Yesterday was our first official day implementing our math workstations and what an awesome experience it was! We first saw math workstations in action in the first grade Expanded Collaborative Classroom on our campus. We saw small groups working with each teacher and students working independently from tubs. Halfway through the work period, the groups switched and the students working with the teachers were now working out of the tubs and vice versa. We noticed first grade students working quietly and independently. We saw students engaged and we saw the opportunity for small group, differentiated instruction. We just had to try this out.
In talking with the first grade teachers we learned that their math workstations were based on Debbie Diller’s book, Math Work Stations, Independent Learning You Can Count On, K-2. We borrowed their book, used our experience in their classroom and began creating and planning our own math workstations.
If I might back up a moment, having 41 students in one classroom has provided us with the opportunity to form large enough groups that are based on the students’ individual learning needs. For example, instead of having two students who are performing above or below grade level on a specific subject we now might have five students, which is a great number to form a group. These groups are forever changing and are fluid throughout the year.
To form our math workstation groups we split the students into two groups; students who are currently working at grade level, are early finishers, and/or need an extra challenge on our current math concept (double-digit subtraction) and students who are working at grade level, need extra time, and/or need additional help on our current math concept. Essentially we split them into two groups of twenty. One group of twenty is the blue group (because their tubs are blue) and the other group of twenty is the white group (because their tubs are white. Thank you Dollar Store!) Each student then needed to be partnered up with someone else in their blue/white group so that they had a “tub partner”.
Once the students were partnered we then split the groups of twenty once again into groups of ten, with partners staying in the same group of ten. This would allow the teacher/student ratio to be 1/10 during each station period. Am I confusing you yet?
So here’s the breakdown:
- Teacher Sk (white bins) will first work with ten white group students in the north room, meeting the needs of these ten students and going at the pace they need to go. These students know to come to Teacher Sk first because of the following Workstation Chart.
- The other ten students in the white group will get with their partner and find their corresponding white tub number that is listed on the chart. (Refer to chart picture.) They will work in their tub in the north room.
- At this point there are 20 students in the north room, ten working with a teacher on today's lesson and ten working with a partner using a tub.
- Teacher Sh (Blue tubs) will work with ten blue group students in the south room, working at their pace and meeting their individual needs.
- The other ten students in the blue group will get with their tub partner and find their corresponding blue tub number that is listed on the chart. They will work in their tub in the south room.
- After 30 minutes the groups will switch. Students working with a teacher will now get with their partner and work from a tub. Students working from a tub will now work in a small group with their assigned teacher. (Again, refer to the pocket chart picture to see the rotation.)
We have decided to keep the teachers with the same color group for one week at a time. This will allow us to get to know the pacing of the students’ needs, and build on work done previously. However, we would like to work with every child in our class; therefore we will swap groups every other week. Not only will this give the teachers the opportunity to get to know each child’s specific mathematical needs, but it will give the students an opportunity to obtain a basis of understanding from one teacher, and then possibly learn a new concept or understanding from the other teacher.
So what are these TUBS you keep talking about? The tubs are made up of second grade math concepts filled with independent games, activities and books. The tubs have been sorted into the following ten groups:
- Card Games
- Dice Games
- Number Tiles (Marcy Cook)
- Problem Solving/Reasoning
- Place Value
- Spatial Reasoning
- Working with Numbers
We have asked for one parent volunteer during math time to rotate between both rooms and assistant the students who are working with the tubs who may have questions or need their work corrected. This will allow minimal disruption to the teachers during their small group lesson.
There are ten tubs for each color group and each pair of students will only work in one tub a day, therefore it will take the students ten days to get through all ten tubs. Because each tub is filled with many games, books, manipulatives, etc. to choose from we are figuring that the students can use the same tubs twice before they need to be switched out. Therefore, from a teacher and organizing perspective the tubs will only need to be updated once a month or possibly once per unit.
Before math workstations could begin, we did need to spend some time teaching the students how to play the games found in the tubs. We also needed to train them in collecting and returning their tubs, and general tub etiquette if you will. Because we had a specific place for them to work either with the teacher or with their tub partner, the first day of implementation went very smoothly.
If I might mention a couple of the many exciting things we have realized since starting math workstations. Prior to math workstations we struggled daily to get the day's lesson and a fun math activity scheduled for each day. Our focus was split in order to make this happen. Now, because the students are guaranteed a fun yet comprehensive math activity on a daily basis through the use of our tubs, our focus as teachers is purely on the day's lesson, and meeting the needs of each particular group we are working with. This is huge and such a benefit for the students!
Another plus for the teachers is not feeling the pressure to continue on to the next lesson because half of the class is ready. The students have been grouped in such a way that they are essentially moving at the same pace. Therefore if a teacher feels that one group needs to slow down or speed up a bit, there is no problem with this as the rest of the students in the group of ten are most likely in the same place. Already you can see the confidence building in the students as they are not feeling pressured or rushed by those in their group.
It was an exciting day as a teacher! We felt accomplished in meeting the needs of our students. We felt that they were learning at their pace and meeting their needs, while all the time having fun. So far, math workstations are awesome!