Crowdsource the best ideas for engaging students in stations!
Despite working on a school campus surrounded by other talented educators, it’s easy for teachers to feel isolated and disconnected. Many teachers are so busy treading water to stay on top of their workloads they don’t feel like they have the time to connect or collaborate with other teachers. However, making time to share ideas and learn from the other educators on campus or in a department can keep teachers engaged, excited, and experimenting.
When I lead workshops on the Station Rotation Model, I encourage the teachers in the training to begin a station rotation idea document. The goal is to create a shared space online where teachers can capture and share their favorite station activities and help to inspire each other.
If teachers add strategies, activities, and resources they are designing, using, and having success with to an idea document, they can create visibility about what is working. This has the potential to elevate the quality of learning that is happening across classrooms.
A simple strategy like this idea document also has the potential to lighten the load for teachers because they can borrow great ideas from one another. I know there are limited hours in a day, so it is critical that teachers create spaces to share and learn from one another.
In this post, Sarah Dunn, a high school math teacher, shares her favorite technology tools and online activities.
In an English or social studies class, students may use computers frequently to write papers or compose a response to a writing prompt. In science class, students may use a computer to write a lab report after conducting an experiment. There seem to be many opportunities for students to embrace the use of technology in academic classes that are not math class. “It’s too hard for the students.” “How can they write their equations?” “How can I see their drawings?” These concerns and questions cause teachers to fall back on worksheets for practice and application.
How can technology and online learning materials be used effectively in a math class? First, it is essential to remember that it isn’t necessary for technology to be the focus of the entire activity. Instead, it can merely be a tool students use to accomplish a task. The simple inclusion of technology for a short period of time in a math lesson can have a serious impact.
I knew it would be a challenge to use technology for a whole class, so I focused on ways to include technology for short periods of time in class to mix things up. I was specifically interested in using technology to give students immediate feedback.
The online station during my station rotation was a great way for me to make sure that students get timely feedback, have time to work individually, and engage in productive conversations with their peers about the mathematical concepts.
Designing anOnline Station
I use many different platforms when students rotate through the online station. There are times when I encourage them to work in small groups. Other times, they work individually. It all depends on the objective of the lesson. Generally, the students are seated in groups of four for the online station to encourage them to use each other as resources if they get stuck.
Desmos has been a great resource in my class. I have been working hard to use the activity builder to create activities that add discovery and practice to a station rotation lesson. I use the activity builder in Desmos to give students immediate feedback with the card sort and the computation layer. The computation layer is how I can change the title of a card sort to let the students know if they have matched everything appropriately. I have also used many Desmos created activities, like Transformation Golf, for rigid transformations.
Another resource I use is Quizizz. I realize many teachers are familiar with this review game, but I use it to collect quick formative assessment data. The students really love the immediate feedback and I “force” them to take their time by making the game a class-to-class competition based on accuracy. This helps the students to take their time and answer the questions presented as best they can because the class with the best accuracy when the rotation activity is over gets bragging rights.
For my circles unit, I made a Google lockbox and embedded it into my learning management system, Schoology. I used the ideas Catlin presented in her tutorial video about lockboxes to make sure my students knew whether or not they were entering the correct answer. I was able to ask vocabulary questions and have them solve problems.
During this station, I observed students who were not following the directions and struggled to round to the correct decimal place. As students got stuck on a question and failed to advance through the lockbox challenge, they naturally began to engage in conversations with the other members of their group. The beauty of the lockbox is that it gamifies practice and provides students with immediate feedback about the accuracy of their answers. If they answer incorrectly, they have to revisit their work, think critically about the problem, and collaborate with peers to try to reach the correct answer.
In the future, I am going to explore more engaging ways for my students to enjoy the online station. I am not a professional digital escape room creator, but that is my next adventure. I hope getting your students online in math class can be yours!
Sarah Dunn is a high school math teacher and digital teacher leader in a vocational-technical school district in Wilmington, Delaware. She has flipped the instruction of the content to incorporate more hands-on and blended learning activities. In her free time, she enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her husband and two daughters.
In this episode, I talk with Travis Lape a father, husband, and Innovative Programs Director at Harrisburg School District. In 2015, Travis was named TIE Technology Leader of the Year, which recognized his work integrating technology into his classroom. Travis believes that by empowering learners to drive their learning we can start to create a new system that honors all learners and their cultures.
In this episode, Travis and I talk about school design and the ways in which Harrisburg School District is reimagining school for its students. We discuss how the design of classrooms can shift the focus from consumption to creation, how the school schedule can be used flexibly to give students more agency in identifying what they need and when, and how grouping students by needs and skills instead of by age can provide them with a more personalized learning experience.
If you are part of a professional learning community, the questions below are designed to facilitate a conversation–in person or online–about the issues discussed in this episode of The Balance. If you do not have a PLC at your school but you want to engage in an online conversation with other educators, check out my Facebook page!
1: How does the “testing culture” in education impact the quality of learning in classrooms? How can teachers who are responsible for preparing kids for state tests balance that pressure with a more personalized approach to teaching a class of students with a wide range of skills?
2. What would be the benefits and challenges of grouping students by their skills and needs instead of by age? How can some of the strategies Travis’ school district uses help to eliminate the stigma associated with grouping kids by skill level and areas of need?
3: How does your school’s schedule either support or stifle innovation? Are teachers able to team up to work collaboratively to better meet the needs of individual learners? Do you feel you have time to connect with and support individual learners during class?
4: In what ways does the traditional design and structure of school negatively impact student engagement and motivation? What degree of agency do the students on your campus enjoy on a typical day? How can schools prioritize student agency to improve their motivation?
5: Are the classrooms on your campus designed to encourage creation? Is the furniture and set up placing the focus on the teacher or the students? How can we rethink the classroom spaces to make them feel more like “creation studios”?
I am looking for “Teacher Tips” to share on upcoming episodes of The Balance. If you have a routine, strategy, or piece of advice you want to share about how you create more balance in your life (professionally, personally, or both), please take a moment to post a comment sharing your tip. I would love to feature it on a future episode!
If you want to connect with Travis, you can follow him on Twitter @TravisLape.