When I speak with parents at back-to-school night each year, one thing I always tell them is that one of the goals in my class is to help students learn to love English class, love reading, and love writing. I explain to them that I consider it a good day when the bell catches all of us in the classroom off-guard because we are engaged, having fun, and fully immersed in the day’s learning experience. One way to do this in the secondary ELA classroom is through the use of implementing stations in the classroom.
Planning station activities for the classroom is a beneficial strategy to not only pass the time quickly in the classroom but to also increase classroom engagement and whole-body learning. When students work their way through stations in a class period, they are active and moving. Their brains are focusing on small bursts of critical thinking. Not only do I have their attention, but station days are always fun and immersive. For more reading about collaborative classroom activities, read about the six type of group activities to include in the ELA classroom.
One super-easy way to set up an informal station activity in your classroom is to cut up questions and tape them around the room. Yes, it really is that simple, and it turns a drab review sheet or chapter review activity into a fun and engaging classroom activity that students will love. For this activity, you can also use task cards as well!
Usually, when the weather starts to turn nice after winter, I like to get my students up and moving both inside and outside of my classroom. And to do this, we spend a day reviewing information either after reading several chapters or before taking a test. Let’s say that I have 15 review questions I’d like students to answer. What I’ll do is print out several sets of questions on brightly colored paper, cut them out in strips, and tape individual questions around the room. I’ll instruct students that there are a set number of questions, and their job is to get up, move about the room, find each question, and answer each question. I usually tape several questions up outside of my classroom in the courtyard. Students who want to get up and walk outside have that option.
Before I set students loose, I set activity expectations and provide my students with an activity end time. I like to leave at least 5-10 minutes at the end of the class after the walkabout to reconnect as a whole class and review the questions together. Some of the expectations include walking around, answering the questions together, and not just copying answers -especially before students have even seen the questions. Then, I set them loose!
This activity allows for student choice, a bit of (what feel like for them) freedom, collaborative learning, and discussion. The students don’t move from station to station in set, specific groups. Instead, they walk around on their own agency and accord -knowing that after so many minutes, they need to have so many questions answered.
As my students are walking around the room and outside of my room, I also walk around speaking with as many students as I can. It’s a great opportunity for informal checking for understanding and scaffolding. I can ask my high-achieving students more advanced questions and engage them in analysis, but I can also check on my students who need extra support and see how they are doing.
To make sure that the activity is successful, I always end it about ten minutes before the bell rings so that I can bring students back as a whole class to review the questions with everyone. In doing this, students are able to review the questions once more and reaffirm what they know about the topic.