Yesterday I blogged about how I organized my math stations and did my rotation board. Today I'll share how I introduced (or how I should have introduced!) my stations and what kinds of activities I put in the tubs.
Day 1 and 2: Back when I started teaching first grade, Math Their Way was a popular program for primary math. One of the first things we did was to provide time for free exploration of math materials. I really think that this is important. Let them get the playing with the manipulatives out of their system! (Math Their Way still has a lot to offer. Check it out if you are not familiar with it.) So on the first day of school I put 3 or 4 different tubs out with some of the tools we would be using. Because my class was large, I put 2 tubs out with each manipulative. My first tubs had unifix cubes, pattern blocks, color cubes, and a variety of counters like teddy bears, dinosaurs, etc. Most kids were familiar with these items from kindergarten but I demonstrated how the cubes fit together and showed them the various shapes and pieces. I set some basic guidelines: No throwing, no waving stacks of unifix cubes, stay in your own space- I use 12x18 pieces of fun foam as work mats- and use inside voices. Then we rotated through the tubs in small groups for about 10 minutes each. The next day I would add new manipulatives like learning links, color tiles, or attribute blocks.
What I should have done:) This year I will introduce math work stations the same way I introduce each component of the Daily 5. We will make anchor charts to show what stations look like and sound like and what the roles of the teacher and students are. Then we will practice building stamina. When it gets loud or materials are being misused, we will stop, graph our progress and reteach.
Day 3 and beyond: Introduce one or two new activities each day using the materials the students have already explored. As I introduced new tubs, the groups of students at each station decreased until I had one tub for every pair of students. Again, some of the tubs had the same materials at first. This year I will be better about making "I Can" cards for each activity. Continue to build stamina. One of the mistakes I made last year was to introduce too many new activities at once.
Once routines are established: I introduced a few new tubs about every other week. Any time I was using a new manipulative, for example, tangrams, I allowed some time for free exploration. We usually did 2 stations a day. I tried to make sure we rotated through at least once before I changed things up. This year I want to create some sort of chart so I can remember what stations each group has completed. I tried to do stations at least 3 times a week but it didn't always happen. My class this past year was very talkative and not the best at following rules and directions so I never really got to the point where I could pull small groups during stations. But I used the time to observe and talk with the kids about what they were doing.
OK, this post turned out to be longer than I expected so I guess this will be a 3 part series! I'll post tomorrow about some of the activities I used for stations.
Also, yesterday I shared my tubs. Several of my teammates used these Sterilite containers for their stations. They liked these containers because they could stack them. I already had the dishpans and the counter space so I went with those. Choose whatever works for you!