Education Technology

Going Back to School With Stations

Posted 08/20/2021 by Jamie Miller (@jamiemillermath) (in partnership with @TICalculators)

At the middle school and secondary levels, the first day of school typically consists of teachers introducing themselves, going over the syllabus and students completing get-to-know-you activities or ice breakers. I’ll admit, I have also used a similar format until I realized that this doesn’t show my incoming students what our classroom will look like, sound like and feel like throughout the school year.

Utilizing stations the first week of school sets the tone for the school year. It shows your students that your classroom will be filled with student voice, collaboration, engagement and movement. Stations are also a great way for students to get to know one another in a smaller and more comfortable setting and for teachers to learn about their new students. As students work through stations, you will typically find me walking around, engaging with students and learning their names.

Below are some station ideas for the first week of school.

“Student Survey” station
Learn about your students’ interests, hobbies, learning styles, etc. with the student survey. This survey is available in paper or digital format and serves as a great tool for relationship and community building, allowing teachers to refer to the information throughout the school year and connect with their students.

Digital version of the student survey
Digital version of the student survey.

“All About Expectations” station
Students create five class expectations they have of their classmates, themselves and their teacher(s). You can then use this activity to generate a whole-group discussion where you come up with norms in regards to expected behaviors, ensuring a collaborative and respectful classroom.

Example of a classroom expectation
Example of a classroom expectation.

“Graphing Calculator Scavenger Hunt” station
Students work through a scavenger hunt as they learn the basic features of the TI-84 Plus CE Python graphing calculator. The scavenger hunt serves as an excellent tool for students to reference throughout the year.

Scavenger hunt for the TI-84 Plus CE Python
Scavenger hunt for the TI-84 Plus CE Python.

“Syllabus Quiz” station
Students explore the class syllabus, and discover classroom procedures, routines, etc. Students will then complete a Google form quiz to demonstrate that they understand the syllabus, procedures, routines, etc. Finally, students will sign and return the form for homework.

Syllabus quiz
Syllabus quiz.

“Birthday Coding Fun” station
Students will learn the basics of coding on the TI-84 Plus CE Python graphing calculator as they create a program that will enable a classmate to guess their birthdate.

Sample of the birthdate coding program
Sample of the birthdate coding program.

Grab the station activities here.

By starting the year off with station activities, you can set the stage for the rest of the school year. As mentioned earlier, stations can also be used to form class norms, meaning what behaviors we want to see and what we want students to do in our classrooms. You can use class norms to guide learning and exploring.

As students work through station activities, I snap pictures of individuals and partners or groups working well together, write down quotes that I hear (students helping one another, encouraging one another, etc.), and I also write down things that I like (volume level, proximity when working together, eye contact, etc.). At the end of the class period, I have students brainstorm the question: “What does station work in math class look like and sound like?” We think about and discuss what we like to see or hear in station work and what we don’t like to see or hear in station work. We use our reflection and discussion to create an anchor chart that has our group norms and is constantly referenced throughout the year.

Want to learn more about creating class norms? Check out this blog post.

In conclusion, utilizing stations the first week of school sets the tone for the school year, especially if you use learning centers or stations routinely. And, establishing class norms allows you to build relationships and a strong classroom community. Wishing you all a wonderful school year!

About the author: Jamie Miller has taught grades three through seven, but seventh grade math might just be her favorite. She is passionate about using a math workshop model to individualize instruction and reach all learners, and she promotes a positive learning environment while encouraging students to actively engage in their learning. Miller is the creator of Jamie Miller Math, which provides teachers with fun and engaging resources for middle school math teachers. Check out her website, Jamie Miller Math – Fun and Engaging Activities for Middle School Math, or follow her on Instagram @jamiemillermath.