Monday, August 22, 2016

Back to School Stations

The idea of using stations in a high school classroom is a popular one, and with back to school time here or looming for some, it’s gaining traction.  Jennifer Wolfe’s post,No More Lectures: Try Back to School Stations Instead describes using them in her middle school classroom.  I tried them out in my high school speech class, and loved it!
Using stations achieved several things: the process allowed students to move around my room, had students using the interactive whiteboard for once, gave me feedback on students so I could get to know them, and helped us accomplish some minor tasks that would suck up too much time if we did them as a class.
I created five stations: a survey about the class content on the interactive whiteboard, a computer station to complete the Personal Report of Communication Anxiety online, a postcard selection site, a personal survey for students to fill out, and an introduction to our first speech assignment. My room is a good sized one, with a projector and interactive whiteboard, a pod of students computers (3 out of 6 currently working), and 10 rectangular tables arranged into five squares. This is a partial view of my room. A bit of the computer pod is visible off right, under the shelf of trophies.

One motivation for using stations was the idea that students spend a lot of time sitting and listening the first couple of days of school.  I agree that listening is an important skill, but I had promised students on the first day that in our speech class, we spend more time doing stuff than in a typical class.  Setting up stations gave us all a chance to circulate, with a purpose.
The interactive whiteboard in my room is a constant challenge to me.  I appreciate it, but I always feel that students don’t use it enough.  I met the challenge by making the whiteboard one of the station sites.  I set up a survey on Google Forms to solicit students’ opinions about which of the four topics in the class they were most interested in studying.  The survey, which you can find here, is short, and students simply clicked on “Submit Another Response” when they were through and tagged another student to complete the survey. 
     Another station had students complete the Personal Report of Communication Anxiety online.  This is a wonderful tool! The results help me see which students might need extra support or different strategies to speak in front of the class confidently.  I simply added a link from my website to the online version of the instrument and then have students record their results on and index card.  At another station, students filled out another kind of survey, linked here.  Since I ask them to use complete sentences to answer the questions, the responses also serve as short writing samples.
     At the postcard station, I left a pile of postcards from which students chose one they especially liked and addressed it to themselves. I posted instructions about to address a postcard (a skill most freshman don’t seem to possess) and ask them to drop the cards into a basket.  At some point in the semester, I’ll find something positive to share with the student, jot it down on the card, and mail it.  If we do this as a whole class, it takes a lot of time since some students complete it easily and others agonize over the choices.  Making this one station in the rotation made the process flexible enough I didn’t feel guilty about implementing it.  I try to have a variety of cards.  Last year I purchased a set featuring art from Pixar; this year I added some with animals done by different artists.
     Aside from the activity at each station, I learned more about students as they completed the activities.  Who was able to complete the stations on their own? Who needed to be told where to go next, even when the instructions said they didn’t need to do the stations in any order? Who helped their classmates problem-solve? I left each hour knowing more about my students even before I collected the work at each station and reading it.

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