Friday, September 12, 2014

Getting Started with Math Stations (The Easy Way)

We just wrapped up our first complete rotation of math stations, and I have to say... they were a HIT!  I'll admit, I was hesitant to get started because I have sooooo many students (32!!!) and I couldn't imagine how I could possibly have all of them working on stations around the room at the same time...but I did (and it worked!)  Woo-hoo!

My math block runs from 12:15-1:20, so I like to do our Math Stations for the last 20-25 minutes, after I've taught the lesson for the day and the students have had time to work and practice in pairs or independently.  

At this point in the school year, it's all about rules, routines, and procedures.  Therefore, I tried to keep all of my stations simple enough so that students could work with their groups and feel successful without needing a lot of teacher help.  Also - let's face it... I don't have hours and hours to prepare elaborate activities, so I try to keep everything simple with minimal prep time.

Since I have 32 students, I decided that it would be easier to have them in smaller groups of  4 (most of the math activities I have will work for groups of up to 4 students at a time).  Then, I came up with a list of stations that would require the least amount of prep, yet would still keep students engaged and give them much-needed practice on basic math skills for second grade.  

Here's what I came up with:

#1:  iPad Station:  I recently received 5 iPads to use in the classroom.  I'm a total newbie to iPads, so rather than go crazy with apps, I started with JUST ONE.  Sushi Monster. I want the students to master one app first and then I will add a new one with our next rotation so they can choose from two.  Once that rotation ends, I will add another, etc... until we have a good-sized selection of apps for students to choose from during their iPad station time.  

Description (from iTunes)

Meet Sushi Monster! Scholastic’s new game to practice, reinforce, and extend math fact fluency is completely engaging and appropriately challenging.

Strengthen reasoning strategies for whole number addition and multiplication by helping monsters make a target sum or product. Earn points with each correct answer… but watch out for distractions! To be successful, plan ahead and strategically select numbers from the sushi counter. 
Before I let the students play this app, I showed them how to use it by using my document camera and projector.  I hooked the iPad up to my speakers and did many examples with them together so they could see exactly what to do.  This made it much easier when it was time to finally let them use the iPads all by themselves!  

More math apps on my list to add:  Splash Math, Math Bingo (, Mathmateer

#2. Computer Station:  I can't say enough wonderful things about  This website has so many fabulous resources for students of all levels!  For our computer math station, I let the students play their choice of 3 games:  Marble Math, Subtraction Pop, or Base Ten Bingo!  Like the iPads, I decided to start with just a few games, but I plan to add one or two every few weeks.  

#3:  Math Shelf:  Nothing fancy on this shelf, but the kids love it! At this station, I have several manipulatives / games for students to play with, including building with Legos, Coinstruction, Pattern Blocks, Count Down, and a place value game. 
#4:  Making 10:  This game is SUPER easy to prep, and easy for kids to play.  It's basically just like "Go Fish", except the students have to make "matches of 10" - for example:  7 and 3, 8 and 2, 9 and 1 (Ace), etc...  The prep for this station consisted of me buying two new packs of playing cards and taking out the face cards.  Easy-peasy!  

Students having a blast with Making 10!  

#5:  Countdown:  I have several versions of this game, but the 4-Way Countdown is my favorite.  It's an instant center activity for 4 students!  The students take turns rolling the dice, adding the total, and flipping over the number that matches.  Things get interesting when they have all but a few numbers flipped over. They can also decide to subtract in order to get the correct number.  The winner is the player who flips over all their numbers first!  Super easy and fun.  Kids love it!  I got a great deal on mine on Amazon.  Only $13.95!  4-Way Countdown  (You might notice that I placed my dice in a see-through small plastic container.  It's a great way to keep the students from throwing the dice too far (or at each other), and it keeps them all in once place.  No more searching for dice!)
#6:  Math Activity - Puzzle Station:  I chose a simple, yet challenging 100 piece puzzle that would require the students to work together as a group to put the puzzle pieces together.  This is not only great for critical thinking, it's fantastic for English Language Learners as well!  To keep the puzzle pieces in once place, I brought in a large cookie sheet so that the students can leave the pieces together for the next group.  After Math Station time, I slide the cookie sheet under my math shelf and voila!  No more puzzle mess!  
#7:  Math Activity - Number Order:  I found this great freebie from one of my faves - Amy Lemons! You can grab this activity from her blog here!  I made an easier version of this for my struggling students with number cards 1-30 for them to sort out in order.  You could do this in pairs, but I had all four students work together to put the numbers in order from least to greatest.  After they put the cards in order, they can write the numbers on the answer recording sheet (as seen below).  

#8:  Teacher Group (Race to 100):  Eventually, this last group will be a teacher-led group to reteach concepts that have been taught in class.  However, for the first few rotations, I recommend NOT taking a group, so that you can be available to go from station to station to help students as needed as they get used to the new activities.  I won't feel comfortable taking a teacher-led group until I feel like my students are able to work at their stations independently.

For this first rotation, I used a game called "Race to 100".  For this game, all you will need are:  Base 10 Blocks (10's and 1's), place value mats, and a pair of dice.  

To play:  Students take turns rolling the dice and counting the total.  Then, they count out the same number of base tens or ones from the bag and place them on their mat.  When they have enough ones to "trade", they trade them for a 10.  The first student to reach a total of 100 is the winner! 
That's it!  Super easy, no-fuss math stations.  Can't wait to start another rotation next week!  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

My Latest Project: A Daily 5 Friendly Classroom Library!

I've been wanting to reorganize my classroom library for a few years now, but I just didn't know how to do it.  Should I sort them by level, Lexile, subject, author, or just put them in ABC order?  The idea was overwhelming, so I procrastinated.  I put this project on the back burner until I could figure out a really efficient way to finally get my books organized and easily accessible to my students.

Over the summer, I had some time to research classroom libraries online, and that's when I found this awesome video from the Daily 5 website. Organizing the Classroom Library.  It totally inspired me, so before the school year started (when I had several days with my classroom all to myself), I rolled up my sleeves and got to work!

Here's how the process basically went:

Step 1:  Lay ALL of your books out and sort them by genre / theme.  This took MUCH longer than I originally thought.  (I mean, like several days longer.)  I guess I had a lot more books to sort than I thought, and it takes quite a while to sort them by genre.  To make it easier, each time I thought of a new genre, I attached a post-it in front of each pile with the genre/theme title.  WARNING:  This step of the process is a little bit messy!  (See my classroom below after it looks like it was hit by a tornado of books!)

Step 2:  Make a list of all of the themes/genres and place them in baskets or bins.  My list ended up with almost 20 different themes/genres, but to give you an idea - here's a shortened version:
  • Buddy Books (2 or more copies of each book for partner reading)
  • Animal Books - Fiction
  • Animal Books - Nonfiction
  • Dinosaur Books
  • Froggy Books
  • Berenstain Bears
  • Silly Stories (a mix of silly, funny stories like Mo Willems and David Shannon, etc.)
  • Bug Books
  • Fiction (This is where I put all the fictional books that didn't fit in any other category. LOL)  
  • Chapter Books
  • Easy Chapter Books
  • Henry and Mudge (I had more than 10 books from this collection so I made a new basket for them.)
  • Family Books
  • Folktales
  • Biographies 
  • Clifford Books

Step 3:  Type up your list of genres in Word or Excel and "sort" them in ABC order.  

Animal Books – Fiction

Animal Books – Nonfiction

Berenstain Bears


Buddy Books

Bug Books

Clifford Books

Dinosaur Books


Froggy Books

Henry & Mudge Books

Silly Stories

Step 4:  Place the bins / baskets on the shelves of your library area in order of the most highly used to the least.  For example, I started with "Buddy Books" because it's one of the most popular baskets in my library. It's followed by Berenstain Bears and Clifford Books.  That way, students will be able to find the most popular books easily.  

Step 5:  Once all the baskets are in order the way you want, place numbers on the basket in order. (1,2,3...)

Step 6:  Place the numbers next to the corresponding genre basket/bin title on the list.  This way, students can easily find the book they want in ABC order, and then look at the number next to easily find where it's located.  

Animal Books – Fiction
Animal Books – Nonfiction
Berenstain Bears
Buddy Books
Bug Books
Clifford Books
Dinosaur Books
Froggy Books
Henry & Mudge Books
Silly Stories

Step 7:  Using small labels (you can use your paper cutter to cut regular labels into small sizes) start with the first book bin and give each book a corresponding number sticker in the upper corner so it's easily seen. This part is the most tedious, but will make it much easier for your students to know where the books go after they are done reading.  Book #5 goes into the #5 basket.  Book #2 goes in the #2 basket, and so on.... :)

A closer look at the organizing / labeling process.  Took quite a while, but it was worth it!  

The finished product!  My beautifully organized classroom library!  
My students started using our classroom library last week.  It's been fabulous so far!  They are loving how easy and fun it is to find their own "good fit" books.  My next project:  Implementing the rest of my Daily 5 rotation.  So far we've only made it to "Read to Self" and "Read to Someone".  More to come!