Effective math stations are the key to meeting the needs of all of your students and allowing you to meet with small groups for math instruction.
It can sound so easy to just give the rest of your class independent work to do while you are meeting with small groups but we all know this is much easier said than done.
Your students need to know what is expected of them and what they should be working on while you are working with small groups. They also need to be held accountable for their work.
I have 3 simple tips to help make your independent math stations effective so that you can meet with your small groups to target instruction and offer remediation.
Effective Math Stations: The Problem
The problem is that students who are not engaged or are struggling with independent practice will either:
- Do nothing
- Interrupt you while you are working with your small group
- Find something more “fun” to do unrelated to math, like talking, playing around, bothering others, etc. In other words, whatever it takes to avoid the task that needs to be done.
These are BIG problems. Students not engaged in independent practice are distracting their classmates and your important small group time.
For effective math stations, you need to assign engaging practice work that you know students can either complete independently or with a partner will allow you to focus on your students in your small groups and provide the support or enrichment your students need.
The MOST important thing to limit interruptions during math stations is to have expectations and procedures in place. If students don’t know what to do, they need to know where to find that information. If students have a question about what to do, they need to know that they can ask a classmate in their group. If they need to go to the restroom? Have a non-verbal signal. Need a bandage? Make sure students have access, and know where they are. Having procedures AND allowing students to have access to the little things that they might need (bandages, paper, pencils, erasers, water, etc.) will help minimize any interruptions while you are teaching your small groups.
Effective Math Stations: The Solution
The solution is simpler than you think. You need to plan math station activities that you know your students can complete without you (or at least with only peer support), that also have easy-to-understand directions, and that are FUN. The most important thing though? Students need to KNOW what they are supposed to be doing.
Students also need to practice the procedures and routines for their stations. I introduce math station rotations by starting off with 5-minute rotations with a quick activity at each station AND I do not have a teacher station. As students practice at their stations, I am able to circulate and meet with each group briefly to check in and review the expectations. When our practice rotations are running smoothly, we start our actual math station rotations and I can have my math small groups at my teacher’s table.
Here are my top THREE simple tips to help students stay on task while you are working with your small groups:
1. Engaging Math Station Activities
If students LIKE what they are assigned to do, they will be more engaged and less likely to be off task. I like to assign math games. I have a small library of game boards, dice games, and fact fluency games. I teach my students how to play in our small groups before assigning games independently. I keep a library of paper-based math task cards organized by standard and will assign a task card station for partners or small groups to work on. I use recording sheets that students must turn in for student accountability.
I also use technology as a workstation. I assign a computer activity from our district resources (such as IXL or Reflex Math). And I also assign digital math activities in Google Slides and Google Forms.
I use Google Classroom to assign digital activities for my students. Using Google Classroom, allows me to assign different activities to different students so that I can target specific skills for my students to practice. Meeting students where they are and assigning targeted activities allows for engagement and success.
2. Make Sure Your Students Know What to Do
It is also vital to have expectations and procedures in place. If students don’t know what to do, they need to know where to find that information. If students have a question about what to do, they need to know that they can ask a classmate in their group. If they need to go to the restroom? Have a non-verbal signal. Need a bandage? Make sure students have access, and know where they are. Having procedures AND allowing students to have access to the little things that they might need (bandages, paper, pencils, erasers, water, etc.) will help minimize any interruptions while you are teaching your small groups.
Students need to KNOW what they should be doing! This may seem obvious but it is critical. Having a visual chart of the rotations is important. I love using a digital display of my math station rotations projected on my board that shows students exactly what they should be working on. I also insert a timer so they know how long they should be working on a specific activity and signals the transition to a new math station activity.
My Digital Math Stations Rotation Chart shows the groups of students, and the task they should be working on, and includes a time to show how much time they have in that rotation. I do a 15-minute lesson and do THREE 15-minute rotations for my hour-long math block. MY Math Stations Rotation slides in Google Slides let my students know what they should be doing and have become a well-loved routine in my classroom.
Hold Students Accountable
Students need to KNOW you will be checking their work and what should be accomplished in the time allotted. My students know that they need to turn in all of their work but they don’t know what activities will be graded. If students know you will be grading their independent work, they will try to do their best.
I LOVE teaching math and my students LOVE learning math. I know that having routines, procedures, and expectations in place makes our Math Work Stations effective and allow me to spend valuable time reteaching or enriching my students who need it.
Math Station FREEBIE For You
To help you have effective math stations, I have a FREE Digital Math Stations Rotation Chart for you. The chart is in Google Slides and is editable and has two options: 3 Groups and 3 Rotations or 3 Groups and 4 Rotations.
I love using rotations in my classroom so that I can work with students in small groups. I hope that I can help you love it too!
For more engaging MATH ideas for your classroom:
For more STUDENT ENGAGEMENT tips: