t be afraid to drop me a line.