If you are not using learning stations in your classroom, you are really missing out! Whenever I used stations, I was always beyond pleased with the outcome. Student engagement was up, and I was able to help my more introverted students who would not ask for help in the bigger group setting. Once I saw how well the stations worked, I used them all the time, especially in preparation for state testing.
Things to Consider
Before setting up my stations and re-arranging the class, I always asked myself a few questions:
- Were students all completing the same activity, but with varying levels of rigor?
- Did I want several different activities happening at once? Would students rotate through stations and complete different tasks at each?
- Did I need a station where I worked with small groups of students, or were all stations for students to work independently with my rotating support?
After answering those questions, I was ready to plan the lesson(s). Depending on the goal, there were a few ways to arrange the class:
Using this method, direct instruction was more beneficial because it was like teaching a class with a smaller student-teacher ratio, and we know how amazing that can be for teachers and students.
Another option was to eliminate the direct instruction, and place everyone in small groups with different activities like below.
Students would get a certain amount of time at each station and rotate when the timer went off. Could I have just given students different assignments when the timer went off… yes, but it would not have been nearly as effective. Because students were allowed to get up and move, it helped them mentally prepare to do something different. There was a moment for socialization and interaction with people outside of their groups, and, for those students who may not have been interested in the current station, there was a possibility that they were moving to a station with something that interested them.
The last way I grouped students was by ability:
I know, I know. Hold your horses. This worked out VERY well. By giving students the same assignment with varying levels of rigor, I was able to challenge my advanced students (you know, the ones everyone seems to forget about), push my proficient students, and work closely with my approaching and struggling students. I even had a special lesson plan to help me plan the differentiation. You can download that lesson plan for free here.
With a rolling chair, I would move between the two back groups and support students through their activities. If I had done it correctly, when I gave a formative assessment, everyone would do better on the skill, regardless of original proficiency level.
The Moral of the Story
If you are not using student learning stations, I encourage you to give them a try. Then, come back and tell us how they went in the comments.