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Engaging and Extending Skills With Familiar Differentiated Stations

I love it when stations start humming along on their own engines with very little need for intervention or instruction from me.  I changed over new stations for math this week and Daily 5 in order to accommodate some October/Autumn/Halloween-ish themes and was delighted to see that the activities that we practiced with a back to school theme, were engaging although familiar.  And while they were happy with the new themes and familiar fun stations, I was delighted that I was able to extend their skill base without having to change EVERYTHING they already new how to do.
Bead work has moved on from letter order to beginning letter sound for many of my students.  I have a couple that are reading for ending and cvc words, but I want them to really get the process down and feel success before I move them to that next level.  Similarly, I still have a couple that are just working on letter identification.  They all get to work with beads.  The activities all look very similar, they just get to address the skills they really need. (These self-correcting cards are actually from my Read-Park-Write pack but I can use them on my bead mats to change things up a bit.)
Initially write the room was merely counting and recording with my Back To School Math pack, but I already have some of my kinders working with ten frames through 20.  Here one of them records the ten frame number and then identifies what numbers come before and after.  Not all my students will be able to do this activity at this level of difficulty, but they all will be able to write the room.  (This is a highly coveted station in my class, so I always make sure I have one going for Daily 5 and math stations at all times. I mean, who wouldn’t love to have an excuse to move around the room trying to find hidden cards?  It’s like a giant treasure hunt.)
I am always amazed that kindergarteners don’t get bored with activities that are familiar.  This ‘Boo Brew’ game is included, as one skill set or another, in all of my word work and math packets.  It’s a simply concept of having items they need to identify in order to locate a hidden cards.  I have it for letters, sight words, word families, numbers . . . you name it.  But they love it.  During Back To School math stations, they learned how to play the game with numbers 0-10.  But as I have started to progress monitor them, I have those that are still working 0-10, but others that are working on numbers 0-15, 0-20 or higher numbers.  They love the familiarity of it and the feeling of success.  They don’t need me to play the game.  In the words of my most independent and self-confident kinder this year (They are a precious gift let me tell you!) . . . ‘I got this Mrs. McGuire.’  I love that kid.
I-spy activities are another staple.  I always have them in math and Daily 5.  With back to school, we learned how to use them by mostly matching capital to lower case letters, but some of my students are branching out and becoming more confident with beginning letter sounds.  They find the letter on the mat (It could be written as a capital or lowercase letter.  This is how I know they really found it and aren’t just writing the beginning letter sound without searching for it on the I-spy mat.), circle it on the mat, and then find the matching beginning letter sound picture.  Some are still matching capitals to lowercase and working on letter identification, but I love being able to give them all the same activity without having to sacrifice the ability to challenge my students as needed.
Spinners are still a favorite in my class.  It’s nice to be able to build automaticity with numbers and counting and not have to frustrate those students that are still struggling with skill.  This student can work on numbers 0-5 while his neighbor works on numbers 10-20.  I can continue to group my students by criteria other than readiness, and they still get what they need.  Don’t know where to get transparent spinners?  Click HERE to see the ones I just purchased.  
Students at Yatta can work with numbers 0-5 or 0-10.  Changing out the theme has given this activity new life and excitement. 
When I do this self-correcting activity for community helpers theme time, I use keys to show ten frame numbers, but my students’ interest in this station is still as strong when they get to use Halloween markers.  Some will work on number order while others working on making ten.  Still the same activity, but at their own skill level.

I don’t think I’ll ever give up offering play-doh mats for math stations especially.  Is it just me or has fine motor ability taken a drastic nose-dive this year.  My kinder friends NEED all the fine motor work they can get, and I keep them one challenging by offering ten frame or making tens skills.  They love the different themes and the scented of special colors that I provide based on the theme.  (Can’t wait ’til Christmas!  Peppermint play-doh is the BEST!)
These are just a few stations happening right now in my class.  But they give an idea of the familiar activities and the extension of skills that I can offer because the activities are familiar and differentiated.  
I can’t imagine NOT offering stations in classroom, but I know there are still those rooms that run strictly on whole group instruction.  As always, I believe whatever works for your students . . .!  For mine, stations provide the practice, experience of feeling successful, independence and differentiation that allow my students to store.  


Marsha Moffit McGuire

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