Using spiral review math stations in upper elementary is both a data-driven and engaging way to review grade-level content and skills. In today’s post, I share how I use math stations to reinforce a year’s worth of content as I prepare for our state math assessment.
It’s the second semester of the school year and every time I open my lesson plan book, that big red circle on my calendar sends blinding flashes to my eyes.
It gives me a headache every time I think about it– it’s like a big roadblock saying, “Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.”
It’s impossible to think about making it to summer without thinking about THIS day.
I know my principal expects results.
And, with this group of students, I’ve really got my work cut out for me.
I know I need a plan . . . and fast!
The throbbing of my head forced me to turn the page.
I found my plans for the day and decide I’ll think about it again tomorrow.
What is a Spiral Review
A spiral review is a tool we used to review content standards throughout the school year. Sometimes, teachers accomplish this through the use of morning work or a specific set of math warm-ups or bell ringers.
However, have you ever considered using math stations as a spiral review to help prepare your students for those big, end-of-the-year assessments?
How to Create Spiral Review Math Stations
First, I give some sort of practice test early in the second semester. Then, after students have completed the test, I analyze the results for trends. I then divide the standards into categories and use the following colors to analyze my data:
- blue highlighter to highlight skills to which more than 90% of my students responded correctly.
- green highlighter to highlight skills to which 81% – 90% of my students responded correctly.
- yellow highlighter to highlight skills to which 71% – 80% of my students responded correctly.
- orange highlighter to highlight skills to which 50% – 70% of my students responded correctly.
- red highlighter to highlight skills to which less than 50% of my students responded correctly.
Want to see a video demonstration of this process? Check out this blog post!
Plan and Create the Review
I then begin scheduling math station rotations to include the standards on which my students need to work. Generally, I focus on the standards highlighted in yellow and orange, but I also try to weave in the green and blue highlighted skills as time allows.
For example, a four-station rotation may include one yellow and two orange stations, as well as, one blue or green station. For the red-highlighted skills, I typically do a classwide reteach session with follow-up activities. Or, if I am short on time, I re-teach the content through my teacher station.
I like to use a four- or five-station rotation system to complete one station rotation per week. This way, I can still move forward with the content I still need to teach or I can use my math lesson time to re-teach the standards my students are still struggling to master.
Here’s how I create my spiral review station rotation.
1. Create a Plan
The first action item is to take my test data and decide which standards need to be reviewed. I sometimes map out the standards on a calendar to decide on what I will focus each week. After I’ve selected the standards to review and mapped out a plan to review them, I move to the next action item.
2. Decide on a Structure to Use
Since the purpose of these rotations is for spiral review, I like to use a four- or five-station rotation– one 20-minute rotation each day of the week for four or five days to provide practice and intervention.
Why a four-day rotation? Our weeks are busy and I sometimes need a day for another required task, so a four-day rotation prevents me from not finishing the rotation or needing to continue it the next week.
If I end up with an extra day, I use the day to reteach one of the lowest-performing standards.
3. Choose Resources
The next action item is to choose resources. I use my math standards and performance data to determine a resource for each station during each rotation.
This is where I scour my closet and file cabinet looking for resources to use, including the resources I used during each unit to fill my math station buckets as I sometimes use a learning activity I used to teach the skill originally.
Depending on how students responded to the questions I used to assess the standard, I may select a new activity to allow the students an opportunity to experience the skill in a different way.
4. Prepare the Resources
Next, I prepare any materials needed for my station rotations. I use the plan I created to go down the list and prepare each resource. (Yes! This task is lengthy but will pay-off in the long run.)
While I am preparing my resources, I create station task directions to guide the students and gather game boards, activity/task cards, and recording sheets.
I also want to gather any picture books, activity books, manipulatives, or other essentials.
5. Make a Plan for the Logistics
Finally, I iron out some important details, such as the location of storage containers, rotation order, student groups, and tub components.
Location of the Storage Containers
This is the time to think through where to house the storage baskets. I like to store mine on top of the cubby area or on a counter; however, when space is limited, I have been known to just stack them in a corner.
Because I label and/or color-code my tubs, the students know how to just grab them and place them on the desired table.
Determining the rotation order is essential to helping math stations run more smoothly. I like to post a rotation board to help students know where to go next– it’s super helpful when a rotation spans a few days and students forget where to go next.
Like the rotation board, it’s helpful to post something so that students know what group they are assigned to. This is helpful for absent students and also the forgetful ones. I typically post my groups right next to my rotation board so that students only have to refer to one place for the necessary information.
Depending on how my students performed, I may create groups based on what individual students need. For example, I may divide students into groups based on the re-teach activity I plan to do with each group– which will differ based on their performance data.
This refers to the general items needed for each tub. For example, each tub needs a set of task directions.
Teacher Tip: I like to copy the task sheet on colored paper so that it stands out among the other materials. Even better, when I am using different-colored station baskets, I copy the task sheet on the same color paper as the basket. I know– I’m completely over the top!)
Other items I include in my station tubs include scratch paper, extra pencils, or dry-erase materials.
Watch Them Go!
With an organized system for reviewing my students’ needs, I don’t cringe when I see that red circle announcing the big state math assessment.
In fact, I feel ultra prepared because I know I have a plan that will both respond to the needs of my students and engage them at the same time– using spiral review math stations allows me to do both.
Just getting started with math stations? Download my math stations guide using the form below.
What does your spiral review look like? Respond in the comments below.