Math station rotation centers explained

Here are five reasons why I believe the station rotation model is the best choice for elementary teachers looking to start blending their learning:In the previous post, I talked about how I structured my 70-minute math block by getting rid of whole group instruction in favor of four 15-minute rotations. Let’s delve deeper into what each of these stations looks like:

Teacher-led small group lesson —When students arrive at the table, they typically have a Do Now waiting for them. It’s two review problems in a sheet protector that can then be reused with each group. I find it important to have something for students to work on right away so I can quickly make sure that every student is on task at the other stations when the song goes off. Students work on the Do Now for 1 minute and then we quickly check it on a small white board behind my table. The problems are just review so they could be quickly solved. After the Do Now, I start the lesson. First, I introduce the objective and do some modeling or questioning or give the students a task, depending on the topic. Then, we do a few guided practice problems together. Some groups receive more problems and others fewer depending on their level and the amount of scaffolding or review I need to do. I close this lesson by reviewing the objective and handing each student a problem set worksheet that they will complete in the next station with a partner. Any student who shows up late or does not understand the lesson at the end of a session can stay for the next group where they hear the lesson again. Lessons are differentiated based on the level of the group. The groups that are below grade level use more manipulatives and are provided more guidance than the on-grade level groups. The below-grade-level groups may also receive fewer problems or a few review problems as scaffolding. On-grade-level groups receive a typical gradual release model lesson (I do, you do) which may go at a quicker pace depending on their understanding of the topic.

Buddy Practice —After students visit the teacher table, they move to the practice center with a problem set from today’s lesson. They may work in pairs or independently to complete this practice (you do together, you do). They hold onto the problem set until the end of our rotations so that we can check it as a class and correct any misunderstandings. If students get done early, they get a Kindle and a partner and begin the math facts center.

One group does have to start at buddy practice, but I can’t always guarantee that they will know how to do the problems. So, that group — the most advanced students — receive the day’s lesson from me through a ShowMe video. Each morning before school begins, I record that day’s lesson on the iPad app. During the first station, the advanced students listen and watch the lesson by plugging headphones into a listening station box that is then attached to the iPad. After listening to my electronic lesson, they work together to complete a set of practice problems that we go over together at the the teacher-led small group station. This group is so independent that they are able to basically teach themselves and rarely have questions. This really frees up time for me to guide the other students who need more support. (BONUS: Recording on the iPad allows me to rehearse my lesson each day as well).

Math Facts — After finishing the practice sheet, students get a Kindle Fire with a partner and practice their math facts using one of several apps. I’ve found that students enjoyed this practice much more than the paper flash cards. The below grade level group starts at this center because they need the most practice in their math facts. When the on-grade-level and advanced groups finish with their practice center, they also get a Kindle and begin the math facts center immediately.

Adaptive Computer Program — Next, students make their way to the adaptive computer program. Last year, I was only given 5 licenses for the paid site Dreambox. So while some students used that, others were on free sites like Frontrow, Moby Max, and Sumdog. These are all adaptive programs that provide students practice at their individual level. Students who are advanced have accounts on Khan Academy where they guide their own learning of math concepts above grade level. Luckily this year we will have one program (iReady) for all students so this will be a much easier to manage.

Ultimately, we look forward to math more and no one gets lost or left behind since we switched to this model. It would be very difficult for me to go back to traditional whole group teaching. If you have any questions about this model or my implementation, feel free to ask them below!

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2 thoughts on “Math station rotation centers explained

    1. Hey there! Since we didn’t really have a math diagnostic, I taught the first unit on place value whole group and then used the summative results to group the students (paying attention to what exactly they did and did not know… not just the score alone). I graded each problem on the summative on a 1-4 Marzano scale instead of straight points, which really helped me see exactly where they were. The groups were definitely flexible and I usually regrouped after each summative. If I saw a student really struggling with a concept mid-unit based on formative assessments, I would also put them in a different group so the pace would not be so fast. Hope this helps! 🙂

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