As I planned my lesson for today, I identified three specific tasks I wanted my students to complete over the course of our 90 minute block period. I knew they would work at different rates, and I wanted them to have the flexibility to move through each task at their own pace.


Below were the tasks I had planned:

Station #1: In-class flip with a grammar video about using semicolons followed by a collaborative practice activity.

Station #2: Edit, revise and improve their vignettes using my feedback as a guide.

Station #3: Find a synonym and antonym for each of our 15 SAT vocabulary words.

It did not make sense for us to march lock step through these activities. I also didn’t want to use the traditional Station Rotation Model and give students a limited amount of time in each station. Instead, I decided to experiment with a free-form approach to the Station Rotation Model.

Students began in one of three stations. When they were done with the task in that station, they were welcome to physically move on to the next station. I cautioned them to transition without disrupting those students still at work. It was amazing how focused and productive they were!

I love creating a classroom environment where students have the freedom to move around, work where they need to, and use the technology or tools available without having to ask permission. I will definitely use this variation on the Station Rotation again!

39 Responses

  1. . Your use of an inclass-flip is so good to see…planned ‘blended learning’ works! Am sure your examples will encourage others to give it a go.

    • I hope my examples do encourage teachers to experiment with blended learning.! It’s so freeing to know that we can weave learning mediums together and select the best learning environment for every task.

      Take care.

  2. Catlin, do you guide students to certain stations you think they should start with? Or do you give them suggestions about timing if it looks like they’re spending a lot of time at one station? I guess my question is do you place more emphasis in the tasks themselves or in budgeting time to ensure they accomplish all three tasks within the period?


    • Hi Nicole,

      I broke the class into three heterogeneous group and each group began with one of the three tasks. I told them they had 70 minutes to complete all three. Once they completed the task at the group where they began the lesson, they simply picked up their stuff and moved to the next station. Some students spend more time in a specific station and less time in another. I did have a couple of students who needed to finish up an activity either at lunch or at home. I was flexible about that aspect of completion. If they finished early, they were welcome to get started on the homework. I did not recommend a particular amount of time, but I did have a timer projected so they could more effectively manage their time.

      I am definitely more interested in students taking the time necessary to thoroughly complete a task. However, learning to budget time is a really important skill that many of them struggle with. I like allowing them opportunities to try to manage time instead of always providing the cues for movement or transitioning to another task.


  3. I frequently use free-form stations when my students are working on different skills or projects. Students know what they have to do and are given the time frame. I circulate and help when needed. It can be a lot of prep work, especially when students are reviewing skills they need more practice with, but I feel the learning is more personalized.

  4. This looks like a great activity! I have a few questions: 1. How would you do this in a 45 min period? 2. Is there a group you are working with the entire time and what task are they working on with you? If not, what are you doing for the 70 minutes? 3. What is a good resource or resources to use to help plan these lessons? I would like to incorporate this into my lessons how would you recommend I start if I’m doing this for the first time and in a 45 minute period?

    • Hi Alexis,

      1) If I taught a 45 minute period, I’d use this same lesson over two periods. Alternatively, you could have only 2 tasks instead of 3.

      2) In this lesson, I floated supporting students – answering questions, working individually with students who are struggling, and providing feedback on the vignettes. I use traditional timed Station Rotation if I am leading a group.

      3) I’ve written other blogs on Station Rotation you can check out if you want to learn more about the model in general. I’d suggest taking a linear lesson that you’d normally do and take the individual tasks in that lesson and break them up into individual stations. I’d also suggest starting with a fixed time at each station so kids get the hang of it before you embrace a free-form version of the Station Rotation Model.


      • I have a logistical question for large classes. We have three stations set up in the back of the room – 6 students for each. The rest of the class is in the remaining seats at the front of the room.
        If I whole group them for a mini-lesson while the others are in stations, how do I move the whole group kids out of the front and into the station rotation and vice-versa? I do not want to do 6 stations, but I have 32 kids.
        I just bought your book on blended learning and I am loving it!

        • Hi Kelly,

          Maybe it would be easiest to break this into two separate days. Day 1 – Group A is doing the whole group lesson while Group B rotates through the three stations in the back. Then on Day 2 – Group B would have the whole group lesson and Group A would move through the stations. That might be easiest.

          If you want to get through it in one class, then you’d want to divide your time evenly between the whole group mini-lesson/practice and the small group rotations. It’s important that they both last the same amount of time. That way Group A could start as a whole group (30 minutes), while Group B rotates through the three stations (10 minutes per station).

          I hope that helps!


  5. Hi Caitlin,

    I really enjoyed reading how you are using the Station Rotation Model in your classroom. I started Personalized Learning Stations just a few months ago, and it has been great on so many levels! I almost think I could teach like that all of the time, but there are other things to fit into the day. I am doing them for about the same amount of time you schedule yours. I have fourth graders, and they absolutely love it.

    We use a program called i-Ready as a diagnostic tool for both math and reading. This ends up being one of the stations the kids rotate through. Are you using any tool like that? This program is adaptive, which makes it differentiated, and that is something I really like. I use it to pull small groups for specific lessons they might need, and not just the low kids, all levels get chosen for small group instruction. While they are in a small group with me, the other kids are rotating in a more flexible model.

    The one challenge I am having is the accountability for all the work. They fill out an exit slip at the end of the week, which is good for them, and helpful for me, however, collecting and looking through the rest of the work can be a little daunting. Of course, I make the work meaningful, and much of it is aligned to the CCSS, or it is a relevant project we are doing in class. However, I still haven’t gotten the management details down on collecting the work, especially since kids finish at different rates. Any tips you might have on that would be so helpful!

    Thanks so much,

    • Hi Heidi,

      I do not use iReady. I use NoRedInk for grammar and that does adapt based on the student’s individual performance.

      I do a lot of formative assessment during Station Rotation. I have conversations with groups, check their data on NoRedInk, provide real-time feedback in their documents as they work. Sometimes I collect work, but they do not submit an individual assignment for every station. Sometimes they are working on a project that has several parts, but may not have a deliverable at the end of a class. For example, today they are working on a part of an RSA animation video. They won’t submit anything today for that project, but I’ll speak with each group to make sure they are on track.

      If kids complete assignments at different rates, you can set an “end date” and collect everything at one time to avoid confusion.

      I’d caution you not to feel you must collect and grade everything they work on. That can be a hard adjustment, but sometimes the value is not in the product but rather the process.

      I’m not sure if that answers your questions, so feel free to let me know if you have additional questions.

      Take care.

      • Thank you Catlin for your response! It is good to get continued support regarding not feeling pressured to grade all the work. You are right, it is more about the process, and not always about grading it all. Like you said, I do have some work that I absolutely want them to do, and I am looking at that more deeply. I also feel that you can get a good idea where the kids are at by just giving it a good overview. I also like to touch base with kids at the different stations as a check in. When I’m with a small group, though, that isn’t really possible.

        I am not familiar with NoRedInk. I will have to give that a look. My kids certainly need help with their grammar!

        Thanks again,

  6. […] Instead of designing academic tasks to be completed in each station, I designed creative tasks with very loose guidelines. One group composed and recorded a song while another station was focused on building a 3D art project. One group decided to write a proposal for a student designed Donors Choose project. The fourth station was a “you choose” station. Students were able to select the station or stations they wanted to visit. Some students stayed in a single station while others hit two stations. In that way, it had elements of the Free Form Station Rotation. […]

  7. […] 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.” […]

  8. […] 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.” […]

  9. As a middle school teacher, I have struggled in the pass to include centers. Last year I was finally able to incorporate 3 distinct sessions, one self-directed online, one self-directed at their desks, and 1 teacher led activity. It worked, in part, because I had an awesome co-teacher helping. I like your idea of the self-paced model. I think I will try it out this year since I no longer have a co-teacher.

    • Carolyn,

      I really like free-flow stations and so do students. It’s a nice spin on traditional stations but honors that students progress through activities at different rates.


  10. Just out of curiousity, how does the actual movement work? Are there resources at the other stations that the students need to complete the task? I have a classroom flex-blended sort of model, and my students don’t usually move unless they are doing video work or recording voice comments where they would need library resources or somewhere quiet. My kids also get off-task a lot, so I’m wondering if movement would help. I teach 9th grade English seminar.

    • Hi Anna,

      Students do actually move in our free flow station rotation (unless I am using a series of hyperdocs to guide their work). I set up the materials for each station around the room. I find that the movement actually keeps them more focused and on task.


  11. This is similar to the way I have tried stations in the past but you have a lot more structure and continuity between your stations that helps me visualize how I can improve what I’m doing. I agree that lock-step station rotation (esp at the secondary level) can be inhibiting to the learning process and adding the element of choice increases student ownership.

    • Hi Eddie,

      It depends on whether I have a Chromebook cart or not. If I have the Chromebook cart, they move with their own devices. If I only have 8-10 devices in the room, then they stay at the online stations.


  12. Hi Catlin,
    I would love to incorporate station rotation into my classroom. I’m currently teaching Romeo & Juliet. We’re doing a combination of reading/performing the play in class and discussion. How could I start stations with Romeo & Juliet

    • Hi Alexis,

      I set up several station rotation lessons during our Shakespeare unit. Here is an example:
      1. Teacher-led station: Analyzing the text, Shakespearean sonnet structure, or poetic devices
      2. Online station: with words from the play
      3. Offline station: Collaborative analysis of key monologs
      4. Online station: Read, discuss and generate questions about the play using

      It’s a totally flexible model! Combine online and offline stations and create a teacher-led station.


  13. Hi Catlin,
    I’m REALLY enjoying Station Rotations with my sixth grade ELA students. I’m often following more of the free flow plan after station one. And, even though I set up a starting point for each student based upon what I think they need from the day before, sometimes they forge ahead during study hall or at home and need to be somewhere else to start with. I was wondering how you keep track of which stations each student has worked at each day. We use Google Classroom, and I ask students to send me a private comment on the progress they have made at different stations, but some students forget to do that, and sometimes I forget to remind the students to send me the private comment. I’m thinking about having them respond to a Google form of some sort. I have had some situations where students have not been at certain stations in too long, causing them to get behind on the work at that station.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas and experiences. Just finished Blended Learning in grades 4-12, and have also been reading Blended Learning in Action. I’ve picked up some great ideas from you.

    • That’s wonderful to hear, Mark!

      I also love the free flow version of the Station Rotation Model and appreciate your tip about using private messages via Google Classroom to encourage students to update you on their progress. I need to try that! I actually use a Google Form each day asking students to tell me where they are in their work. I’ll list all the assignments/reading/projects we are working on and they have to let me know where they are in their progress. It’s been really helpful since they are all at such different places!


  14. Caitlin, I just downloaded Blended Learning and look forward to reading it. We have used the LATIC model for student centered learning in our district and I want to get better about incorporating student centers more regularly. I have used activity lists (I call them agendas because it sounds more important) and students move through activities at their own pace while I confer. I have not really created videos for flipped learning and usually try to find something online, but I would like to learn how to make my own so they can be more tailored for my students and also so that I can move away from front of the room direct instruction. My question is, what video platform do you use? At one point, we were trained in Screencastify, but I never even actually used it and wondered what you use. Thanks fir your informative blogs.

    • Hi Maryann,

      I use QuickTime, a free program on my Mac, to record videos and screencasts. If I was a PC user, I would definitely use Screencastify. That’s what my students use when they create videos. Good luck!


    • Students worked in pairs to take what they had learned and complete a grammar activity. The focus was on their conversation and ability to explain to each other why they were adding (or not adding) the semicolon to particular sentences. Then I had the class share out 3 different sentences on a Padlet so they could see if other groups reached the same conclusion.


  15. Hi Catlin,
    Thanks for all your support and great ideas as I move my classroom to a more student-directed model

    I have classes of 36 8th graders and have had encountered some management issues with the station rotation model

    Do you have any suggestions about what my classroom might look like as I continue to use station rotations ?

    Thanks so much!

    • Hi Judy,

      Classroom management is tough to provide advice about since every teacher has their own approach. When students are off task, I call them out. Usually, that’s all it takes to get kids to re-focus. If a student is having an off day or distracting other students, I’ll move them to a desk near my teacher-led station or put them at a desk by themselves.

      It helps to have norms around technology use too. When students go to an offline station, I ask students to place devices in a cell phone cubby to eliminate distractions. I also print offline direction for offline stations and provide online directions for online stations.

      Using video content, virtual tours and other types of dynamic media at online stations definitely helps keep kids engaged when they are not with you. I also focus on keeping offline stations collaborative.

      I also feel like the more time students spend moving through stations, the more they get used to the format.


  16. Hi Catlin,
    How does rotating to the collaborative activity work if everyone is moving at their own pace? I’m also trying to figure out how to structure my 5th grade Language Arts. My blocks are 72 minutes long, and next year we will be required to do 15 minutes of silent reading every day. I also wanted to incorporate daily journal writing, which because of the silent reading requirement, I’m thinking it can only be 5 minutes. So what I’m thinking of now is first five minutes writing, 15 minutes reading with individual conferences, and then three 14 minute rotations. Are these too short? And now I’m wondering how I can incorporate a free form rotation some days. It’s a little overwhelming.

    • Hi Michelle,

      Collaborative work in a free flow design isn’t as structured as traditional group work. The task must be designed so that anyone joining that station can bounce ideas off of whoever is currently at that station. I only started playing with collaborative work in a free flow last year, but it worked pretty well. Students seemed to go with the flow and it worked well.

      I don’t plan stations that are less than 20 minutes for my classes because my 9/10th grade students take time to settle into the stations and do not do well with really short stations. I’m not sure how 5th grade might handle that.

      If I was planning a lesson in that time period, I would do one of the following:

      #1 15 minutes whole group SSR
      3 x 18 min stations with the journal writing incorporated into a station

      #2 3 x 24 minute stations
      – one station can be your SSR station and journal writing

      #3 15 minute SSR
      5 minute journal writing
      Flip-flop (2 station rotation) x 24 min each


  17. Hi!
    I can’t wait to implement this next week! One question I have though is if the class environment ever feels chaotic since students are moving between these three centers? I will have a class with many different needs so I am trying to figure out if I should have groups of four students move together from station to station (so they can discuss with each other, but some students might finish faster than others) or let students choose stations freely? Any thoughts?

    • Hi Yvonne,

      No, it isn’t usually hectic. There is movement but the kids transition quickly and quietly.

      If you are concerned about students pacing through work more quickly than others, you can always have a “next steps” protocol in place. I write a list of “next steps” or items students can be working on if they finish before I cue a transition. That will allow you to cue rotations, but it should help discourage students from distracting peers when they finish their own work.


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