Stations are one of my favorite things to do in class, and I try to incorporate them at least once every other chapter. They’re a great tool to use, keep students moving, and provide a lot of opportunities to practice! However, if you’re not careful, stations can easily become a logistical nightmare. Here are some of the things I have learned over the past few years that have made implementing stations way easier than what I was doing before:
One Sheet Station Tracking
Give students one sheet to record and complete from station to station. Previously, I was copying and cutting out little things for each station to “save paper” and I was wasting!my!time! gasp! Students had to carry around all of the slips and I had to make them all and UGH. (and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t actually less paper in the long run. sigh). Make ONE sheet for students to record things on. Lately mine have looked something like this:
The tracking sheets vary depending on each station, but there’s space to record for each activity, as well as a space for the student to record a reflection after the stations are finished!
Double Loop Your Stations
One of the things I would always get hung up on was the need to make enough stations to split my classes up into manageable groups that would allow them to focus. I always need like 7-8 stations to have reasonable (3-4 kids) group sizes! That’s a LOT OF activities to prep. Rosalyn Rhodes posted about doing FOUR stations, and running two circuits simultaneously. WHAT. MIND BLOWING BRILLIANCE. I designate my kids into BLUE or WHITE stations (or whatever colors of paper I have on hand) and remind them when they rotate to stay in their colors. Half my class is blue, half is white, and now I only need to come up with four activities! (Bonus- four is a magical number that allows me to designate one station each to reading, writing, speaking, and listening activities. LOVE).
PS. Doing 4 stations allows this to be a single day event. 7-8 stations are either REALLY fast rotations or it becomes a multi-day affair.
Objective Sheets at Stations
Each station has one sheet with the Skill, Goal, Directions, and Technology Guide. The very first job when they get to a new station is to read that sheet out loud to their group so everyone knows what’s happening. I try to write the goal as clearly as possible so they know what they’re supposed to practice and what they should get out of their time at that station. The technology guide makes expectations crystal clear. If something is allowed, it is pictured. Check out the example below:
I generally rotate my stations every 7-8 minutes in our 48 minute class period. The expectation is when students rotate they move on from the previous station- even if they didn’t finish! I build in time at the end of the class period for one last rotation. During this last time chunk, students wrap up any activity they need to, complete a station reflection, then turn in their station sheet.
I have them reflect on how well they worked, the 4 skills/learning targets, letting me know how things went in general. The reflections are always really enlightening.They usually wind up telling me they feel it’s a really efficient, effective use of class time that keeps them on task, highlights what they need to work on, and keeps them moving. when THEY say stuff like that? Worth. it.
How do you know what activities to do at each station, and how much time it will take them? Same way you plan in class! You gradually get a feel for how long each practice will take students. Unfortunately, I don’t have a magic trick for this, but I want to encourage you not to be afraid to tweak things! Sometimes I try a station with one hour and it takes them way more or less time than I estimated! Whoops! We just tweak it for the next hour and learn from it.
Additional Resources / Sources of Inspiration
Here are some more links to resources I have found incredibly helpful about stations:
Do you use stations in your classroom? What’s your favorite trick to help them run smoothly? Tell me in the comments!