5 Ways to Design Your Teacher-led Station


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In my work as a blended learning coach, I observe a lot of teachers facilitating blended lessons. The Station Rotation Model is particularly popular because teachers do not need a device for every student to make it work. Instead, students rotate between offline and online stations.

One concern I have about this model is the way teachers design and facilitate their teacher-led station. Instead of using this station exclusively for direct instruction, I’d like to see more teachers mix it up. Below I describe five different strategies teachers can use to design their station to avoid talking the entire time. When teachers engage students at their teacher-led station, they can collect invaluable formative assessment data that can help inform future lessons.

#1 Hook the Group

Begin your station with a challenge or problem and allow pairs of students to work together to solve it. As they discuss the challenge or problem, observe them. Their conversations will provide invaluable information about what they know, what they are unsure of, and what additional instruction or practice they may need. As they work, you also have a few minutes to “take a lap” around the room to check in with the other groups and make sure they understand what they are supposed to do.

Then when you return to your group, you can ask pairs to share their process for solving the problem. You can use their explanations to drive a debrief in which you highlight strong strategies and answer questions. Finally, you can provide instruction/modeling for the group.

#2 I Do, We Do, You Do

This is a classic flow that works well at a teacher-led station. You begin with an explanation and model how to do something (e.g., solve a problem or structure a written response). Then you guide the group in another example where students chime in with their ideas. Once the group has worked through a problem or task, you can put students in pairs (random or strategic pairing) to work through another problem with peer support. Finally, students work independently to continue applying and you can circulate around the group to support individual students who may be struggling to complete the practice on their own.

In this flow, the moments when the pairs are working to solve the problem or apply the new information, you have time to take a lap and check in with other groups.

#3 Homework Check & Review

Many teachers collect homework and take piles of student work home to grade. Homework is designed to be practice, so I’ve never understood why it is graded and often becomes punitive. If teachers are assigning homework, it would be more powerful to use that practice to encourage students to reflect on their progress and identify the gaps in their understanding of concepts and skills.

If you provide students with a model, exemplar, or answer key for their homework, you can begin this station by giving them time to check their work, identify the places where they made mistakes or answered incorrectly, make the necessary corrections and capture any questions that surface for them. This can be done individually or in pairs. I often pair students up to encourage them to discuss their work and ask each other for help. While students check their work, you can take a lap around the room.

When the group is done checking their work, you can facilitate a follow up conversation addressing questions and providing additional explanation. You can then build on this homework check with the next level of instruction.

#4 Real-Time Feedback

When students are working on a process piece (e.g., argumentative essay, formal lab report, research project) that requires several steps and multiple days to complete, I encourage you to dedicate time at your teacher-led station to give students real-time feedback as they work. This approach shifts your energy into supporting the process instead of waiting to assess a finished product. It also means you don’t have to take stacks of rough drafts home to give students feedback.

Students should come to this station with a draft of one section of work completed. For example, if they are writing a formal lab report, they might bring their procedures section. If they are writing a formal essay, they might bring their introduction paragraphs. If they are working on a research project, they might bring their quotes and source citations. Then as they move onto the next section, you can hop in and out of their documents providing feedback on the section of work they’ve completed. It is helpful to keep the scope of your feedback narrow since you have limited time and encourage students to capture their questions on a post-it so they do not interrupt you as you work.

Providing feedback during the process is incredibly rewarding because students feel supported and the finished products are much stronger.

#5 Quick Assessment & Individualized Support

Begin your station with a quick quiz. I’d suggest using a quizzing tool that automatically grades the students’ answers (e.g., Socrative, Google Form in quiz mode, Schoology quiz feature). While students are working on the quiz, you can take a lap around the room to check in with the other groups.

Once you’ve collected their data, you can see exactly how each student did on the quick assessment. Some students will be ready to move onto the next challenge or level of instruction, which others will need additional support and practice.

It is important to have two assignments ready for students based on their performance on the quiz. For those students who need additional practice, you can provide them with a review activity and spend your time working with them. For students who are ready to move on, you can provide them a flipped video with additional explanation or provide them with practice that is more challenging or builds on their prior practice.

There are so many different ways to leverage the teacher-led station. I encourage teachers to think about the objectives of the lesson and which strategy will best meet those objectives. Even though it is a teacher-led, I encourage teachers to think about how they can actively engage their students at this station.

If you have another strategy you use and love at your teacher-led station, please take a moment to post a comment and share it with me!

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18 Responses to 5 Ways to Design Your Teacher-led Station

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  2. Sara Maria Santos says:

    I’d love to receive more lesson plans like this one for my students!!

  3. Betty Mc laughlin says:

    Love this practical model!

  4. Jennifer Martinez says:

    Love these suggestions!

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  6. Terence Masuda says:

    I like the idea of immediate feedback in sample #4. I think it’s helpful if students get real-time guidance in order to maintain their flow of ideas. #5: The quick assessment and individualized support is another method I think would be effective. Giving assignments based on the quick assessment outcome greatly enhances the teacher’s ability to manage support for those who need it and freedom to progress further, for those who don’t.

  7. C Vander Zee says:

    As a grade level, we are guilty of assigning homework and taking a grade. This year we have cut back, but I am apprehensive. I know research does not support that homework improves knowledge, etc., but I am torn.
    I do like the idea of having homework in a center and letting the students check their work, have a discussion and that be their “learning”. It’s just hard to change.

    I also feel that the quick assessment and individual support would be very beneficial to my students as well as myself. I feel that sometime we feel so pressured to keep moving forward and get everything covered, we fail to make sure our students are mastering the concepts. We know they fall further and further behind, but taking time to stop and review or reteach is so important.

    I feel where I might struggle is on hook the group. I always want to jump right in and get started, but I feel that I miss getting my students excited and engaged. The hook the group will definately be something that I will be using. I feel it can only benefit the students and get them excited about whats to come.

  8. Deb Nance says:

    I find that students seem to have more confidence with the I do, we do, you do. They can see the process for solving and feel more at ease to do it on their own whether it’s due at the end of the period or for homework.
    I can see where a quick assessment and individual support would benefit some lessons because I can see what student already know or need to know as well as who knows or doesn’t know. Help me make the lesson more streamlined.

    • Hi Deb,

      I can understand why this approach would lead to higher levels of confidence. When the teacher begins with a clear explanation and model, students have a better sense of how to do whatever it is we are asking them to do. That said, I like to encourage a productive struggle. So often kids are immediately uncomfortable when they don’t know how to do something or feel the slightest struggle, which is why I like the first “hook the group” strategy. It encourages problem-solving, collaboration, the application of prior strategies to a new and novel problem or question.

      When I coach teachers, I encourage them to mix it up and try different strategies with kids in their teacher-led station.

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on these strategies for designing your teacher-led station!

      Catlin

  9. Margaret Shelton says:

    This was a very helpful article.

  10. Margaret Shelton says:

    The teacher-led station for a range of activities beyond direct instruction which most impressed me were the following.
    #1 Model a process, I always do better when instructions are modeled for me, so I always image the same for my students.
    #2 Provide real-time feedback, students need to know and want know who they are doing in class.
    #3 Conference with students, a meaningful conference assures students of where they are and where they need to be.

  11. Virginia Callins says:

    I am a big fan of the I Do, We Do, You Do strategy. I feel it gives the students more confidence when they are doing the work on their own. The quick assessment is a method I would like to try. Its seems that it would be very beneficial in providing individual support to those students who need review and or retaught of those skills that wasn’t mastered.

  12. Gloria Camacho says:

    I like the idea and know that the students would respond very well with the technique.

  13. Blair johnson says:

    I’m a strong advocate for improving my students’ problem solving skills. While they get frustrated with me for answering their question with a question, I can witness their engagement in the activity and their sense of accomplishment when they complete the assignment or solve the problem.
    Also the I do,we do, you do station can help lessen the anxiety levels of struggling students along with strategic pairing.
    i really like the objective and purpose stated for homework. It should be practice and used as a self-check for students.

  14. Theresa Gregg says:

    The teacher has quite “a load” up front to prepare the lesson at the beginning for the rotation but it’s exciting to think of the student as reaping the rewards. From the grouping strategies to the instant results, the student has a variety of methods for lesson acquisition. The teacher quietly make the rounds as the students do the real work of learning.

  15. Jeannie Blain says:

    I strongly agree with using homework not for grading but for practicing. I have many times let my kids grade their own homework and we would discuss the correct answer if they made an error. I am excited about this course.

  16. carlin timmins says:

    I like seeing the different options for station-rotations models. After a teacher led discussion any of these options would be smart to use, to encourage student engagement, depending on the curriculum. I have also think that #2 and #3 are good for introducing a new concept in smaller groups. #1,#4 & #5 are great for enrichment once they show mastery of the concept being worked. You could have them research a question they would like the answer to, or something they would like to learn more about.

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