Stations are one way to differentiate learning to meet different learners’ needs. Stations can be a lot of work to prepare, but I am always pleased with the level of engagement and the pace of the learning when students learn through stations. I don’t do stations nearly as often as I should, but lately I have put my planning into a higher gear!
Two weeks ago I planned stations for students to explore symmetry. I decided to use stations after my formal assessments revealed that my grade 3 students were still struggling with symmetry. I thought I had done a good job reviewing and teaching symmetry. The students completed the exercises in our math textbook and they students successfully and independently completed all extra practice black line masters with ease. Then I decided to give my students some symmetry questions from past EQAO assessments. To my surprise, they didn’t do that well with the questions. They were able to identify lines of symmetry, but they were not able to apply their understanding of symmetry by completing symmetrical shapes. So I decided to give the students more opportunities to explore symmetry through a variety of stations. At one station, students were to look through magazines and find examples of symmetry. In another, they were given half of a symmetrical picture and they had to use a mirror to complete the other half. I had a symmetry game using attribute blocks at another station, plus a few others. As the kids rotated through the stations, I was able to walk around and observe the students as they gained more experience and practice with symmetry. I did not need to correct any behaviours or redirect any students back to learning….and best of all, students had fun! I should also note that I also asked my students’ visual arts teacher to review symmetry through art activities as well. I will bring out the EQAO questions again, but I am sure that they will be better with the application questions.
Last week, my teacher candidate planned stations for the plants and soils unit she is teaching. At one station, students were planting tomato seeds. At another, they were making a dip out of refried beans, corn, coriander, lime and cumin (each ingredient represented a different component of healthy soil); at another station students were observing red wigglers (worms!) and labeling the different parts of the worm!
Feedback from parents has been impressive. A number of parents commented on how happy and excited their child was about their learning. Let’s not forget about stations when planning to meet the different learning styles and interests of our students!