Saving My Sanity AND Math Stations!

I'm going to break some news to you.  Are you ready for it???

Life isn't always rainbows and unicorns in my classroom.

Shocked??!!  I know it's hard to believe, but my students... they aren't perfect.  As much as I try...I'm not perfect.  Sometimes I like to think I live in a perfect world, but in reality, I don't.  I have to restructure and change things up quite often.  I am not someone who keeps on doing something even if it's not working.  I'll pull the plug on a lesson, routine, or activity in a heartbeat if I don't think it's best for my kiddos.  Last week I really wanted to throw in the towel with math stations.  My kids weren't working to their potential, our focus was gone, and we weren't accomplishing much.  However, I truly do believe in math stations, so I thought I would try a few things before I pulled the plug completely.

First of all, I changed up the math station focus for the next two weeks.  Normally, I'll have a wide variety of skills going on... comparing numbers, fact fluency, graphing, skip counting, shapes, time, money, etc.  But, I wanted MOST of my stations to focus on regrouping.  I did throw in two other concepts just so my students wouldn't get bored.  So, here's what my stations are for the week:
 On the iPads my students can choose from the following games:
Now, let's talk about how I am motivating my students to finish their first job.  This was the main problem after Christmas break.  They were playing so much that they weren't completing their work.  Or, I would have 1-2 sets of partners that finished super fast, while the others just stared aimlessly around the room.  So, I came up with a little motivation chart.

This chart is NOT fancy by any means... it doesn't even have clipart on it... say what??!!  Sometimes life gets busy and I don't even have time to make things cute #truth #sadday.  I made a quick chart that listed our 9 stations... 6 of which are math tubs, 2 rotations visit the iPad, and 1 rotation visits my Smart Board.  I stapled these charts to the front cover of their math spirals.  When they are at stations, the charts are sitting on their desks.  I don't give a stamp/sticker/check mark until the very end of our math station block.  So, they have to complete their math station (or at least work the entire time), stay focused, and clean up all without me having to give even a warning.  Once we have completed this set of math station rotations, I will do an extra recess for the kids that have 9 happy boxes!!  Today I had 2 students that didn't earn a stamp, so they will get time deducted from the extra recess.  This may sound harsh, but as I learned at RCA... not everybody gets a cookie!  You have to EARN rewards!!
I also changed up my early finisher activities.  Students who finish early can go to to play math games, or they can pick from a variety of QR code cards.  I found this GREAT TpT seller (Kristin Kennedy) who has tons of QR activities to choose from.  They are a little more motivating since the students get to scan the cards!  I only have 2 computers, so once those are taken the other students have to choose from a different activity.  Oh, and I let my students use my cell phone to scan the QR codes since my iPads are being used at the time.

It probably seems complicated, but let me break it down...
1.  The stations have a more focused skill
2.  Students have a chart to earn extra recess
3.  Students can choose from more engaging activities once they are done when their initial station

Also,  I use Smart Pals and Expo markers for the recording sheets.  I do NOT make copies for individual student use.  It was just such a waste of paper for me, especially since I don't take grades on math stations.  AND, my students work in partners to complete the station.  They work together, write together, and are both responsible for the learning.  Since my kids are constantly working in partners, it just makes sense to transfer that into my math station block :)

So, there's hope.  Math stations went 100 times better today.  Sometimes we just have to monitor and adjust when necessary!


Bethany Seitz said...

I just came home from a rough day at work and this was the first thing I read. Thanks for being honest and sharing how it really is. This definitely encourages me to keep reworking things until I find what fits for my class. Hope this keeps working for you! :)

anedz said...

As you mentioned having more focused stations, I encourage you to check out Front Row for math support after finishing a station. My students are in love with it, always begging for more... and it's Common Core aligned test prep! I get so much data on student progress and students are always on task.

Miss Kindergarten said...

OMG, I wanted to kill myself during centers 2 weeks ago ;) I realized I had to switch them up a little and good as new! I'm glad you found something to help keep your sanity!

Kattreena said...

Thank you so much! Math Stations have been a bit of a pain lately.. I don't have early finisher activities, which is probably one of my problems, but our stations only last about 25 minutes at the most. I created a chart similar to yours and if my kiddos end the week with 5 stars, they will earn 5 minutes of free time on Friday! :) Hoping this helps with behavior issues I've been having! Thanks for the great idea! :)

Jaymee Laymance said...

Love your honesty! Thanks for keeping it real. :)

Lori said...

I needed to read this today! Usually it gets easier after Christmas, but this year my kiddos have been awful! Thank you for sharing this idea and for the reminder to switch things up.

Mrs. Lymari DLT said...

Hi, I do math stations in my second grade class too. :). We only have two choices. Math games and computers. We do a school program called I-ready, and a game for the week. We have three rotations, teacher, computer and seat work - which is whatever we went through at my center. It works wonderfully and I will never go back to teaching math as a whole group again. Good luck with your new activities :) .

The Lemonade Stand said...

Great post! I think we all go through those same problems. Your chart is a great idea for keeping them accountable!