Social Sundays: Using stations in the classroom that incorporate student choice
First I am going to break down the organizational structure and then I'll show you two different examples.
- TOPIC: Choose the topic or focus for the lesson
- DESIGN ACTIVITIES: Develop (or purchase if you don't have time), and set up 3-5 activities related to that topic. An activity station includes:
- Informational text
- Activity directions
- Materials for the activity
- A writing prompt for the end of the activity (easily incorporated in notebooks).
- INTRODUCTION/BACKGROUND (Optional): Depending on your time and previous lessons, you may want to introduce with a brief whole class discussion or activity or have students read or watch a related video the night before.
- STATION INTRODUCTION: Introduce each station briefly - what's the focus and what's the general activity (kinesthetic learners tend to gravitate to building activities; visual learners will gravitate towards activities that incorporate drawing, photos, or video; audio learners tend to like activities that incorporate music, video, or auditory expressions). The introduction also gives students a general overview of the topics. Students are likely to be interested in some topics more than others.
- REVIEW PROCEDURES: What is expected? Who will be at what station? What do I do when I finish a station? The first few weeks will require a quick review of expectations. After students have worked with stations a few times, less time is needed for procedures.
- STUDENT CHOICE: Let students choose stations (optional). I usually require a minimum of 1 station, but it depends on the subject, class period, etc. Basically, I'm fine with students being engaged in one activity the entire time if it allows them to explore deeply. When we build domes with Brunelleschi, some students will get their first dome built and then have ideas for better ones. I'd rather let them explore then rush them through. If a student is developing a detailed political cartoon at a muckraker station, I want him or her to spend the time and then write about it to really understand not just know the material.
- TIME CHECKS: remind students periodically of remaining time and provide time for students to write. If there are a required number of stations, let students know when it is time to move to a new station.
- SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION: We close station activities with small group discussions. I try to mix students up so that each activity has at least one student who tried it. There are two broad guiding questions for the discussions: what did you learn and how does it connect to the broad topic? This is where we start to make connections to the big ideas. The discussion time is also an opportunity for students to discover other cool stations. Students share what they did and learned with each other. Often, we have a second round of stations the next day so that students can explore stations they missed in the first lesson.
For each large topic, there are several options. If students need to work with all the topics, then students visit every station. There are lots of ways to work with stations depending on the needs of your individual classroom.
In practice a station has the following:
Informational text and/or video for learning the big ideas (NOTE: in a flipped classroom, these may be read or watched at home).
Activity directions that require students to reflect on, apply knowledge and analyze the topic.
When a station is complete, students move on to a new station or join a small group discussion.
I love stations because stations allow me to:
- Differentiate by meeting the needs of different learning styles.
- Provide student choice
- Get students up and moving
- AND make students the expert in teaching each other about what they have learned.