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.

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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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11 Responses to 3 Ways to Shake Up The Station Rotation Model

  1. Linda Davenport says:

    Catlin,
    Do you do the station rotation model each day of class? I’m curious to know what your weekly schedule looks like. We are implementing Study Sync next year and I think this is right up my alley!

    • Hi Linda,

      I use Station Rotation every week or week and a half. I use several different blended learning models and try to keep lessons varied, so students don’t get tired of a particular lesson type. When I design Station Rotation, StudySync is fantastic for the online learning stations!

      Catlin

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  3. roya says:

    Dear Catlin
    I’m going to use this approach for my MA thesis, do you have any idea how can I use it? for which level of student? and how?

    thank you

    • Hi Roya,

      I think this model works for all levels though it is a bigger shift for secondary teachers. Here is a blog I wrote about the Station Rotation Model that might help. I also have a book titled Blended Learning in Action coming out in August/September that will have more specifics on this model.

      Good luck with your MA!

      Catlin

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  6. Lindsay says:

    Thank you for this post Caitlyn! I will be teaching a 90 minute block once a week next year and am excited to try out these unique twists on station rotations. I’m curious if you have a format for students reflecting on or sharing their leaning after completing station time. How do you pull it all back together at the end? Thank you again for sharing 🙂

    • Hi Lindsay,

      Sometimes I’ll use Socrative Exit Tickets to get them reflecting on what they learned or I’ll pull them back together for a final few words. It just depends on the activities and the time.

      Catlin

  7. Nick says:

    Catlin,

    This is a trememdous resource (your entire site actually). I have been saying that secondary schools NEED to look to the primary grades more often and take a little of what they are doing and bring it back to the upper grades because it works. These additions to the normal station rotation will go a long way in truly diversifying for students. I ran a gamified, self-paced, blended learning classroom of my own the past two years and never considered how I can really “shake” up the rotation model. Now designing PD and working closely with teachers in my new district, I am pushing toward more innovation and blended learning in the classroom and use your site as a central resource. Where do you fit reading of whole-class texts into your weekly routine/unit plan? Your students are lucky to have a teacher like you. Makes me miss the classroom!

    ~ Nick

    • Thank you, Nick!

      We do read whole class texts, though I’d love to have the resources to move more towards a personalized model that values student choice. It would be nice to allow them to decide what they want to read related to what we are studying.

      Now, students do a bit of reading at home, we do asynchronous discussions about books online, daily in-class small group discussions about the text and some reading together as a group. Reading 6 full texts a year is a challenge given everything else I am trying to do with them.

      Good luck to you in your work supporting teachers in the shift to blended learning. I’m thrilled to hear my website has been a useful resource!

      Take care.
      Catlin

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