Teaching with stations isn’t just for elementary students – they work SO WELL with high school students too! I love to use stations and have come up with a ton of different ways to use them over the years. As with most anything, you live and you learn. It has been a lot of trial and error with my own students to figure out the best methods for effectively teaching with stations, and I want to share with you what I’ve learned!
1. Always be intentional with how you set up your stations around the room.
One of the benefits of teaching with stations is that students have an opportunity to get out of their seats. But if you are in a small space, this can create a whole additional set of challenges. Because of this, try to spread your station cards out all over the room. Make multiple copies of each card for larger classes so that students can stay spread out. You never want to have more than 3 students at a station.
Consider any additional materials needed for each station as well. If incorporating tech, have a back up device (or a printed version, if an article) for any students that come to class without technology. If using videos, provide extra headphones.
If the station may be somewhat messy, don’t put it in the corner of your room where you can’t see what is going on. Place that particular station at the front of the room so you can best monitor it. Always consider potential messes when setting up and provide necessary clean up materials so that every group can reset the station before the next one arrives.
2. Only have 1 station that needs a lot of oversight from the teacher.
If you are doing a more hands-on or experiential set of stations, try to write up your stations so that only one requires a lot of teacher oversight. Set up this station at the front of the room so you can hang by near it during the class period. This allows you to provide the most guidance for students at this station, while still being able to move around and monitor the others periodically.
3. For rowdier classes, coordinate station rotation with a timer.
One of my favorite parts of teaching with stations is being able to make it completely student-centered, allowing students to move and learn at their own paces. However, we all know those classes that are just too rowdy to have that much freedom. For classes like that I set a timer from the front of the room. Each group or partnership is assigned a station number to start at. From there, groups ONLY rotate when the timer goes off, and HAVE to move in numerical order (they can’t jump around like I normally allow them too.)
This makes it much easier for classroom management, although it does eliminate some of the flexibility of the stations with pacing. However, you have to choose to do what is best for your group of students, and keeping stations VERY structured proved much more successful with my more wild groups.
If you are worried about faster groups that will finish early and just be waiting at a station, have a game (I LOVE to put a set of my vocabulary review game cards) at each station card that they can play for a few minutes while they wait for the timer to allow them to rotate to the next one.
4. Strategically select stations for students with accommodations to complete.
Most of my stations are written in sets of 6, because that is about the amount we can get through AND go over in two 50-minute class periods. Many of my students with accommodations have IEPs or 504s that dictate for them to receive double time. Thus to accommodate them, I only require them to do half of the stations.
If you have multiple copies of the station cards (like I suggested above) they can still rotate like their friends do, but hit each station two times. If it is an extension activity, you can just let them pick any half of the cards to do. Or pick the 3 most essential stations you want to make sure they don’t miss.
If they really need to go through every station (like with my Discovery Stations) have students read through each one but only answer the half of the questions (like odds only). This cuts the workload in half, and they can gather the rest of the information later when we review the stations (I ALWAYS grade stations for completion, not accuracy!)
5. If short on time, have students divide and conquer.
Now, this is my least favorite practical tip, BUT sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. I often hear that stations can take up too much time. If that is the case, but you still really want to do them, have students work with a partner and divide and conquer. I have the partners still go to every station together, but have one answer all of the odd questions and the other answer all of the even questions. At the end of class, build in time for them to meet with their partners and discuss (not just copy) what the other found. You will have to monitor them to make sure they are really discussing and not just swapping sheets.
Again, not my favorite way to do it, but sometimes you just plain run out of time, and this has been a way for students to still get to learn a lot in a shorter time frame!
Looking for more support for how to use stations? Check out my posts on why I love teaching with stations, 7 ways I use them, and solutions to the biggest challenges that have come up for me using them!