Station Rotation Model: Offering Optional Skill Stations

Different students have different needs, yet many classrooms are set up to provide all students with the exact same instruction and practice. If students are asked to do practice they do not need, they can become frustrated, bored, and disillusioned. Students who need additional instruction, scaffolding, and practice may not get it in a whole group lesson.

My classroom is composed of a handful of honors level students, English language learners, and several students with IEPs and 504 plans. It’s challenging to support so many students at different levels. So, I periodically offer optional “skills stations.”

Skills stations are focused on developing specific skills. Right now my students are writing their first argumentative essay in response to a Lord of the Flies prompt. I’m using the Station Rotation Model, so I have time to work directly with small groups of students in my teacher-led station. It allows me to focus on targeted instruction, modeling, real-time feedback, and skills development.

If I notice that students are struggling with passive vs. active voice or a chunk of the class needs support writing strong topic sentences, introducing their quotes, or properly citing their quotes, I will offer an optional skill station. Students who need help can get it and students who don’t need additional explanation or practice can continue writing. The optional skills stations are a simple strategy for personalizing instruction and support.

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Panel Presentations: Connect Students with a Real Audience

When I spoke at Californa’s Better Together Teachers Summit, I talked about the power of connecting students with an authentic audience online. I emphasized the role technology can play in helping teachers to get more eyes on student work and, as a result, motivate students to do their best work.

In addition to connecting students to an online audience, I also invite community members, parents, and other students into our classroom regularly. I want to provide my students with meaningful feedback, a live audience, and a fresh perspective.

I realize presenting for an actual audience is a daunting task, but it is also a crucial life skill. I want my students to practice articulating their ideas, sharing their work, and responding to questions so they are better prepared for life beyond high school.

When I send home the parent survey (via Google Form) at the start of the school year, I always ask parents if they are interested in lending their expertise and time to be on a panel or assess student work. I also ask about their availability.

I find it interesting that most teachers at the secondary level do not ask parents to come into the classroom to help out. I regularly volunteer in my children’s elementary classrooms, but I rarely have parents volunteer to come into my high school class. So, instead of waiting for an offer, I ask!

Secondary teachers are juggling so many students that it’s challenging to provide meaningful and timely feedback all by ourselves. This is where a panel of parents, community members, and other students can be extremely useful.

At the end of our design thinking project this semester, students had to present both their process and prototype to a live audience. It was interesting to see them prepare for this presentation. They were nervous. Rightly so. It is a scary experience to stand in front of adults and students they do not know and present. However, the fear of presenting was an incredible motivator.

Groups rehearsed their presentations several times for peers and one group called me over to help them improve their delivery. I asked if it was okay for me to pause their rehearsal and give them real-time feedback. Three girls simultaneously exclaimed, “Yes! That’s exactly what we need!” As they practiced, I reminded them to keep their feet planted, limit distracting movements, and track the speaker. I offered suggestions for making their presentation more specific, which they immediately incorporated. It was exciting to see them so intent on nailing their presentation.

On presentation day, my three-person teaching team provided each group with specific feedback on three separate skills. The panel also used a rubric to assess different aspects of the presentation.

Feedback from each teacher and the panel will be incorporated into their grades. I love that their final grade was a collaborative effort. It makes my life more manageable and makes the feedback more meaningful for students.

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My Story: Fire, Loss, and Rebuilding

On Sunday, October 8th I went to bed early. I had been waking up between 4-5 AM all week to do work for my doctoral program. We had also hosted my husband’s family for the weekend, and I was exhausted.

Normally, we go to be at 11 PM, but that evening I crawled under the covers at 9:30 PM. It was a warm and windy night. I could hear the wind whistling through the trees outside my window. It reminded me of growing up in Southern California and the hot, dry Santa Ana winds.

I woke at 11:45 PM feeling too warm. The windows were closed. The ceiling fan had stopped spinning and producing its soft hum. My husband was up. I asked why he had turned off the fan. “I didn’t. The power is out,” he responded. “These winds are crazy. I just put the battery-powered twinkle lights in the kids’ rooms in case they wake up.”

“It’s hot in here,” I complained. Despite the heat, I was soon asleep again.

At 2:15 I jolted up. I could hear a megaphone. A cop car was driving slowly up our private road making an announcement. “What’s he saying? What’s going on?” I asked my husband. He got up to crack the window so we could hear better. The smell of smoke was strong.

A voice on the megaphone announced, “There’s a large fire coming your way. You need to evacuate now.”

I lept out of bed. There’s a fire. We have to leave now. 

Most people wonder what they would grab if they had 10 minutes to leave their homes forever. The things I grabbed and the things I left will forever tug at my mind.

Without power, I was left to pack up my belongings with a dimming flashlight low on batteries. I went into my office and threw all of my books for my doctoral classes into my computer bag along with my computer and cord. I grabbed three random dresses from my closet and two pairs of shoes in case I had to teach the next day and could not get back into the house.

I travel a few times a month for speaking events and professional development jobs and rarely unpack my suitcase all of the way. I tossed my clothes, toiletries, and shoes into the bag, zipped it up, and dragged my work bag and suitcase downstairs.

My husband woke the kids as gently as possible given our urgency and fear. He instructed them to bring their blankies and their blah blah dolls.

They slipped on their shoes and with their blankets, and dolls in hands, we loaded them into the car with our German Shepherd.

The walk to the car was surreal. The air was thick with smoke, and the ash falling looked like snow. Unlike the cold crisp air during a snowfall, the hot air stung my eyes and burned my lungs.

My mind was racing. My husband and I made a couple of trips back into the house to grab random items–the kids’ backpacks for school, a bunch of bananas in case they were hungry, a big silver Nalgene full of water. There’s a fire. We have to leave now. 

At one point, my husband and I were both in the living room. I grabbed a photo album. He asked, “What are you doing? We have to leave. We don’t have time to take all of that.” There’s a fire. We have to get out of our house now. 

I called for our cat. I ran through the house with my flashlight calling, “Bandylion. Here Bandy Bandy.” No cat. I ran into the garage. I scanned the big space with the meager light from the flashlight. “Bandylion. Here kitty, kitty,” I called coaxing my cat to materialize. No cat. I ran out of the house into the front yard. “Bandylion. Here Bandy Bandy.” No cat. There’s a fire. We have to get out of our house now. 

Later, my husband and I would replay those 10 minutes out loud several times. He confessed that he never thought our home would burn down. He was thinking “What will we need for a day or two until we can return to our home?”

Luckily, I didn’t put the photo album I had grabbed back down. Instead, I carried it with me back out to the car. It was an album that his mother had made him. She passed away before we met and those photos are not online like most of the photos of our children. It is the only sentimental thing that left the house with us that night.

As we drove away from our home through the haze of smoke in my Kia Sorrento, I realized we had no place to go. My family lives in Los Angeles, and my husband’s family lives in Arcata.

I began calling hotels, while we drove south on the 101. Off to our left, the ridge of the mountains glowed red in the dark. Each hotel I called looped me into a frustrating maze of digital options. “For reservations, press 1.” “For an existing reservation, press 1. To make a new reservation, press 2. For reservations of six or more, press 3.” Every hotel was booked.

My phone dinged. A text. “Hey Catlin, this is Marika on V’s phone. We had to evacuate our house very quickly. The fire was over the ridge, and we had to gather quickly. I don’t even have my phone.”

I responded, “We evacuated too. Where did you guys go?”

“My dad’s in Petaluma. Come here.”

Grateful to have a place to go with our children and dog, we drove to Petaluma. Over the next 12 hours, we watched scenes of the city where we’ve lived for 17 years burn. Glen Ellen, Napa, Santa Rosa…fires everywhere.

At 2 PM on Monday, our friend, Zack, called us on FaceTime. He was on his motorcycle driving through our neighborhood with his camera propped on his handlebar to show us what he was seeing. The devastation was so complete, I could not figure out exactly where he was. He showed us the street signs and my husband directed him up the hill to our home. We watched on Facetime as he drove up our long driveway.

At the top of our driveway, instead of our beautiful home was a pile of debris and brick. Our home was gone.

My first thought, “How are we going to tell the kids?” My heart broke for them. How can I tell my 8 and 10-year-old children that their home and everything they loved inside it are gone? Being a parent in life’s most challenging moments is tough. I had to be strong for my kids even though all I wanted to do was breakdown.

In the two weeks since we lost our home, I’ve been moved to tears by the love, support, and generosity we’ve received from our friends, family, and community.

The sadness and loss come in waves. Every few minutes I remember something that I’ll never see again…our photo albums, my yearbooks, baby clothes meticulously wrapped and labeled, the wedding garter I saved for my daughter, pieces of furniture handed down from my husband’s family, artwork, blankets knit by my grandmother who is gone, my wedding dress, family jewelry, the children’s books signed with notes, favorite pieces of clothing, our wedding album, passports, trinkets picked up from our travels around the globe, and bottles of wine saved for special occasions. These are just the items I think about. I cannot imagine all of the lost little treasures my children think of each day.

The process of rebuilding our home and our lives will take time. I want to thank all of the educators who have donated to the GoFundMe campaign that was created for us or have bought items off of our Amazon Wishlist. Your outpouring of love and generosity fill me with gratitude. You are helping to make this tough situation manageable and demonstrating the power of a strong community. Thank you.

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