“Stations” is a Bad Word

Today’s Contributor: Emily Rogers
Emily is a 4th grade teacher at Ortega Elementary School.

Somewhere in the last 17 years of teaching 3rd and 4th grade, “stations” has become a bad word. It’s something that should only be found in primary classrooms and would be completely inappropriate in an upper elementary classroom. Not until this year did I realize that the station rotation model is a powerful blended learning model that can leverage the time and skills for both teacher and student. I just completed my first Micro-Credential of Leadership Pathways Transformative Technology, and we have focused on different blended learning models. Blended learning is the process of blending online and offline tools, anywhere from high tech to no tech tools to teach, learn, and practice new skills. Initially I hesitated with this model because I like to do what has worked for me all these years. I like the control and predictability of my previous routine. But then I must ask, “Am I doing this for me or for the students?” Ultimately I decided to use a combination of the Station Rotation Model and Playlists.

I call our playlist a “checklist” which helps them know what their must dos and may dos are each day. I have their daily learning objective and success criteria listed on each day as a cloze activity. There is a place for them to rate themselves on each activity. Students not only have the paper copy of this document, it is also available hyperlinked on our Math BLEND page. In the Whole Group Station Rotation Model students move through their stations in the same order, which consists of a technology station, collaboration station, and an exit ticket. When students start their technology station, I open all of the students’ assignments (typically a Google Doc) on my computer while they are working on them.

I scan through each student’s tab just as I would walking around the classroom looking at their work on their desk. Doing it from my computer allows me to get to each student more efficiently and provide immediate feedback to every student. If students understand the concept and get correct answers, I put different emojis or digital stickers on their work while they are working. This lets them know they are on the right track and helps me know what I’ve already checked. When they complete the assignment, I close their tab and continue with the other students. If students need help, I can quickly address misconceptions or pull a small group if needed. During the collaboration station, students give feedback to each other as they work through the assignment. Lastly, students work on an exit ticket independently and turn it in to me. I used this data to check for mastery or guide my planning for small groups and reteach the following day.

One of my favorite things about this model is the ways it truly meets the needs of each learner. My students that need more support get ample time from me and their classmates.  Students that need less support are able to get started and move quickly through their assignment and get time for enrichment activities. I have a Gifted and Talented student that didn’t like coming to school at the beginning of the year. His mom would call saying he was crying in the car and wouldn’t go into the building. He was bored. Since we have started this blended learning model, he has had no issues. When he shows mastery of the skill during the lesson, I tell him to start his checklist early. He doesn’t have to listen to something that he already understands and can quickly get through his work. This goes for any student that shows mastery early in the lesson. I let them begin their checklist without needing to explain directions, and I’m allowed to work with a smaller group of students that still need support.

I’m proud of how easily the classroom runs on any given day. It’s not a problem for me to step out for an ARD or have a substitute because I don’t do most of the work. After a whole group mini lesson, my job is done! The students know the systems. I get more time in a day now to help those that need it most than I ever had in my 17 years of teaching. I’m proud that I committed to this and the benefits it has had for everyone.

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