miércoles, 12 de abril de 2017

Managing Stations (part II)

I have decided to do a series of blog posts on stations and their management because while they can be an extremely effective lesson format, this format can also be challenging and stressful!!!!! I also recognize that if your first experience running stations didn't go as planned, it is difficult to be motivated to try them again.  So... a few more tips on stations:

1) set-up the desks in advance (if possible). Floaters!! I know you. I have been you for two years. Every class I taught occurred in a different classroom. For someone like me who likes props, this was an extreme challenge. I simply had to let go of my expectations of starting stations with the bell. I would give my students a warm-up activity, then calmly rearrange the desks while they were completing the activity. If you have a class that is used to changing desk formations, then have them help. But if you do not, I recommend simply directing five students at a time to change into the arrangement that you want (spares time and noise!!).

2) Know your stations inside and out. Know exactly what activity corresponds to which station number. When you know what students are supposed to be doing at station 2, for example, you can answer a question, even if you are assisting a student at station 4.

3) Pre-form the groups with a maximum of five students. I honestly prefer groups of three-four, but for large classes this configuration is simply unattainable. For the first times that you run stations, make the groups in advance, and carefully consider your pairings. If you really want to get fancy, save your groupings and use them to inform your next station activity.

4) Don't be afraid to insert a "silent" station. While silent might be a bit of a misnomer, I occasionally incorporate a station that doesn't actually require cooperation (gasp!). My reasoning is to give introverted students a chance to breathe, relax, and process the data without being required to interact on top of all that work. So....what are some silent stations:
               Create a pneumonic device for learning x... (remembering vocabulary, conjugating a verb, remembering irregular verbs of a tense, etc. )
              Another silent station if your school is computer or tablet based is to have students complete a quick quiz in Quia, or any of other website. complete a quick web quest on a related cultural point, have students create their own five question quiz to share with you or the class upon completion of all stations.
               Or incorporate some color therapy and have students draw a vocabulary word or verb picture, or simply color something that is pertinent to your class.

Let me know what else you want to know about stations!!! I would love to hear all about stations in your classroom.

viernes, 24 de marzo de 2017

Managing Stations

I love stations, but I know that getting a class used to station work can be a challenge. In the ideal world, the first time a class did a station activity it would go smoothly and everyone would be pleased, but in reality, just like any other new classroom activity, stations take time for students to figure-out, and it takes time for me to decide how to best manage them with any particular class. Here are some of the things that I do to manage stations:

1) Spot check/spot grade at random. I will grade or check students' station work. It is either entered in the grade book as participation or homework. If I have small classes, I will spot check a few questions from every student. If I have a large class, I will check the work of one of the group members that I select at random. Now to me the key is selecting the students' work you will grade because otherwise students who are bright, but less inclined to work with others, will show you their work for the group and nobody else will do anything.

2) Expect to have to re-explain the directions the first few times you do station work. If you have upper level students, it's ok to tell them to figure it out and travel around, but with the lower levels 7-9 a lot of time might be invested in explaining the stations again (and again :) ).

3) Plan to run stations for two days. Even if you have five ten minute stations and a fifty minute class, it is likely that when first starting stations, students will only participate in three of them due to needing new directions, traveling slowly, etc. That's ok! I find the second day of stations usually goes more smoothly, and then I have time to review answers as a class.

4) If I am running stations for two days, and I anticipate having some free time, I will encourage students' to revisit a station they found challenging, check their answers, or tidy-up their work.

What do you do to keep stations running smoothly?

viernes, 3 de febrero de 2017

Peer Observations

In my experience, peer observations can be nerve-wracking or enjoyable, collegial or competitive, a learning opportunity or an opportunity to criticize. I hope that if your school uses peer observations they are all of the first things and none of the second!

If you work at a school that is thinking about setting-up peer observations or would like to modify existing peer observations, or if you yourself would like to promote them, I encourage you to consider the following questions.

Who is the learner? Is it the person being observed or is it the observer?

What are the observations going to be used for? Are they going into a formal file?

Who will have access to the observation notes?

How many times will they be done?

I think that peer observations can be an extremely useful and beneficial tool, but I firmly believe that the answer to the first question should be the observer. The observe should be observing to learn a new technique, strategy, classroom management idea, a new way to present material, or looking for a way that more cross-curricular studies can be done. As long as the observer is the learner, most teachers welcome peer observations.

Peer observations should never be formal or evaluative. This should be left to the administrators and department heads. If department heads typically observe to evaluate, then they should observe each other.

No one but the observer and the observed teacher need to have these notes. The best way for a department head to gather information about peer observations is simply to ask during a meeting what was learned from the peer observations. What strategies are being incorporated due to peer observations.

How many times peer observations are done is really dependent on teacher availability and time. I would say no more than three formal peer observations should be done at least in the first year of a peer observation set-up.

Does your school do peer observations? What are the pros/cons? and how do your experiences align or differ from mine?