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Differentiated Math Stations . . . and a Freebie

Hands down, my favorite small group activities to happen in my class are math stations.  They just run so smoothly, students are so engaged and to be honest, it’s just plain fun.  While I’ve used Debbie Diller’s book, Math Work Stations  to get me started, of course, I’ve had to tweak it a bit here and there to fit my own classroom. 

I use a base of nine different stations which students rotate through twice before I typically change them.  Even though there are nine stations available, at any given time, only six are being used.  Each drawer is assigned a number and the numbers 1-9 move down through the six groups of students I have.  I like this drawer system because it’s neat and there aren’t many activities that can’t be stored easily in them.  Plus my students can manage retrieving and putting them back independently. BONUS!  The other HUGE addition to my stations I started this year, is to identify a ‘materials handler’ in each group.  These are the students who hand out and put away all the objects from an activity. No one else is allowed to grab or handle the materials unless the material manager gives them directions.  This has been a MAJOR help in eliminating fighting and bickering over who gets to do what.

There are no more than four students at a station and depending on the activity, they either work in pairs, individually or as a group.  Because my room is so small, this has been the best system and number for me.  Groups are color coded to help with tiering but are very flexible.  I switch up groups and a students name may be on a different colored tag (that’s why I laminate them) depending on the skills we are working on during a given rotation.

The way the colored systems works is that, if a station is tiered, inside the drawer students will find a corresponding bag or envelope or some kind of similar storage systems with their colored ‘dot’ on it. So for instance, a students who has their name on an orange tag will look for orange dot and use the materials from that envelope.  All the students who visit this station will do the same kind of activity, their will just be different materials to meet their level of readiness.

Here’s an example of what I mean.
If you look at my math station planning page for math stations it looks something like this . . .

You’ll notice that each station has a place to indicate the ‘core concept or still’ (one of the three guiding principals of differentiated instruction) and then there are three sections where, if the activity is tiered, I can indicate how.

So for station number 7 above, when a students arrive at that station they will find in their drawer three envelopes that look like this:

If the student’s name is written on a blue card, they would grab the blue envelope, green card green envelope and so on.  In each envelope is a recording sheet for a common subtraction write the room activity.  The difference is that they will be looking for different cards that correspond with their particular recording sheet and tier.
When they find the write the room cards, they will look like this:

By looking at their recording sheet, they can see that they are looking for either the green, blue or pink bordered cards and corresponding see animals.  Surprisingly, they pick up this system very easily and it works like a charm in my tiny little room.

Two other things I need to point out. Number one, you’ll notice that I don’t tier EVERY station.  No one has that much time. In fact, if you’re just starting out tiering your stations, I would say just start with one or two stations being tiered.  See how it works for you and if everything is moving along, if your students are getting the gist of it, add more.  And number two: you may notice that station number 8 above is not a kindergarten common core standard.  You’re right. It’s not. But in order to make counting by 5s meaningful to my kinders each year, I explain that they need the skill of counting to 5s in order to eventually tell time.  It’s a great motivator, but it also means that if they do it, I have to follow through with telling time activities. So that’s why I introduce it (and money) to those kindergarten classes that are ready for it at the end of the year.

Now, not to leave you empty handed after this long drawn out explanation of my tiered math station system, I made a simple little Giver Me Yer Treasure Game for you that is tiered and ready for you to put in your own stations.  Just click on the picture to get your copy.

I hope you like it and if you do, follow my blog, tell your friends to follow me and I promise, I’ll keep making you great activities for differentiating in your own classroom.

Marsha Moffit McGuire

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