Like most of you, I have big classes. It’s usually around 30 kids together at the same time. A lot of activities we do in class require little extra help from me. Reading, writing, and listening can usually be done alone or in a small group. With simple directions and a little trust, students can be just as successful without you. Even the task of coming up with new vocabulary can pretty much be done on their own. Our time, as teachers, can be much better utilized!
Here it is! The teacher’s role is extremely important when it comes to modeling the language and providing feedback to students. This is the reason I started using stations. While the majority of students are working together in other stations, one group is right in front of me. It’s just us for ten full minutes. Students are much more likely to participate in a conversation in the TL and take language risks in this smaller setting. I would have never learned Spanish without the 1 on 1 practice I had while studying abroad and some of our students won’t without this special attention either. I usually leave a question written at the table for the group to think about when they first come to me. I give them a minute to prepare what they want to say, while I walk the room and see that the other students get started in their new station. When I get back, we just chat. I start with yes/no questions and work my way to their opinions. To motivate my level one students, I’ll give the group a piece of candy if we all stay in Spanish.
Other times, I’ll use this time to give my students feedback. I don’t teach a lot of grammar during class but find this station gives me time to teach students what they need to know. After a written assessment, I can group students that can benefit from the same feedback. I suggest one way to improve (word order, noun adjective agreement) and let them go through their assessment and self-correct. I answer questions, they talk about how they can improve on their next assessment, and we celebrate success! It’s great!
Both of these activities were stressful to me as a teacher when I was dealing with the whole group. Nothing is more frustrating that trying to get the whole class involved in a group conversation. Some are bored, others are confused, and some want to translate it all. Giving feedback used to be a race – I knew I was limited on time and I was always rushing to get to the next student. Stations give me that personal time with each kid that helps me do what really helps them the most.
I love this! What other things are the students doing that aren’t in your conversation station? The other centers you’ve been talking about?
Yes, they’re at the reading, writing, listening, game, or hands-on station. All of the station activities are things I used to do in class as a group. It’s hard to give up control of knowing exactly what’s going on every minute but it’s worth it! Someone wise once told me, the more control you give up, the more you are actually gaining.
I’ve never set up stations. The thought had never occurred to me! Genius!! I will be doing this very soon, thank you!
How often do you do stations? How much before time in getting students ready when starting a new unit.
I use 1 a week with a new class, but after a few weeks, it’s more like 2-3 days per week. We usually learn something new on Monday – and then have mini lessons the first half of class Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The 2nd half of class those days is spent learning NEW skills that connect directly to the new topic. I only have them learning things that they need to know to complete a unit objective. If they know each station is part of something bigger, they are more focused. This is going to be my next post so I’ll explain more of my experiences, but hopefully that starts to answer your question.
Very cool! How often do you do centers?
Usually 2 full days or 3 half days, depends on the topic and how much input they might need from me. My more motivated students are most successful with this – but the ones who are shy and won’t join in class usually learn more too!
Can you share other ideas of exactly how you set up the centers? Do you use recorders or do you have a student read to the other students? Trying to think this through in my head. Thanks!
I’ll post something soon with more set-up specific information. Each station has a specific purpose and I have a simple form/task for them to do before they leave. It’s their “proof” that they learned something!
We did centers today for the first time this year, and I remember both why I love them AND how much work they are to get going the first time. However, the outcome is worth the trouble!
Here were stations that we did do:
*Edit/revise composition from last week after receiving feedback from me
*subject pronoun review, leading to a reading activity
*Ipad: quizlet practice and review
*Jenga vocab (Thanks for the idea Kara and Megan!)
*Reading comprehension with flyers from events in Spain, Panama, & Mexico
*Read short story, answered personalized questions
Stations that I considered doing today, but that didn’t make the cut for one reason or another:
*listening activities on iPad
*cultural stuff on iPad
*stamps (Thanks again Kara and Megan!)
Station that we did today and flopped even though I really thought it would work:
Roll big foam dice labeled with free time activities, then use those activities to create sentences telling how much they liked one activity compared to the other. I swear that there are classes who would eat this up… but not this one! So we abandoned it midway through and did two iPad stations.
My goal for this class (Spanish 2) is that we will do these about once every 10 days.
Wow, impressive! We don’t have iPads. We do have the SMARTBoard that could be incorporated for one of the stations, for sure. Thank you for the great ideas, you have gotten my creative juices flowing! As you can tell, I am a newbie, and plan to read through the blog more. I only teach level 2 this year so this is the year to get some awesome ideas put in place. Thanks again!
I left copies of model scripts at the recording station, an iPad open to the free sock puppets and the laptop open to photo booth. I got back 8 charming puppet shows from 5 groups, and only 3 f2f videos. As a group, these students are more ready for the proficiency assessment than any group I have ever had! They keep bugging me “I am ready–are we having a test soon?” This has never happened before!
I am working on locations of countries, so I made a board game with simple clues like “This South American country has coast on both the Pacific and Atlantic” (Answer: Colombia). They had to use a map a lot to figure out the questions.
They LOVED your spoons game–I showed a 15 second you tube clip of how the game works and they totally got the idea. Best way ever to get them to practice subject pronouns! (one card says yo, another card says I and the last card has a drawing of a stickman pointing to himself. Great hint that students should first lay out all the cards as matched sets and then play.
I even have students begging to go “do their homework” during their lunch. They are excited to speak to teachers and other students in Spanish. Thank you for Real World homework–best $4 I ever spent!!!!!! Can’t wait to see the flags made out of non-traditional art supplies next week–no markers, crayons, paints or paper allowed.
Sounds like a very successful class! Motivated and excited students are so fun to teach! Glad to hear things are going well 🙂
Sounds like a great idea! Could you share where you purchased the Real World Homework?