Whether you’re new to math work stations or a veteran, the beginning of the school year is a great time to revisit your work station process. Todd Whitaker (What Great Teachers Do Differently), says that your classroom can either be random or plandom. Which do you think you’d see in a great teacher’s classroom? Exactly.
Debbie Diller and Laney Sammons both stress the importance of setting expectations and teaching routines the first few weeks of school. The time you put into this exercise up front will pay off huge dividends throughout the year and will result in more effective work shop time. Combining the authors’ two lists, here are some routines and procedures you should develop as you plan for implementation. After all, you can’t teach routines and procedures to the kiddos if you haven’t decided what they will be!
- Workstation management, assignments, and locations (where will workstation boxes be kept? how will students know their workstation? where will they work?)
- Transitions (bell, signal, etc.)
- Proper care and use of materials; clean up procedures
- Working with a partner (taking turns, respectful conversation, settling differences, etc.)
- Noise levels
- Movement in the classroom during workshop (can students move around, or do they stay in their workstation area?)
- How to handle problems without disturbing the teacher
- What to do if you finish the activity before time is called
- Handling emergencies (what is considered an emergency? how should they be handled?)
All of these should be mini-lessons the first few weeks with LOTS of modeling and feedback. Because your main focus initially is establishing routines, you want to have some fairly simple work station activities ready to go. While you will have all your work station boxes loaded up the first day you practice work stations, all the boxes can have the same activity and all the groups can be doing the same thing. So you’re teaching a mini-lesson on a routine or procedure, introducing a simple work station activity, and then the kids get a chance to practice the work station routine and actually do the activity. They’re in workshop, but they’re all doing the same activity. Each day, you teach another mini-lesson, introduce another work station, and move into workshop–still all doing the same activity. You’re not pulling small groups to start with–your role is to reinforce the routines and expectations. Gradually, you will have different activities in the boxes and your workshop will be in full swing!
Again, focus on simple work station activities that don’t require a lot of preparation or materials. Here’s one such activity for place value. All you need is a recording sheet for each player, a number cube, and the I Can card. There are 3 versions of the recording sheet for 6-, 9-, and 12-digit numbers. Click here to grab your freebie.