Create Small Learning Communities with the Station Rotation Model

Whenever I’m asked the question, “How do we fix education?” I find myself emphasizing the importance of creating smaller learning communities within the context of the larger classroom. I passionately believe the most effective learning communities are those that allow teachers to spend more time working individually or in small groups with their students to customize and personalize instruction.

Smaller learning communities also provide students with more opportunities to work collaboratively and engage in a variety of activities that appeal to different learning modalities (auditory, visual, tactile and kinesthetic). Students engage with the world in different ways, so it’s important to keep activities and tasks varied to ensure every student is able to receive and process information in a way that works for them.

My interest in blended learning and weaving together learning mediums to include both in-class and online learning was in part driven by my desire to create smaller student-centered learning communities in my classroom. One strategy for a teacher interested in pursuing this approach come fall is experimenting with the Station Rotation Model–a blended learning model.

Station Rotation Model

The Station Rotation Model does exactly what the name suggests–students rotate through learning stations either on a fixed schedule or at the teacher’s discretion. At least one of the stations must be an online learning station for this to be considered a blended learning model.

Learning stations are not a new concept in education, so this is an easy model for teachers who are shifting from a traditional teaching model to a blended learning model. Teachers can use this model within a traditional classroom setting by simply breaking students into small groups and having them rotate through different stations set up around the classroom or rotating the whole class through a series of learning activities.

Station Rotation Model in ActionThis model is flexible and can work with almost any age level or subject area. My classes are usually composed of 30 students, so I tend to design a minimum of 6 stations. That way my stations do not exceed 5 students, which feels like the maximum amount of teenagers who can be in a group and work together effectively. I have 90 minute block periods, so I typically have them work 12-15 minutes in each station or we break the work up into 2 days and they can have 25-30 minutes in each station.

I find it’s helpful to sketch out my stations on paper and ask myself the following questions:

  • What is the objective of each station? Will students produce something?
  • How much time do students need in each station? How long will they have to transition between stations?
  • What materials do they need in each station? How many devices are needed for the online learning stations? Do they need any special programs, apps, or software?
  • What will be the cue for them to transition to the next station?
  • Will directions be frontloaded, provided in written form at each station, or presented via mini-video tutorial at each station?


The online component can take many forms ranging from students using dynamic creation tools to researching topics to using adaptive software depending on the objectives of the lesson. However, the addition of an online component requires that teachers have access to technology in some form or another to execute the Station Rotation Model in their classrooms. I don’t have any actual hardware in my classroom, so I have to use student devices or arrange to take my students to one of our computer labs on campus.

As a teacher, it takes more time to plan this style of lesson; however, the benefits far exceed the challenges. I love being able to work with small group and provide real-time feedback, answer questions, lend support, or direct students to an online resource. Students also enjoy the freedom they have as learners in this model. I am not hovering over them or controlling the pace of their learning. They are driving the learning, which is much more powerful for them.

A teacher does not have to use the Station Rotation Model for every lesson, but it is an easy way to explore the benefits of blending online work with face-to-face interactions to create smaller learning communities that are student-centered.

For more on blended learning, check out my first book Blended Learning in Grades 4-12.

Creatively Teach the Common Core Literacy Standards with Technology  Available NOW! 

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Simple K12: PD in Your PJs

I work in a district with next to no funding for professional development. As a result, I’ve had to aggressively pursue my own learning to stay current with the changes happening in education. I follow interesting people on Twitter, read popular education blogs, and attend as many sessions as possible at the conferences where I speak.

For teachers who are looking for an alternative to traditional conferences, which can be expensive to attend if your school doesn’t pay your registration, travel, room, and board, SimpleK12 offers a convenient alternative…professional development in your PJs.

SK12 bunny slippersI’ve had the pleasure of presenting over 70 webinars for SimpleK12 over the last four years! As a presenter I love rolling out of bed in my pajamas, slipping on my SimpleK12 bunny slippers, and presenting from the comfort of my own home. I’ve presented topics ranging from blended learning to Google Apps to Common Core.

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SimpleK12 has an impressive collection of presenters who cover a wide range of topics. There are events throughout the year that are free and open to the public, which anyone can attend. Teachers with a membership can search the archive of webinars and watch any of them on demand. They can also earn Certificates of Completion (CEUs) for attending webinars.

I love the on demand option! When I’m interested in exploring a new edtech topic or trend, I stop by SimpleK12 to see what is available on demand. It’s a great resource and the cost of the membership is about the same as you pay to register for one conference.

I recently participated in a conference call with the SimpleK12 about ways to improve on their current offerings. In exchange for my time, they offered me a 6-month full membership to give away to one my readers. Click here to fill out the form to enter the giveaway! I will select a winner on July 25th in time for the lucky winner to gear up for the new school year with some free PD in their PJs!

Congratulations, Lynn O’Connell!

Creatively Teach the Common Core Literacy Standards with Technology  Available NOW! Just in time for summer reading!

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Flipped Classroom: Engaging Students with EdPuzzle

The flipped classroom model is a blended learning strategy I use to present my vocabulary, writing, and grammar instruction online. Students watch videos at home where they can control the pace of their learning, then they come to class prepared to apply that information in collaborative student-centered activities.

One thing I emphasize when I lead professional development for teachers is the importance of flipping and engaging. Instead of simply consuming information, I want students to think critically about that information. This requires that I design flipped lessons that encourage students to ask questions, analyze the information, and discuss concepts with peers asynchronously online to begin making sense of the information they are receiving at home. There are a variety of ways to do this. I authored a resource for MindShift titled “Teachers’ Guide to Using Videos,” which includes a section describing a range of strategies a teacher can employ to flip and engage.

A newer tool I’m excited to use with students come fall is EDpuzzle. Here’s how it works!

Step 1: Find the Perfect Video

Once you’ve created an account, you can search for videos using keywords or a URL.

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Step 2: Preview Your Video 

EDpuzzle Select a video


Step 3: Customize Your Video with EDpuzzle Tools 

EDpuzzle lets you trim your video to use only the parts you want students to watch. It’s easy to eliminate advertisements and keep the video length appropriate for your age group. Teacher tip: Limit the length of a video to the age of the students you are working with.

You can add audio clips throughout a video or narrate the entire video using EDpuzzle.

EdPuzzle Features

Step 4: Add Questions to Get Students Thinking Critically

Open-ended Questions

Teachers can design open-ended questions to get students thinking more deeply about the information presented in the video. These open-ended questions are a great way to begin discussions in class the day after students have completed this assignment. Alternatively, teachers can also pair an EDpuzzle lesson with a

Alternatively, teachers can pair an EDpuzzle lesson with a TodaysMeet backchannel and ask students to share their thoughts on the open-ended questions on the backchannel in an informal asynchronous conversation.

EDpuzzle open ended question

Multiple Choice Questions

Teachers can also create multiple-choice questions to see how well students are understanding and retaining the information they are watching. This is a quick way to assess students as they watch the video. It is also a good incentive to keep students attentive as they watch.

EDpuzzle Multiple Choice


Step 5: See How Your Students Did On This Assignment!

The teacher dashboard makes it easy to see the assignments for each class and monitor which students have successfully completed each flipped lesson.

EDpuzzle Teacher Dashboard

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I’m always looking for fun new ways to engage my students online! If you have other tools you enjoy using to flip your classroom, please post a comment and share them!

Creatively Teach the Common Core Literacy Standards with Technology  Available NOW! Just in time for summer reading!

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