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.