3 Ways to Shake Up The Station Rotation Model

Over the last two years, I’ve spent time exploring variations on the established blended learning models. In this post, I want to share three different ways teachers can shake up the traditional approach to the Station Rotation Model. This model does exactly what its name suggests. Students rotate through various stations in the classroom with at least one station being an online station. If teachers have ample access to technology, they can design multiple stations that incorporate technology.


Stations can be composed of a variety of activities (including, but not limited to):

  • Teacher-led small group instruction
  • Collaborative small group work
  • Makerspace station
  • Computer time with adaptive software
  • Project-based learning time
  • Online research
  • Design and create (presentations, infographics, storybooks, etc.) with web tools
  • Individual work or one-on-one tutoring with the teacher

Given the limitless options for creating stations, I’ve played around with different approaches to the Station Rotation Model: Free Form Station Rotation, One Stop Differentiated Stations and Inspiration Stations.

#1 Free-Form Station Rotation

This spin on the Station Rotation Model encourages students to move through stations at their own pace. I break the class into groups and each group starts at a specific station. The number of stations will depend on how much time you have and how long you think each task will take students to complete. I typically design 3-4 stations for a 90 minute block period.  Then as individual students complete a task, they physically move to the next station. This gives students the opportunity to control the pace at which they move through stations and activities. It also allows students a degree of freedom in terms of their movement around the classroom, which they appreciate. For more on Free Form Station Rotation, check out my blog “Free-Form Station Rotation Lesson.”

#2 One Stop Differentiated Station Rotation

The One Stop Differentiated Station Rotation doesn’t actually require students to rotate around the room to various stations. Instead, there are multiple stations designed to challenge students at different skill levels. I typically design a One Stop Differentiated Station Rotation Lesson if we are focusing on a skill, like reading or writing, where there is a large degree of variation in the skills or abilities in a single class. I design tasks that target that skill at each station, but the degree of challenge is different. For example, if students are working on annotating and analyzing a text, I’ll pull an article from Newsela or Smithsonian Tween Tribune that is written at different Lexile levels and I design different tasks for each group. For more on One Stop Differentiated Station Rotation, check out my blog “One Stop Differentiated Station Rotation.”

#3 Inspiration Stations

Unlike most of our Station Rotation lessons, which are highly academic, Inspiration Stations are entirely creative. I design a variety of creative stations that incorporate music, art, photography, creative writing, etc. and allow students to select the station or stations they are most drawn to. The purpose is to build time into our class that encourages students to be creative and allows them the opportunity to decide how to express their creativity. It values creative play as an important part of learning. For more on Inspiration Stations, check out my blog “Inspiration Stations: A Creative Spin on the Station Rotation.”

It’s important to remember that the established blended learning models are just a starting place. Teachers should feel empowered to adapt, adjust and play with these models to make sure they work for their students!

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Career Exploration Project

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Kids are repeatedly asked this question by adults. In kindergarten, my son’s class was asked to draw a picture of what they wanted to be when they grew up. They created the self-portraits pictured below.


As my son worked on his self-portrait, I reflected on how little exposure most students have to the work world. Very few schools have career-school partnerships that provide students with the opportunity to explore different professions. I designed a Career Exploration Project to help students learn more about a career they are interested in pursuing after high school. Below is an explanation of the project with student examples:

Part I–Inquiry Questions & Research

First, students were asked to generate at least 10 questions they had about their chosen career. They had to submit those questions via a Google Form for review. Then those questions were used to drive their online research. All of their research was organized on a shared Google Document complete with a works cited page that included at least three credible online sources. 

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Part II–Interview Questions & Evidence 

The second part of the project required students interview someone in their chosen career field. In preparation for their interview, students were asked to:

  • Write a professional business letter and resume. The formal business letter served to introduce them, outline the purpose of the project and request an interview. Students also learned how to format a formal resume and included that with their request. 
  • Decide on the audio recording device to capture evidence of the interview. Instead of taking notes during the interview, students recorded the conversations so they could refer back to them later. I encouraged them to explore the following recording apps:

Once students had found a person in their field to interview, they had to submit a short bio of the person they were interviewing and interview questions. I reminded them that their interview questions had to be strong enough to spark a 15-30 minute conversation. Once again, they submitted their proposed questions via a Google Form so I could review them prior to their interviews. 

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Part III–Observation

Students had to find a second person in their chosen profession and spend a minimum of one hour observing them at work. During their observations, they were asked to record notes on the environment they are observing, tasks performed and interactions with other employees and/or customers.

They were also asked to reflect on the following questions:

  • What is appealing and/or unappealing about the work environment?
  • Does this job require a person to move about, sit for long periods, work with their hands, or on the computer?
  • What skills and/or technology are needed to accomplish the daily tasks?

After completing their observations, students transferred their notes to a shared Google Document and included evidence (photos and/or videos) from their observation. If cameras were not welcome in the environment they were observing, I encouraged them to take a picture of the building/sign where they observed.


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Part IV–Create, Publish & Share               

After students completed their research, interviews, and observations, they pulled all of that information together to create a short video about their chosen profession to share on YouTube. Their films needed to provide a comprehensive overview of their career, including:

  • Title page: your name, class, and name of your researched career
  • Prior impressions
  • Education – degrees, field of study, certifications, specialized training
  • Needed skills
  • Typical daily tasks
  • Job realities – What is the job really like?
  • Challenges and rewards (monetary and nonmonetary)

Their videos needed to incorporate the various elements of their career exploration–audio clips or direct quotes from their interview, pictures from their observations, statistics and information from their research.

I encouraged students to explore one of the video creators below to produce their videos. I wanted students to select the video creator that worked with their individual devices. I’m an advocate for allowing students to select the tools they want to use instead of requiring them to use a specific tool.

Here are some of the finished products!

*This video was produced with GoAnimate.

*This video was produced with VideoScribe.

*This video was produced with iMovie. 

As a class, we watched all of the student-produced videos. That way students could publish their work for an authentic audience AND students learned about a whole range of professions!

For those educators wondering, why would an English teacher do this project? Like most projects there were so many important skills incorporated into it. Students had to complete extensive research, cite properly, write a business letter and resume, practice speaking and listening skills during both the interview and observation, and produce a multimedia video to communicate information. Even though many of my students were stressed at different points in the project as they struggled to coordinate schedules with busy professionals or learned how to navigate a new video creator tool, most really enjoyed the process and learned a lot about their chosen careers!

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Station Rotation Model in Action (Video)

In a previous blog post titled “Create Small Learning Communities with the Station Rotation Model,” I described many of the reasons I use the Station Rotation Model in my secondary classroom. I highlighted the benefits of working directly with small groups of students, using technology and station design to differentiate instruction, and maximizing the limited technology available in our low-tech classroom.

I’ve had several teachers request concrete examples of the types of stations I design for my high school English class. The two videos below provide a window into my classroom and give teachers some insight into my thought process and how I design of the various stations.

In the videos above, I talk about how I am using StudySync, which is a cross-curricular, core literacy program with hundreds of digital texts, dynamic videos and multimedia lessons. I use StudySync to extend learning online, differentiate my instruction for various skill levels, encourage active reading in the digital space, teach the Common Core Standards, and engage students in a range of activities to develop their reading and writing skills. StudySync has a huge digital library of media and texts ranging from historic speeches to poetry to excerpts from novels.

Before using StudySync, I was limited to the texts available on my campus in our school library. Now, I can choose from hundreds of texts and assign different texts to students at different reading levels. The lessons built around the texts are dynamic and develop vocabulary, reading, and writing skills. I often use tools like StudySync, Vocabulary.com, and flipped videos to create my online stations for my Station Rotation lessons.

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