Are stations the answer?

My time as a math coach taught me that stations are the bomb! I observed masterful first grade teachers regularly manage many different math levels without breaking a sweat. I experienced fourth grade teachers manage a room full of wiggly students during flex blocks and everyone was “getting what they needed.” Somewhere along the way we begin to believe that our students can sit for longer, focus for longer, and we don’t need to use stations to reach all learners.

A few years ago my district purchased the Connected Mathematics curriculum. I had used previous versions of the curriculum in the past and many of the problems were interesting and rich. The new version is clunky, disjointed, and difficult to use. Many of the problems are long, requiring several class sessions to complete with very little conceptual understanding. My students lose interest and are unmotivated by the time we finish a problem. The math they may have gleaned from the problem is lost in the euphoria they feel to be done.

As the year came to a close and I reflected on what went well and what didn’t, I was reminded of the times my students were engaged, challenged, and motivated to learn. The times this happened the most this year was when I was using stations in my classroom. They felt as though the tasks were interesting and at their level.

I began to think about my first unit in terms of stations using the math workshop model thinking about how I could use the best parts of the CMP curriculum. I came up with four stations including one where I will meet with students in small groups. These small group meetings will force both remediation and enrichment to happen within the station rotation.

Then I ran across this tweet….

After I read a little about responsive stations it seems like this is exactly what I need to add to make my stations even more productive. By first spending time to teach the necessary skills before starting a new unit I can really meet my students where they are. Looking at what students know and how to build off of that I can make all students feel successful.

So, my first unit is no longer my first unit. I need some station work before we start the first unit. The skills they really need to have solid are their multiplication and division relationships. I started planning my stations here. I think this will also be a great time to teach some of the classroom routines that need to get done at the beginning of the year so I’m only going to use three stations. More to come…

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