Station Rotations Personalizing Learning

Station Rotations Personalizing Learning
Posted on 12/06/2019
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students at table with stringWalking into Heather Blaylock’s seventh grade science class at Plains Junior School, you might see a group of students wiggling a piece of string. Or stretching out a Slinky. Or watching a video on their Chromebooks. Why? They’re expanding their knowledge and putting what they’ve learned about wavelengths into action as part of a personalized learning technique called station rotations.

Just as the name suggests, students rotate in small groups among several stations, completing different activities at each one. “The students have different goals or objectives they have to meet at each station,” explained Blaylock. One of the benefits of station rotation is that it gives the teacher more time to work one-on-one with individuals or small groups of students. “I’m either helping at a particular station or I’m walking from station to station, jumping in where I know they’ll have questions,” she said.

Jordan Otabil sees the benefit of more time with her teacher. “When we’re just regular sitting in class, (Mrs. Blaylock) has to go one-by-one-by-one. But when we’re in station rotations, she can work will small groups of us.” That’s definitely an added benefit that Blaylock sees as well.

“I have more opportunities for one-on-one interaction. You get a few minutes to talk to one group here and one group there,” she said. Another benefit is that students are calling Blaylock to their stations to share what they’ve learned. 

This year, teachers throughout Lakota have been implementing various teaching techniques in the classroom. The “plays,” as they’re known in the district, are different approaches to make learning more personalized, with an emphasis on encouraging students to have more of a choice in their learning styles. 

Station rotation is one of four plays teachers are using this year. The others include flexible playlists, flipped classrooms and project based learning. “Every child learns differently,” said Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Keith Koehne. “The intention of utilizing these four plays this year is to make the learning experience more personalized for our students.”

Blaylock has seen the benefits in her classroom. “By setting up stations, I feel like when the students come in, they’re much more excited and more engaged with what we’re doing.” She’s also noticed that the stations are sparking conversations among the groups of students that wouldn’t necessarily occur in the traditional classroom setting. “Students are coming up with things on their own that haven’t been a part of the lesson,” she noted. “They’re taking it to that next step.”

Otabil likes being able to talk to her partners about what they’re learning, and the variety of the stations. “It’s really cool. You can do different things and that makes (learning) better.”

While Blaylock has used station rotations in the past, she’s pushing herself to make them more in-depth this year. “I tried to make stations that are meaningful to what we’re doing, but also take it a little bit farther, a little bit deeper.” And the students are responding. “When they come into the classroom, they’re more interested and I’m more likely to get that commitment and that buy-in.” Blaylock sees the engagement level increasing as well. “I feel like they’re questioning more. They’re more likely to try something on their own, question what’s happening. They’re experimenting more on their own,” she said.

“I think it’s a fun way to engage in learning,” remarked Bryce Hammons. “Sometimes people can get bored with Powerpoints and taking notes,” he said. “Doing stations is hands-on and use visuals to learn more.” Hammons also noted that station rotations benefit visual learners by using activities to reinforce lessons.

Another benefit to personalized learning is the aspect of self-pacing. “There’s not as much pressure,” Blaylock explained. “Students are able to take more time” if they need it because “the next station will still be there.” 

Blaylock plans to continue using station rotations to not only reinforce her lessons but to make learning even more personalized through differentiation. Whether that’s a station where students can take more time if they find the material difficult or enrichment for those who have mastered a concept, Blaylock is looking forward to the possibilities. “One of the things with station rotations is to encourage kids to have a wide variety,” she explained. “You’re able to hit different students and different strengths.”

Blaylock is looking forward to the challenge of diving deeper with station rotations to personalize her students’ learning. “I think when you’ve been teaching awhile, you kind of get stuck in a rut - you get used to doing it the same old way,” she reflected. “Trying something new is really energizing and exciting” for both teachers and students. “The kids are more excited to come into class,” she said. “They get me excited through their excitement.”

Click here to watch a video of Blaylock’s station rotations in action.