As a blended learning coach, I spend a lot of time in classrooms where teachers are experimenting with blended learning models. The Station Rotation Model is one I see used frequently. Its popularity stems from the fact that it allows teachers to maximize limited technology and it creates a nice balance between online and offline work.

The basic design of a station rotation lesson includes three types of stations: teacher-led, online, and offline. The exact number of stations will vary based on factors like the length of the class period, the total number of students in a class, and furniture constraints.

As with any approach to lesson design, it is easy for teachers to slip into a rut when it comes to designing their stations. Too often, when I enter classrooms using the Station Rotation Model, I see the same types of activities happening at each station. Here are the classic pitfalls I see when observing teachers using this model:

Problem #1: The teacher spends the majority of the teacher-led station talking at students, and often, the teacher provides the same instruction to every group that cycles through his/her station. Teachers can use their stations for a variety of tasks beyond direct instruction. (For more ideas on how to design your teacher-led station, check out this blog.)

Problem #2: The online station is used exclusively for personalized practice using adaptive software or an online program. Although personalized online practice that meets the learner exactly where he/she is at in terms of skill is incredibly useful, students quickly become bored and disillusioned with online programs if that is the only work they do online. I also worry about the fact that using technology in this way isolates learners. I want to see more teachers use technology to encourage conversation, collaboration, and creation online.

Problem #3: The offline stations are often used for classic pen and paper practice. Essentially, students are asked to sit quietly at their desks and work on handouts or practice problems in a workbook. Instead of designing collaborative tasks that allow students social learning opportunities, they are required to practice without support or peer interaction. This isolation often results in students who are not engaged in the task and distract the work happening at the other stations.

When I work with teachers, my goal is to get them to think bigger when they design their stations. I encourage teachers to mix it up because variety is key to keeping students excited about the Station Rotation Model.

As teachers head off for summer break, I would suggest thinking about how you can mix up your stations. Begin making a list of possible station activities using the template below. If there are activities that have worked well this year, add them to the template. If you see another teacher using a great strategy, game, or activity, think about what station that might work well at and add it to your template.

Hopefully, you will find that as you populate this template with ideas it becomes easier to plan your station rotation lessons next year because you have an idea bank to draw from.

Teachers who are interested in the Station Rotation Model should check out my laminated On Your Feet Guide (published by Corwin). It’s available on Amazon!

4 Responses

  1. What a great post! It really has me thinking and seeing where I can stretch comfort level with what my students can do during rotations. Thanks for sharing! I’m ordering your On Your Feet Guide now!

  2. Catlin –
    Some great ideas here but I notice you’ve added “art projects” under your Offline Station heading. Are you working with your highly trained art educator to ensure quality content and not just fluff? Often classroom teachers view us as their handmaidens and not as peers who contribute rich and equally valid content to the curriculum at hand. It distresses me to see fellow educators reduce us to an “activity” or craft. Rarely do I see folks address and incorporate Math, ELA or Science in an offhanded way.

    Just some food for thought.

    • Blick gives excellent art lesson materials that are not “fluff.”

      I am a science teacher, and I was able to research and plan a science lesson where students interpreted various cells utilizing different types of impressionist art styles. First they learned about the styles, then they analyzed the function of the cell, finally they selected an appropriate style that would speak to the function of that cell. We did an impressionist art “virtual tour” and the students collaborated together to plan and critique their projects.

      With some creativity and research I believe teachers can indeed add rich and meaningful art activities. I’m a science teacher and I have done this!

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