Friday, January 1, 2010

Making Workstations Work

If someone gives me directions to drive somewhere and I'm listening or they are written down-I may be able to find that location ( I am somewhat directionally challenged). But after I do it once, I can find it again and again. I believe kids learn the same way, especially young kids-by doing, discovering, experimenting. I have a set of soft blocks in my room and several kids who turned into amateur scientists making ramps to make the round one roll down. This interest came naturally to them and I used that interest to spark a lesson on ramps and speed. They discovered for themselves those theories and know now them.

Many teachers out there do not agree with workstations. Some have tried them once and they didn't work. Others view them as being too time-consuming to make. As I take some time this vacation to work on some new ideas for workstations I wanted to share some ideas.

First of all, be creative. I've been reading a lot lately about the use of games in the classroom and how it is beneficial not only to critical thinking skills but also interest in learning. Now I'm not talking about having the kids play tag or checkers (although I do think there is a place for that). I make workstations from gameboards and turn them into an objective we are learning. Recently I found an Indiana Jones Life game on sale at Target and my friend made fun of me for buying it (what, you have a thing for Harrison Ford?). But the gameboard not only had blank spaces, it had a built in sturdy spinner and a rugged terrain for its theme. I knew I could turn this into a workstation for reading.

The pictures are not entirely clear-but the Candyland game has blends written on it and the cards have pictures of things that begin with those blends. They draw the card "sheep" they move to the "sh" space. The other one is a picnic basket with foods that normally belonged in our kitchen center. The kids matched the foods to the proper plate with the word that corresponds. They pick up corn and match it to the plate that says "corn".

I will add more as the year goes on but these are just 2 examples of easy-to-make, easy to implement, fun workstations that believe it or not do advance their reading skills. Workstations are important not only to be able to differentiate for students on different levels, but to make that learning exciting for them.

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