Tuesday, September 20, 2016

I'm back!

I haven't written a post in quite awhile. Sorry about that. Life happens. One of my professional goals this year is to work on my writing. That includes this blog, my class blog (weareshiningstars.edublogs.org), and writing presentations and proposals for conferences at all levels. I've also taken on some new leadership roles this year, so hopefully I can stick with it!

I changed schools over the summer and my new school uses Engage NY. It's an interesting program that I haven't worked with before. I talked with my new principal about continuing with my math workshop setup (I love my math stations!) within Engage NY. The curriculum is not set up that way at all, but she has given me a lot of freedom to make adjustments and fit what I need. As long as my data shows that students are learning and mastering math skills, I can keep the stations going. Yay!

My plan for this blog is to keep writing about the stations and what we're working on. I'll even share my class data with you - without student names of course. But if I have something else come up that I want to talk about, I might take a break from stations.

I'll use the rest of this post to talk about how to get math stations going at the beginning of the year in a kindergarten classroom. It is a management nightmare! Those sweet little babies walk in at the beginning of the year with nothing. I'm not exaggerating when I say that we spend the first day working on how to sit in a chair and how to zip a backpack. Every tiny detail has to be taught and practiced. So it is very important for you as a teacher to plan out those details. How will students know which center to go to? Will they choose? Will it be assigned? How will you know who has been to which center? How will you keep track of student progress in centers? How will you store all of the materials? Where in the room will centers be located? How many kids can go to each center? Will you grade center work? How? How long will each center be available? Will students do one center per class period or multiple? How will they switch?

The answers to those questions will be different in each classroom, in each unit, and in each season of the year. Kindergartners in August need much more structure and direction than they will in April. The structure that works in my classroom may not fit in my partner teacher's room. There is more accountability in a numbers unit than in a shapes unit. All of those variables will impact the appearance and organization of your stations.

Our very first math stations had little academic focus. I chose to locate the stations at our tables, which limits me to four stations. That means my groups are kind of big, so that may change as the year goes on. I gave each table a bucket of different manipulatives we will be using this year (dominoes, counting bears, pattern blocks, linking cubes, 3D shapes, etc) and I gave them time to explore the manipulatives. I never tell them to play, they lose focus of the importance of their work. Saying explore makes them feel like it is more official. Then, we practiced our signal for cleaning up. Because I wanted them to have lots of practice cleaning up, we rotated two or three times in each session. This let me teach the structure and routine of math stations without worrying about content mastery.

Since then we have been working on counting- lots and lots and lots of counting! Next week I'll talk about some of my counting stations and show you some pictures.