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So, you’ve been thinking about trying out stations in your middle school math classroom. There’s a lot to learn for sure, but once you get them situated and they become part of your classroom routine, the possibilities and benefits are endless.
As with any new idea or concept, there is a little bit of a learning curve. Stations are not something you can “print and go” the first time and have them go smoothly. They require a little bit of prep work. Here are three rookie mistakes you may find yourself getting ready to make when getting started with stations.
- Not prepping your class. So, you’ve prepped yourself – read up on stations and have everything copied, labeled, set up and ready to go. You get super excited to share this new idea with your students – give a few directions and send them off. You anticipate great things – collaboration, movement, lots of “a ha” moments. Instead, you get confusion, chaos, lots of questions and blank stares. Your students need to be prepped just as much as the stations themselves. If you have never done stations before, you’ll need to start from scratch. Explain what you are doing, why you are doing it and how it is going to work. This should be done BEFORE the station activity is scheduled to being. Preferably, the day before – or even weeks before. You can easily ease your students into stations during back to school by setting up some “review centers” or “get to know me” around the room and have them move around and review old skills or get to know one another. Think of stations as another classroom procedure. Practice makes perfect.
- Using stations as “busy work”. Stations have SO much value. They shouldn’t be used as busy work – something for a substitute (oh please don’t do that) or something for the students to do while you catch up on grading. If stations are used incorrectly once, your students will probably hate them. They are smart and they know when they are doing something that has real educational value. By seeing you up and moving around the room, encouraging discussions and asking questions – they’ll get the hint that this is not just another worksheet or activity. If you make stations seem valuable, your students will see them the same way.
- Using stations ALL the time. Let’s be honest. When we find something that works, we want to use it all the time. Your students however, probably don’t feel the same way. Stations are most effective when used sporadically. If you use them daily – they’ll become “just another thing” your students do. If you want stations to be something your students enjoy and really get something out of – use them occasionally. Maybe once or twice a unit.
My best advice is to (1) don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and give stations a go but (2) don’t overuse them and (3) don’t quit if they don’t work flawlessly the first time around! If you would like to try out a set of ready to go, low prep stations, grab one from my store and let me know how it works out!