When approaching teachers about integrating technology in the classroom, I cannot count the number of times I’ve be given the response, “I would if there was enough technology.” In our school, laptops are housed in carts of 30 and teachers can check out a cart for a block, day, week, etc. However, there are only so many carts available so teachers become stressed when trying to plan lessons around having a specific cart for an entire lesson. However, this stress comes from the idea that technology has to be an “all or nothing” deal. This is where the Station Rotation Model comes into play.
With a station rotation model, teachers can set up one, maybe two, stations with laptops and use other stations for group work, direct instruction, and tutoring. This model lends itself perfectly to the idea of reaching the “whole child” and individualizing instruction. Catlin Tucker is the head cheerleader for this model and you can learn more about how she uses it in her classroom on her site.
For the last few weeks, I worked with Mrs. Murdock’s Algebra I class using the Station Rotation Model. This class has a wide range of skill levels and behaviors so this model allows the teacher and her collaborator to group the students appropriately and individualize instruction. During the stations, I worked with a group that independently completed lessons on Khan that were based on their last assessment results. Ms. Peterkin, the collaborative teacher, worked with a group of students graphing slope on white boards. Meanwhile, Mrs. Murdock worked with a small group of students delivering direct instruction. What was great about this small group was that she was able to answer questions from everyone in the group and check for understanding much faster than in a whole class setting. Because it was a small group, students were more willing to ask questions and stay focused on what she was saying. The stations lasted the entire 90-minute block but instead of having students rotate in 30 minute increments to all 3 stations, we did our own version of rotating. Mrs. Murdock kept a group of 15 for 45 minutes while Ms. Peterkin and I rotated our 2 groups of 7 after 22 minutes. After the first 45 minutes, we switched groups with Mrs. Murdock and repeated this process.
To be fair, the first time we tried station rotation it was not pretty. We forgot to set a timer, students took longer than we wanted for each station, and transition time looked like a three-ring circus act. It was a hot mess. However, we did not throw in the towel. We stayed consistent and exposed the students to this routine two days a week. By the third time, students had the rotations down to a science. They were on-task, asking questions, helping each other, and problem solving independently. As an outsider, it has been impressive to see such growth–from the students and the teachers. Innovation in the classroom does not have to be a horse and pony show with Geek Squad fairies and fireworks; sometimes, it’s just a willingness to try a new way to teach the same material.