There was so much great information in there, but I knew that, ultimately, it had to work with the room-size I had inherited and the number of kids-versus-adults that I would have using them. Basically, there was a 1:26 ratio that first year, but after thinking on it and tweaking it and shaping it, it has become a well oiled engine of learning and SO MUCH FUN.
So even though some of you have heard it all before from me, I am constantly tweaking my stations a bit here and there. This is the set-up I have used for the last several years, and it works great for me. (By the way, this year I’d like to tweak my set-up with a couple of those cutesy light blue pocket charts I’m seeing from Target. So if you’re there, leave a couple for me will ya. We don’t have a Target in my home town, so I can’t just run out and pick them up.)
I use a base of nine different stations that a student will rotate through twice before I change them. We go to two stations each day that we have math stations, and the stations last about 15-20 minutes. Now, depending on the schedule I’m dealt at the beginning of the year, students get to use stations a minimum of three times a week but ideally four to five.
Materials are, of course, housed in the nine drawers which are labeled 1-9. Above are the pocket charts that hold student names and the corresponding numbers that will move down as students move through the stations. This drawer system is neat and tidy, and I like that they aren’t stacked (no digging under or above) and that students are able to return them to their correct ‘spot’ when stations are completed. It also allows my stations to be very mobile which is an absolute must in my little room. Here’s another thing that helps with keeping your drawers neat. I designate a ‘materials handler’ from each group. That is the person responsible for taking out and putting away materials. When you have four sets of hands in a drawer, things tend to get spewed around.
The pocket charts hold name tags (When I have students there are names on them. I promise.) that are laminated so I can change them quickly if needed. The color of a student’s name tag represents the materials that they will use with in each drawer. You do not necessarily always have the same colored tags within the same group. I’ll show you why in a second.
So for instance:
Students with a green name tag would use the materials labeled with a green dot, or bit of green washi tape. Here’s the important thing to note, within a given drawer students all are completing the same activity, let’s say write the room, but the task is tiered so that it is geared to their readiness level. One group might be writing the room for addition 1-5, another for addition 1-10 and another 1-15. Their tier (1, 11 or III) is really unknown to them. They just know what color they are for those set of math stations. I’m constantly changing their colors so it’s pretty difficult for them to realize what tier they are.
Is your head spinning yet? NO? Good. Well, then let’s move onto the next obvious question, HOW do I get to the differentiating part. Ok, so first of all, you can differentiate by addressing your students interests, learning profiles or readiness. Tiering is what addresses their readiness, and this is how I tier my activities:
Take a look at this flowchart . . .
It goes through the different steps I take when tiering an activity to response to my students’ readiness levels. And here’s an example of how an actual lesson would look if I wrote each of these flowcharts out.
Of course I don’t do that. That would be impractical, but I do have a lesson plan template that lets me indicate to my principal what each station activity is, what standard it addresses and how it is tiered, if it is tiered.
And now you’re thinking, ‘but Marsha, when they walk through the door in September (or August) they can’t possibly do this.’ So you want to know how to get them from here (fresh off the boat) to there (a fine tuned learning machine). Well quite honesty, it takes a couple of basic things:
- Establish predictable routines
- Have high expectations
- Don’t be afraid to stop and practice the procedures
- Model Model Model
Oh and the other thing…some of you have been asking me about number and color posters to match the ones I did for reading, so I whipped a few of those as well.
Just click on the link below to find out more:
If you have a great post about math stations and want to link up, please go ahead. If not, make sure you visit everyone else’s blogs to soak up all their good ideas too.