Every teacher faces different challenges when setting up stations. I love any challenge because it causes me to be more creative. Here are a few I’ve experienced and how I overcame them.
CART TEACHER, NO CLASSROOM
For two years I invaded a different classroom for each class. I did not have the chance to set up stations, but I still wanted to do them. Basically you need a way to contain and organize the stations. One time I used colored bags to contain the directions and supplies for each station. You could also use buckets, crates, boxes, coffee cans, etc.
I have a pretty small room right now. I have found the walls to be very useful to set up semi-permanent stations. I put a mini cork board up next to designated areas (reading by the bookshelf, listening by the computer, create by the prop box and art supplies, writing by the magnetic letter board, speaking by the bucket o’ questions, play by the iPads and games, etc.). Then I can pin the directions on the board. They move their desks to that area when I ask them or they just take the supplies back to their tables.
Before the iPads, I only had one computer (my school issued laptop). I turned my teacher desk around so students could sit at my desk and use my computer. It’s technically the school’s, not mine. Of course I close any sensitive documents and log on as a generic user. Before my flip cameras, I got permission from my administrators for students to bring in their own cameras or phones. Also try borrowing from other teachers. The beauty of stations is that you don’t need many. This is a pre-setup day photo of my turned desk:
The ideal station activity is one where they all have to work together to complete a task. So they have one reading and they have different roles (one note taker, two readers, one question-asker, one predictor, one artist, etc.). I have found that if I use my lesson plan template, I just make each box a station. I think stations are great for learning because of the small groups. After your students are use to the stations, try adding one station where they sit with you to talk and ask questions. This can also be the time to give them feedback about their performance on an assessment.
SO MANY STUDENTS
This is a reality of many classes. Sometimes I would double the stations (make two stations for each task) so I could make the groups smaller and not have to create 10 different stations. This also allowed some to move on if they were finished early.
Students need to have time to work in the station, but not too much to get off task. I found that creating the double stations solved this the best. Also I have done the same stations for 2 days in a row. We do our quick warm-up and video, and then they go to a station. Next day, same thing but they go to one they did not do previously. Easy lesson planning there! Just keep them moving and use the class time efficiently.
TOO MUCH TO GRADE
Now I have 100+ papers to grade! Not happening! I walk around and make notes on my clipboard. That seems to keep them on task a little more and I have annotated records for parents if needed. Most importantly, there is a performance-based goal behind every station. They are learning or practicing something new that I can assess at the end of class. If the stations are only reviewing, there is not a reason to do them because they already know how to do it. This is another reason that the lesson plan helps me keep my stations focused on the goal.
What other issues have you encountered with stations? How can we overcome them?