I’ve had a ton of questions emailed to me lately regarding how I introduce activities for my Math and Daily 5 (my Daily 6) Stations so that students are working independently. When you have nine math stations going at one time, it’s impossible to be everywhere so independence is a key. I don’t know about you, but I’m also not real fond of being interrupted every 5 seconds during Daily 5 either.
Of course, classroom management, rules and practiced expectations are the key to keeping stations running smoothly. That’s a given. But more than that, how do you make sure that the activities you have available for your students are used correctly and as intended? Because face it, no matter how wonderful the game or activity may be, if they don’t know what to do, it’s a waste of time.
For me, I find that much of what makes an independent station activity successful has to do with the amount of front loading I do. It starts at the beginning of the year. I use a ton of I-can posters for these stations until they can use them without needing them and then, they are a nice reminder for new students when and if needed.
I have some activities that students will consistently see in my stations throughout the year: self-correcting cards, I-spy activities, beads, write the room . . . and a few others that they start using early in the year and continue to see. The thing that I love about these activities is that they are familiar, but the skills, readiness levels and themes can change to keep the station fresh, engaging and challenging.
For instance, with this kind of activity, my students started out the year just matching letters or identifying letter sounds. Many have now progressed to using this activity with digraphs, CVCe activities and even mixed sentences. They still love it because it’s fresh and challenging, but I have to do very little explaining of how to do the center.
For activities that perhaps are new and need explanation and practice like this one above (Going Buggy Sorting Ending Sound Digraphs), I gather all of my kiddos on the floor in a circle and give them a little hands-on chance to work with the materials before placing them in a station. For this one, I handed each one of them a bug with a picture of a word ending with either ~ck, ~ch, ~th or ~sh. Then I sat out the bug jars that I was going to have available for sorting their ‘bugs.’ Each student was given the chance to place their bug in the appropriate ‘jug’ (or in this case ‘bucket‘). Then we worked together to fill out part of the response sheet that we would be using in the center.
After that, I placed the bugs in the sensory table with some green shredded paper, gave them some bug tweezers and set them to work. There’s usually only two (or three at the most) at this station and students work together to sort and record their work.
Sometimes it’s just as easy to introduce some activities in small groups. Like this Bug a Bump game. My students have all played bumped and are very familiar with they game, but I took a few minutes out of my Daily 5 station with each of my groups to make review the words on the mats with them and talk about the skill each group would be working on when they played the game. It only took 2-3 minutes of our small group time and was well worth it later when they were able to play the game independently with their partners.
These are just a couple of ways that I make my station activities work for me. I would love to hear what you guys do to make sure students understand your activities when they get to their stations. Drop me a note. I’m always looking for great ideas.
If you’re looking for some Buggy Math and Word Work Activities to use in your own centers, you can check out these units I have available. Also make sure to check back later this week for a freebie I’ll have that will make your kiddos go Buggy!!!!