Have you ever run out of time when teaching a lesson? Ever wish there was just 20 more minutes to extend a lesson with an engaging game? Wouldn't it be nice to use that time to work with a few students to re-teach a lesson, or support their understanding with a hands-on or visual strategy? I've been using existing tools in my classroom to set up workstations that allow for differentiation, collaboration, choice, and active engagement.
These workstations provide a structure without the confines of a script or a program. Simply organize a rotating schedule where your students can be in partnerships or small groups for 40 to 60 minutes during your school day. During this time, they can rotate to two or three stations, depending on your time. As your students are engaged in station activities or projects, you can meet with individuals, small groups, or facilitate each group as needed. Each station can offer a variety of activities so that students have a choice. They can even have the opportunity to develop their own ideas based on the available tools at the station. How creative! You will be amazed with what their inquisitive minds develop!
Being able to take my whole group lessons and reteach or extend them into differentiated lessons for students was such a success for my class. I was able to gain this additional time each day by restructuring my spelling and handwriting instruction. In years past, I taught spelling and handwriting as whole group lessons. Now, with the support of technology, I'm able to flip these lessons. Typically, when you flip a lesson, a student watches a video at home and comes to school the next day ready to discuss the content or interact with the material in a manner that allows for deeper understanding.
Since I teach second grade, I wasn't quite ready to do the traditional flipped model. Instead, I internally flip my lessons for spelling and handwriting. I record my lessons and put them in the spelling or handwriting centers/stations. By incorporating these two content areas into our daily workstations, I was able to gain back the necessary daily time to do meaningful and engaging station activities.
When you set up your stations, aim for between six to nine different rotations. This way, students can visit a different station each day throughout the week. It helps for teacher preparation, too. Teachers do not have to switch out materials as often. Start with thinking about what you wish you had more time for during the day: math games, lab experiments, creative writing, digital storytelling, geography activities, etc. Those can serve as the basis for your stations.
Then, gather materials that can assist students in each station. If you only have one iPad, you can use EduCreations to internally flip your classroom for a specific station/content area. If you only have one desktop computer, think about allowing students to partner up and use it for a creative station throughout the day so they can begin creating content to demonstrate their leaning. My students love when I put the Scholastic Daily Starters into a station so they can work with a partner to complete the activities. Students even enjoy listening to cassette tapes while following along to books being read aloud. Digital cameras can be a simple, yet effective tool when put in the hands of children. You will be amazed with what tools you can find laying around your home and classroom. It takes a bit of time in the beginning, but it's worth it!
Most of all, my children love having the freedom of choice in their activities. Allowing them to be more independent has been such a benefit — especially for classroom management. Students are learning to problem-solve, get along, respect one another, and push their own thinking. We love our creative station time!