It can be a struggle to hold students attention for a class period, particularly when the task is practice or review on a topic that already been touched upon. Many times students need that practice, but do not have the persistence to work through a longer series of practice questions, or review. Also, students can easily get frustrated with sets of practice questions. One tool that I use frequently in my classroom to keep students engaged is the use of stations.
Many tasks can be broken up into smaller sets of practice (for example sets of 5 test questions that get checked by a teacher, mixed with stations on reviewing vocabulary, labeling a diagram, and another set of 5 questions. Students can get more immediate feedback, and don’t get frustrated when working on a shorter set of questions. These stations can easily be completed in, perhaps 10 minutes and students can move to the next station.
Additionally, stations can be a great way to build in more time for support or individualized help with the teacher. For example, when working with learning to use microscopes, one station can be a station with teacher direction on using the microscope and pointing out specifics, one station on parts of the microscope, one on a virtual microscope on the computer, and one where students can look at slides on their own.
Another example of station work can be a way to build in different learning styles. I often do stations on the same topic, but in different ways. These could be a set of stations where students do a short creative writing, watch a video, again could label a diagram, work with vocabulary, do a reading, etc. Often students need to see a particular topic frequently, but in different ways. This can be a valuable tool to help your students work though a topic. When using this type of stations, it is often helpful to have a wrap up of some type (discussion, writing, questions, etc) for students to pull together what they have learned.
Lastly, even a larger task can often be broken up into chunks and re-written as stations. Station work tends to keep students moving, on a schedule, and focused on the task. They can sustain their focus for 10 minutes (anywhere from 5-20 depending on the task), and then they get to move and start a new task. They also have built in incentive to stay ‘on time’ as they will be moving, and need to get that piece done before the time expires.
I find station work a useful tool at many different points in a unit in my classroom and hope that I have been able to give you some useful ideas as well. I would love to hear your tips for keeping students engaged in your classroom!