One of the best ways to support the students in your classroom is through differentiated learning in small groups. But what do you do with all the other kids? Math stations (and math centers organization) are key to creating engagement for your students while you are meeting with students.
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Stations were always a challenge for me because it required a lot of time to set up and it was a weekly task I didn’t really want to do. However, after having a math coach come into my classroom and model small group teaching, I knew that this was how I wanted to structure my classroom.
Stations provide a fun and engaging break for the kids. Responsibility is easy to teach during stations. And, when you need to be out last minute, it’s super easy to let them do stations with a sub.
Math Activity Organization
When it comes to math centers organization, you need an organization system for the activities your kids are using and the ones they aren’t. For now, let’s talk about how to set up station materials that are not being used.
As always, homes are so important. The homes for my math station activities are crates with hanging file folders. The big home is a plastic milk crate. Then, the homes within that home are hanging file folders. Shop the resources I used below.
Each of my center activities is stored in folders. This is an easy way for me to keep all the pieces, papers, directions, etc. together. I then place all of the stations on the same concept in a hanging folder together.
You also need a place to store all the math manipulatives your kids will use during stations, along with expo markers, marker boards, and whatever other resources you have for your stations.
All Math related things were stored in this corner of my classroom underneath my Math Word Wall. So, naturally, this is where all the station materials were stored.
A tip I learned a few years back from a friend is to use the nice sheet protector type things (Idk what they are called.) instead of making copies.
During my first two or three years, I was making fifty copies of an activity so they could do it over and over. And #tbh, they went from the turn-in basket to the recycle bin. It was such a waste.
Get the management tips you need to manage your students effectively while in math stations.
Math Centers Organization
You also need a station organization and management system for the activities your students are using. When deciding to implement math stations into your classroom, you need to consider how often you will do stations because that will help you decide how many stations you need and how often you need to change them out.
Which Math Stations Should You Do?
There are so many options for types of stations to have in your classroom. Just head to Pinterest and do a quick search, you’ll see a ton of options! In my six years of teaching, I probably went through six or seven different stations.
Finally, my last couple years I settled on these stations:
Meet with Teacher– Students meet at U-table with me and work on concepts they are needing support with
At Your Seat– Students work on math games/activities at their desk
Technology– Students are on iPads/computers playing various math games. Primarily, prodigy. (This is free and AWESOME! so go check it out.)
Hands On– Students work on math games/activities
What I liked about these four stations was that the “Meet with Teacher” and “Technology” stations required no additional setup from me. I only had to put together stations for the “At Your Seat” and “Hands-On” (see the GIF above to see how I prepared them every few weeks).
The “At Your Seat” and “Hands On” activities were stored in my math shelves. I had five bins for each station and the students choose choose any of the activities from whichever station they are at.
I spent a fair amount of time on Pinterest looking up math stations and one I recommend checking out is Amy Lemons.
Math Centers Management
Math Centers Management is how you actually tell kids where to go and what station they are supposed to be doing. I have also looked up numerous ways to manage stations, and this is what I have come up with that has worked best so far.
When to Change Centers
This is totally up to you and how frequently you use centers in your classroom. If you do stations every day, then you will want to keep those station activities fresh and engaging for your kids.
If you do stations only two or three times a week, you may be able to stretch the stations out to two or three weeks. Bottom line, when you notice a decrease in student engagement then it is time to change the stations out.
When it is time to change out my stations, I line up the plastic tubs and empty them out of old games and fill them with new materials. You can check out my steps below.
I have my crate of activities nearby and it is super easy to just go to the folder of whatever we are learning, pull out an activity or two and then grab a few activities from previous concepts we have learned for a review.
Remember, when it comes to any kind of stations you are doing in your classroom, management is key! If you are not able to trust your students to work independently while you work with them in small group, then stations are useless. Grab the free Classroom Management Tips download to help you as you plan for stations.
The Organize Your U-table Resource is a great tool you can use to help you get your small group table organized so that you can actually meet with your students when it’s time!
Until next time,