Monday, February 10, 2014

Differentiation with Stations

“A powerful activity is one in which students make or do something using essential knowledge and essential skills in order to arrive at or explore an essential understanding.” - Carol Tomlinson

What are Stations?

Stations are different places in the classroom where learners work on tasks simultaneously, and whose activities are linked by the same standard. Typically all learners complete all stations.  Each station may offer choice and provide for differentiation based on learner interest or need.

Let’s look at how some of our CISD educators have used stations in their classrooms. Our first guest blogpost is from our Cottonwood Creek Kinder Team (Stacey Harris, Torrington Garrison, Kate Gill and Danielle Mavro).

The CCE Kindergarten team uses stations at multiple times during the day. During literacy, they use a station type formula where learners visit a different table of activities every 20-30 minutes with a minilesson between each rotation.  Each group, which has between 4-6 learners, is able to visit all 4 station activity tables daily. This allows the educator to assist individuals or work with one particular station table for more targeted work.  While learners do visit all stations, choice is given within the stations as to how a learner could complete his or her work.  For example, at the penguin research table, a learner might choose to research using PebbleGo, read a book, or use an app to explore more about the animal before creating a thinking map to show their understanding. During Math, learners also work in stations, rotating through 1 station a day with stations changing each week.

Having learners work in stations means that the educator is able to differentiate more and work with each learner toward individual learning goals. Because the Kinder team sets up their station activities the afternoon before, it allows them to focus on facilitating and working with kids during the time they have them.  It also makes it easier to integrate new technology and skills.  Working with a small group to create a screencast in ShowMe or a digital story in ScribblePress can be much easier than introducing with the whole group.  
The learners love it because it gives them freedom to work more independently, while also providing the structure and routine they need.  They can mix and mingle in the room but still be held accountable by uploading project photos and video into their digital portfolios built in the DIY app.

Advice to other educators trying stations: start small and build up to the routine you want to see.  It sometimes looks like chaos from the outside, but it is organized chaos that works.

Take a look at these cute learners in action:

Our second guest blogger is Beth Marlow from Coppell Middle School West.

In both Algebra and Math 8, I offer activities in small group stations that challenge the learners at their readiness level and helps them to advance to the next level.  The learners have options on which stations to work as long as they meet the required number of points.  Each learner has a number of points they need to accomplish by the end of the stations. By providing different activities the learner has a choice on how they choose to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding.

Here is an example of a station record sheet I used for teaching scientific notation.

The stations use a variety of strategies.  I do try to provide activities that can appeal to all the different type of learners we have in our classrooms. Most of the activities provide immediate feedback or I check often for the learners understanding.  Some activities are online or interactive with the smart board; such as, gizmo, battleship, rags to riches, and socratives.  Some activities are hands-on activities with dice, cards, spinners, and “Here is.Where is.” Other activities are application problems that allow the learner to delve deeper into the concepts being covered, Dan Meyer act 3 or Would You Rather?

Dan Meyer act 3 (  provides real life examples of where different math concepts are found in the “real world.”  Act one introduces a conflict or task.  Act two gives resources the learner might need to help answer the task. Act three answers the task or sets up the extension. For example, in act one a video shows a person eating sugar packets and then shows a person drinking a soda.  The question posed is how many sugar packets are in a can of soda.  Act two gives the resource of the amount of grams of sugar in a sugar packet and the nutrition facts about a can of soda.  Act three shows how to work out the situation.

Would You Rather ( asks a mathematical situation and the learner chooses which direction they would choose and justify their answer mathematically.  For example, would you rather run around the outside of a circle with a circumference of 20m or around a rectangle that has the side lengths of 20m and 40m.   

How could you implement stations in your design experiences for your learners? Is there one thing that really stands out from the two examples that you could implement in your classroom? If you’re already using stations, tell us about your experiences!

Are you wanting to see some examples of scaffolding activities? Visit our website full of examples.

1 comment:

  1. Tami, thank you for posting the link to scaffolding activities. I like that I can find examples from all different grade levels and schools in one place. I hope that we keep this up, so that we have a bunch of ideas to choose from!!