Saturday, February 1, 2014

Stations for Secondary Learners

Cooperative Learning with Literacy Stations

Literacy stations are student-centered activities that involve small heterogeneous groups of learners working cooperatively to complete tasks. Students work together on tasks that encourage problem-solving, hands-on learning, and teamwork. Smaller groups are better because having fewer members encourages participation from every member in the group (Gallagher, 107). Many of our stations involve games and activities that are most beneficial with teams of students, so four members is often the ideal number.

Space and Environment

One hurdle many teachers often encounter when it comes to stations and group work is the amount space available in their classrooms. Many of our stations deviate from traditional work centers that involve students seated at a table or group of desks. Instead, many of our stations are standing stations in which students complete an activity that is set up as a game of the floor, an activity drawn on a white board or chalkboard, writing station centered around a standing easel or paper chart, or other instruments for learning in which students are engaged.

Stations vs. Centers

Literacy stations are unlike centers in that stations are most effective as the practice or review of a skill that has been mastered in the classroom; whereas centers may serve as an introduction to new learning. Literacy stations are typically set up for students to rotate through in groups or teams. Centers are often focused on the skill and not the activity. In cooperative stations, students work together, often being assigned an individual role within the team. In contrast, centers may involve students working independently in the same area.

Stations for Secondary Students

Literacy stations are often regarded as small group learning in the primary and elementary setting. When working with secondary students, literacy stations can be successful when the focus of the activities involves topics that are on the interest level of older learners. Incorporating popular culture, popular song lyrics, and reading topics that include celebrities, animals, mysteries, comics, cartoon characters, and television stimulate student interests and keep them actively engaged.

Research has shown that middle and high school students are responsive to “space and times that welcome the reading, discussing, and sharing of texts (and tasks) that adolescents like to read, and in particular, with an eye toward issues important to youth, such as relationships, justice, personal struggles, and making difficult decisions” (Ivey, 2008, p.20). The stations we have created encourage group discussions, debates, collaboration, and sharing of ideas that activate curiosity and awareness.

Differentiating Literacy Stations

The skills sets that are the focus of your literacy station activities should be based on formative and summative assessment data. Students who have mastered the skills will be more successful in synthesizing what they have learned in order to accomplish the station goal. Students who are in need of remediation in that particular skill will be more successful completing an alternate activity that is on their appropriate level.

Instead of using worksheets, stations will be more appealing to students when the evidence for learning is acquired through various mediums, such as note cards, small white boards, computers, large chart paper or cardstock.

In many cases, a particular group of students may need a lower-level text or an activity with more scaffolding. In order to accommodate the diverse range of learners, it is effective to have an alternate assignment or activity that can be changed out to cater to the needs of a specific group of students. 

TEI Simulation

With stations, it is easy to simulate the technology-enhanced item (TEI) styles seen on the Reading Standards of Learning tests. Station activities include matching, multiple answers, and filling in graphic organizers that allow students to practice manipulating items with tangible materials.

TEI simulation can be easily accomplished in stations using simple adjustments to traditional center ideas. Many of our stations involve sorts, cut and paste activities, color-coding, highlighting, and selection of multiple words and phrases. 

Cross-curricular Connections

Stations are an excellent platform to integrate curriculum from other core content areas. Many of the games and activities are centered on authentic texts can be supplemented with history, civics, social studies, or science passages and articles. The stations that involve recall information or inference activities can incorporate historical figures, political concepts, and components of scientific methods. Stations are also excellent vehicles for teaching vocabulary across the content areas. 

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We appreciate your feedback! Please let us know what works and what does not.If you have an idea or concept you would like to see made into a station, please send those to us as well!