There are some key points to keep in mind while implementing learning stations in middle school and high school.
Forget time-consuming gathering and prepping supplies; there’s no need to make your stations overly complicated to be fun and engaging!
Luckily, your middle and high school students have a (much) longer attention-span than kindergarteners in learning stations, and can be engaged with activities that require only thoughtful discussion and critical thinking.
If you’ve never implemented chat stations, then you absolutely must keep reading! As you might remember from college, Vygotsky developed the theory that learning occurs through social interactions.
I watched an awesome video all about Chat Stations. In the video, she explains what chat stations are, how to set one up, and how to implement them. Basically, they’re learning stations that encourage students to discuss the topic and think critically, together.
You start by writing a few questions and posting them around the room. You split the class into small groups, and they rotate around the room thoroughly discussing each question. Then, you meet back as a whole group and discuss the questions. This gives them a chance to already think about the subject, which leads to better feedback.
If you’re looking to just add another learning station to your rotation, consider using just a small piece of this. At the chat station, the small groups would discuss one or two questions, and you can still discuss as a class when learning stations are complete.
Create a “Road Map”
According to Edutopia, creating a road map or outline of all of the stations is a must. They provided a sample in the article for a lesson on Igneous Rocks.
They found that a “check- off” space or a line for a teacher signature can be very beneficial to help students stay on task and hold them accountable. Another idea to consider is requiring your students to get a stamp or a sticker, before they move on to the next station.
Carry a Clipboard
Make your life a whole lot easier and get a clipboard! This is an easy way to help your class’ learning stations run nicely and smoothly. Simply, carry a clipboard with you as you move around and monitor the class!
A clipboard with the previously-mentioned roadmap and a behavior management chart allows you to work with individual or small groups of students, while efficiently scanning the room for any off-task students.
You can document behaviors, and provide consequences and rewards however you see fit.
As you have probably learned, students’ learning can be more meaningful and powerful when they get to be the ones who choose what to do, instead of being told what to do.
In his book The Highly Engaged Classroom, Dr. Robert Marzano explains why student choice is essential in our classrooms. He dives into learning theories and offers some tips on how teachers can provide meaningful choices for students.
According to Education Closet, “Marzano found that students perceive classroom activities as more important when they are given choices. It increases intrinsic motivation, increasing student effort and task performance, which therefore boosts the amount that students can learn from an activity.”
Take Advantage of One-on-One Time
This is the absolute best time to give individual students the attention they need. Instead of teaching to an entire class, you can appropriately scaffold learning while the rest of the class is still actively engaged and learning.
So, when it’s time for stations use your time wisely. You might go over the previous test with a struggling student, or extend the learning for more advanced students. Whatever it may be, strategically use this time to really individualize your students learning!
Let me walk you through a set of learning stations I used in 6th grade math. I put this set together as an intro to polyhedra.
My main lesson goal here was to get kids exploring nets and visualizing all the faces, vertices, and edges. I wanted them to really get comfortable with classifying prisms and pyramids and knowing the difference between the two. This base understanding of how nets and faces are visualized is critical for their future success with surface area and volume, so I wanted them to dive deep and explore it all to really “get” that key concept.
I blended tech and hands-on to get the best of both worlds. Two stations required internet. I only used two classroom computers, since I had three in the back of the room and did not want to have to sign out the laptop cart (or maybe it was not available; I can’t remember!) You could potentially allow students to find their own video and applet resources (with guidance if needed), but I had them already chosen and set up to save time.
I put my kids into 6 groups and had them rotate through the stations every 15 minutes. Since we only had 52 minute periods, covering all six took two days. I told them that at any station, if the group ran out of time, they’d finish that station’s activity as homework or when they may have extra time at another station.
That way, after the two days, I could collect and everyone would have everything done. I put together little folders for them to carry around with all their printables, but you could really just lay the printed stack at each table.
Vocabulary cards were allowed to be completed as they worked, or saved for homework, depending on how fast each group worked.
At another, they watched a quick video and answered some questions about identifying a polyhedron. I even had them explore the root word “poly” and think of other words with that root and what it might mean. (See more about teaching math with root words here.)
At a third station, I let them play with online applets that allow them to “unfold” a polyhedron into its net. They could drag and roll it out, then pull it back together. Then, they practiced drawing nets from polyhedra, and polyhedra from nets.
If you want to try this out, I have the full set of materials you’ll need. Just click here to purchase the stations as a complete lesson.
Do you have any tips on implementing learning stations in middle school and high school? Let us know in a comment below!
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