Reflecting and Preparing:Classroom Stations
Summer is a time for rest, relaxation, and reflection. As I reflect, I've realized one of the most successful changes I've made in my classroom over the years was to change the desk configuration to tables two years ago. It may seem like a small change but, as I've stated in previous posts, I now have 5 mini-classrooms of 6 students. I can get to know students and monitor their understanding of the subject matter so much better than with my previous setup of mini-rows, with students facing one another. I now truly feel like I have a community of learners in our room (we have, in the past, made table coats of arms and mottoes to emphasize this concept). This setup also means that students have the opportunity to interact with one another more than ever before.
Increased student interaction has motivated me to work with, not against, the numerous student conversations that occur when students are facing each other. My plan: increase the use of classroom stations.
I am a secondary educator--stations are a staple in many elementary classrooms but haven't been nearly as prevalent in middle and high schools. Lately I've been reading more and more Twitter links and blog posts dedicated to the use of secondary learning stations and I can see how they will benefit the learners I work with everyday. Students do not need me to be the all-knowing sage. (I've never been comfortable in this role anyway--I am a life-long learner and no one knows everything.) Students need to be the ones to do the thinking, questioning, and creating. My role is to create activities and resources to guide them in their role as Student Historians and classroom stations will be an important vehicle in this journey.
I have read many posts about starting out the year with stations and have spent some time working on my plan. Instead of taking up our first week with unexciting lectures about rules and procedures, students will take part in getting to know one another and designing the ideal classroom. They will decide on procedures this way and I will have time to interact with students one-on-one as they're working. They will also complete a Schoology Scavenger Hunt to look through and analyze the contents and resources in one of the Schoology folders I created last year. Now that my station resources are created I am confident this will make future centers easier to develop.
Students need to have content-based conversations, ones where they are grappling with the big ideas in History. They also need to practice navigating social conversations with peers. Table seating and student learning stations encourage many opportunities for both. My goal is to help students hone their leadership skills and confidence in communication, both academically and socially.
Much of what I've recently read reiterates that how I organize my time with my students sends a huge message as to what I value. I believe learning stations, especially the during the first days of school, will make my values clear.