Solving Station Issues

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.

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Here I made little signs that were quick to put on the tables when I walked in.

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SMALL ROOM
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.

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LIMITED TECHNOLOGY
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:

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FINDING ACTIVITIES
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.

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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.

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LIMITED TIME
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.

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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.

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What other issues have you encountered with stations? How can we overcome them?

Want to read more about stations??

22 comments

  1. Sarah

    I use stations all the time but don’t generally assess them. Can we get a better look at your performance rubric you showed here?

    • Kara

      There is a post called “Grading with a proficiency rubric” that will explain everything and it has a link to download one.

  2. Abby Holland

    Sounds awesome and I’m excited to try it. Could you give some specific examples of tasks you give students to complete at the stations? That would help me envision more how I could put this into practice!

      • mary

        I love having a Jenga station. Students choose from a laminated list of 50 questions specific to Spanish 1 or 2. Each block has a number from 1-50 written in permanent marker. After stacking the blocks, students take turns selecting (from at least 5 layers down) and answering the corresponding question in Spanish before balancing it on the top. Lots of fun!

  3. Megan

    I was contemplating how I was going to fit stations into my timeline, and came to a solution, I think. 🙂 I am going to use stations the day before a test as a review, and I am going to combine them with your idea of the “stamp” sheet. One station will be speaking with me, and as they complete their speaking goals, they will get their sticker! Going to try this out next chapter – can’t wait to see how it works!

  4. I love these ideas! I have been doing stations for the past 2 years and have come to a few conclusions…. 1. It is easier (for me/students) if the stations can move rather than the students, although that is rare. 2. I need new activities, as I was mainly doing vocabulary review & sentence translations & the stronger students were the ones who were doing the work. 3. The students really enjoy working in the stations but tend to get off task if the groups are too big or if there is too much time at one station. Many students finish the task quickly, or some don’t work on it at all. I look forward to the rest of the posts on stations & have found your blog to be extremely helpful! Thank you =)

  5. Kara,
    I like your idea of using 2 of each station…our periods are only 42 minutes and my classes are big this year…it’s a perfect solution!

    One station that I like to incorporate (and that is minimal work for me!) is a flashcard station. I make a stack of flashcards (vocab or even conjugation cards, if you’re working on a specific tense). Or you can even assign flashcards as their homework the night before, and then you don’t have to make them yourself 😉 When the kids are grouped, one student is the “quizzer” and the others race to get the correct answer. They love the competition 😉

  6. Stephanie

    Hi! Wanted to know what grade that student gets on the pic of the assessment paper you have posted in this above? Would that student receive something like a 3.5 because of the two marks on the “A” column and two marks on the “B” column?

    • Kara

      I’d give them the highest B+ that I could. Or you could give them an A- I’ve hear of other teachers that would give the a B until they get all in the next level (so no inbetween grades). I like to reward any progress that they make.

    • Kara

      I don’t because I think the students would get tired of doing the same thing at each one. Also stations is a good way to teach to their unique learning styles and strengths.

  7. senorita13

    I found this site by accident and I am hooked. I check back periodically and have used several ideas. Thanks for sharing. I am coming to the end of the year and I am thinking about the stations set up as an assessment project. Thanks for the great ideas

  8. Chelsie

    I am a first year Spanish and ESOL teacher and I LOVE this blog! How often does your class use stations? Do you have designated days each week to utilize stations, or it is something you do daily?

    • Kara

      I do them almost every week whenever they work in the plans. I like to always have a few ready to go in case I need to change up plans (someone finishes early, plan was short, etc).

  9. Kristie

    I love this blog! Wonderful ideas from both Kara and Megan!

    My question is: how do you manage when certain students finish more quickly than others? Or one station is finished and the others need more time?

    I was thinking of having an anchor activity. I would tell the students at the beginning that if they finished a task early, they were to work quietly on the anchor activity. The anchor activity could be anything–a crossword puzzle that they carry from station to station, a wordsearch….
    it would have to be something that you could pick up right where you left off. I don’t think a writin activity would work because if you’re interrupted then you would lose your train of thought.
    My students (9th and 10th graders) love wordsearches and crossword puzzles.

    I LOVE the idea of stations but I get frustrated with students who are prone to getting off-task. Constant supervision of certain students who frequently misbehave is very tiring for me.

    Thoughts?

    • Kara

      Thanks for the feedback Kristine! Here are my best suggestions, but I think your issues are something that is normal. I’ve found that the more I do stations, the better they handle them. Do you have a related assessment before they leave class that is based on what they learn from the stations? That may help with focus. They have to know that there is a reason for what they are doing. Also observe which stations they are more likely to get off-task. Could that one be altered? Do they have to go to all of them?
      After mine got use to stations, I quit timing them. As soon as they finish one, they moved on to the next one. That helped with the “quick” students. The anchor activity MAY become busy work to some. I also try to overplan and have extra stations. This sounds like a lot of work, but becomes pretty easy the more you do it. Hope this helps!

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