Guest post written by Amy Tobener-Talley.

The station rotation model is a great way to introduce your class expectations to a new group of students while simultaneously building relationships and developing your class community. In this post, I’ll share some strategies and resources I found useful when preparing to use the station rotation model at the beginning of the school year.

The first few weeks of the year can be anxiety-inducing. For years, I felt daunted by everything I was supposed to cover. I overwhelmed and bored my students with way too much information instead of focusing on getting to know them. I longed for a better way to start the school year. I wanted those first weeks to be engaging and interesting. 

In an effort to reimagine the first weeks of school, I decided to use the station rotation model to encourage my new students to interact with one another and learn about our class. I designed a collection of stations to encourage them to explore expectations for conduct, course requirements, goal setting, what it means to collaborate, etc. The results were incredible! I was able to breathe and enjoy the relaxing, student-centered atmosphere I had created. Instead of standing at the front of the room talking at them, students worked independently and collaboratively on the tasks at various stations. I was freed to circulate, facilitate, and connect with my students. 

My beginning of the year station rotations have evolved each year. Below are tips for preparing a station rotation, so they run more smoothly.

Station Rotation Preparation Tips:

  1. Create an overview of the first 2-3 weeks of school in your Google calendar planner or use Catlin Tucker’s template.

2. Design a mix of 4-6 online and offline activities that correlate with what you usually cover in the first few weeks of the school year. Create an overview of the rotations with links to resources and documents. I suggest adding the link to this overview document to your digital planner.

Note: This station rotation series pictured above is designed for a 6th grade English Language Arts class. The groups cycle through the six stations twice in two weeks. Feel free to make a copy of the documents and tailor them to your needs.

3. Organize and edit all of the documents your students will need and decide what you will use as evidence of learning (e.g., written responses, videos, observations, presentations).

4. Create a slide deck with hyperlinks and student instructions for each station. You may want to consider using video to provide directions in order to save time.

5. Put your students in predetermined groups or let them choose their groups to see who they want to work with. For more information on grouping strategies, check out this blog.

6. Create an assignment in your learning management system (LMS) and post the slideshow overview with instructions. Post separate assignments for each online station, so students can access all of the resources and digital documents they need to complete the assignments.

7. Provide students with meaningful choices in the rotation to remove potential barriers that might make it challenging for all students to access the content.

I hope these preparation tips help you use the station rotation model to design a more student-centered start to the year that is less stressful, frees you to engage with your students, and helps you build a strong community!

Amy Tobener-Talley teaches ELA, ELD, and Digital Technology at a dual-immersion language school in Sonoma County. She is bilingual (Spanish), Google certified, and passionate about leveraging her 15 years of experience to modernize teaching and learning. Using digital tools and blended learning techniques, she has created a student-centered environment in which her students engage and thrive in active learning online and offline.

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10 Responses

  1. This is perfect for the first week of school and exactly what I was looking for! Thank you for sharing this. You mentioned that students rotate through the six stations twice. How many minutes are the students in the stations and since they are rotating twice, does this mean that are doing the same lesson and picking up from what they left off on?

    • Hi Cindy,

      I asked Amy, who guest wrote this blog, and she said they spend 20-30 minutes in stations. She says they don’t finish the first time in all stations, except for station 1. So, during the second week, she had students sign up for their Newsela account and explore articles or assign them an Edpuzzle video lesson.

      I hope that helps!

      Take care.
      Catlin

  2. Dr. Tucker,
    I am reading Balance with Blended Learning and am finding it very useful. In Chapter 8 and you indicate that you created single-skill rubrics for each of the state standards. I just started creating such a document last week. When I saw that you had already done this, I searched your website and TpT to see if your rubrics were available somewhere, but I haven’t been able to find them. I would love to not have to reinvent a wheel that already exists. Are these rubrics available somewhere and I have just not found them?

    Thank you for your time and for sharing your teaching expertise. I am sincerely hoping that station rotations will be an option for class this year.

    • Hi Shannon,

      Unfortunately, most of my rubrics were tied up in my school Google account that I no longer have access to. I didn’t realize I was losing access until it was too late. I believe there is one example in the book, but I don’t have access to the entire collection anymore. My apologies! I’d share them if I could!

      Catlin

      • Depending on how long it’s been since you lost your school account, you may be able to contact the IT department and request that your access be reinstated briefly so that you have the opportunity to migrate work into another account. I’ve been able to request this before for teachers who have moved out of state. Good luck! 🤞😊

      • Ouch! That must be frustrating. I have had that conversation with a colleague about keeping a backup account. I don’t foresee myself leaving my current position for another teaching position, but you never know. Thank you, though, at least I have your model to work from.

        Shannon

      • Thank you for the great ideas and the awesome blended learning book. How many students are in each of their groups and how do you ensure they stay focused on the task?

        • My preference was 6-8 students in a group. Keeping kids engaged and on task is a combination of…1) clear class culture and shared agreements for behavior in groups, 2) consistent consequences for those students not on task, and 3) activities that are varied and interesting.

          Catlin

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