Whether you call them Stations or Centers, you probably love them—and so do your students. Stations give you a laissez-faire teaching day and provide lots of movement and small group interaction for students.
Stations do not, however, come without challenges. Stations often take quite a bit of prep work. For the proficiency oriented, comprehension based language class, it can be difficult to come up with a range of station-appropriate communicative activities for students to complete. (In particular, it’s not easy to come up with multiple input-based activities without making students feel like they are just reading at each station.)
In this post, I’ve got some practical tips for setting up stations as well as some easily adaptable communicative activities that you can prep in a snap.
Get the Editable Stations pack to help you prep for communicative stations quickly and confidently!
HOW MANY STATIONS?
You’ve got two things to balance: time spent per station and students at each station. With 50 minute class periods, I was realistically looking at students being able to travel through 4-10 minute stations per class period (figuring that I’d lose 10 minutes in transitions). But with 35 students, that would mean having 8-9 students at each station. This was more than I wanted, so I would typically plan 5 stations—maybe even as many as 6. This meant acknowledging that not all students would get to all stations (and being okay with that) or extending the stations into the first part of a second class period.
STATIONS ON THE BLOCK
Things got a lot easier for me when we switched to a semi-block schedule. We had regular class periods Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, and on Wednesday/Thursday we were on a block schedule and saw each of our classes on just one of those days for 90 minutes. Stations were my fa.vor.ite. things to do on block days, and I planned them often! If you are on a block schedule, stations will be your best friend. They are an easy way to give yourself a relief from being at the front of the room trying to keep everyone’s attention, and they will keep students from growing restless because there are built-in changes in pace every 10 minutes.
SET UP YOUR STATIONS
Set up will look different for each station, depending on the task that students need to complete and the furniture that you have available. In my classroom, we had small tables. I would push together two tables for each station and arrange desks around it. An exception would be when I had a station at the Promethean Board, and then I did not place any furniture at that station. If you are deskless, a circle of chairs will do just fine. LABEL each of your stations with a numbered sign—a piece of computer paper with a large number written on it is sufficient. Make sure there are written instructions for students at each station explaining very clearly the order of steps that students must complete. Also have be sure to have all materials needed to complete the task at the station (worksheets, computers, headphones, highlighters, scissors, game pieces, cards, etc.).
ESTABLISH CLEAR EXPECTATIONS
I was at a CHAMPS school, so setting clear expectations for every activity was a big part of what I did each day—and stations were no exception. In order for students to clearly see the most relevant expectations at each station, I found it helpful to post an expectations sign at each station that detailed to what extent students should be talking, who they should be working with, and what they should do when they finish the task at hand. I included an editable stations expectations poster in the Editable Stations pack.
CAN I BE AT A STATION?
While setting up stations is a great way for you to give students individual attention by planning to stay at one station and work with students there as they cycle through, I found that tying myself down to one place was problematic. I really needed to be up and moving about the room to answer questions and keep everyone working and cooperating.
At some stations, students will complete tasks with pen and paper or on web applications that make it easy to check progress and performance. However, some of my favorite stations are ones with manipulatives that need to be re-set with each rotation. If your students are allowed to have phones or devices, have individual students or one person from each table take pictures of the work—whatever they have been able to complete in the time allotted—and send it to you, the teacher. Another option sans technology is to have students call you over to quickly check their work or to take a photo of the table before they re-set the station and rotate away. This of course requires that you be available to come over and check students’ work.
Do yourself a favor and DON’T GIVE STUDENTS A GRADE FOR EACH STATION. Pull one activity from one station as a formative assessment grade, or give them a single Work Habits grade for the whole sequence.
WHAT ABOUT TECHNOLOGY?
10 minutes is an awfully short time to rotate through a station, and I typically stayed away from technology because the devices that I had access to were guaranteed to not work for at least a few students. 10 minutes is often not enough time to solve a problem, much less for students to troubleshoot AND complete the activity at hand. The bulk of this post is going to be about stations that you can set up without access to devices. However, many of you have excellent access to fantastic devices, and so a technology station might be a great choice for you.
There are scores of great web applications make for great technology stations. Here are a few ideas:
- Garbanzo (sign up for Beta access—coming this spring!)
- Fluency Matters e-course activities
- Señor Wooly Nuggets
- Quizlet or Quizlet Live
- Lyrics Training
- Flipgrid to listen to and record speaking
Communicative Station Activities
So let’s get to it! Here are activities that make for great stations in a comprehension-based, proficiency oriented language class. They are sorted by the amount of prep work required!
NO PREP STATION ACTIVITIES
These No Prep activities are print and go—just set up your stations and place instructions and pre-made photocopies or blank paper at each one, and you’re all set!
10 minutes at a station is the perfect amount of time to squeeze in a Free Write! Let students write about anything they want, or make it a Focused Free Write and assign a topic. Use ready made forms or have students write on lined paper.
FREE CHOICE READING
Set up this station near your class library and let students choose any text that they want to read. This will be most successful if you have a free reading program set up in your classes already, because students will know how to quickly select a text that is an appropriate challenge to them and something that they’ll enjoy reading. For tips on creating a free reading program, check out Mike Peto’s new book, published by Teacher’s Discovery. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on his book on the blog soon (I’ve got a lot!).
Need more content for your Spanish class library? Try these:
- Printable Storybooks
- El Mundo en tus manos current events subscription
- Fábulas sencillas
- Lecturas diarias
WRITE, DRAW, PASS
Students play Write Draw Pass in their group. To start the game, they should write a sentence in the first box of the form by…
- Copying a sentence from a new or familiar text
- Writing an original sentence that they come up with on the spot (perhaps a response to a personalized question or related to a specific topic)
- Using a sentence from a list that you have pre-written and have available at the station (some prep)
FIVE STAR REVIEW
Students read a short text and then offer a personal review—did they like it? What was it about? Who might like to read it? Use the form in the Editable Stations pack or have students annotate a copy of the text using these symbols.
I make illustration a part of at least one of my stations. It is a stress relieving activity that students enjoy and that gives me a window into the degree to which students understood or didn’t understand a story. It also gives me content that I can use moving forward as fodder for class discussion and activities!
DRAW 1 2 3
This is such a simple, excellent activity that I learned from Bob Patrick on the Latin Best Practices blog. If you use my teaching materials, you’ve surely seen it pop up a few times at least! Have students draw an original, “free drawing” that they imagine, creating a unique scene and story description, or have them draw their picture based on a text that they read or have read.
GRAB AND GO
Grab and Go is another activity that will be helpful to have done at least once in class before students do it at a station because the flow is confusing to figure out. All you need for a Grab and Go station is a text for students to read (one copy for each student) and some scrap paper. For this activity, all students that are at a station will work together. I like to use this as a station activity because it gives the illusion of communication between students, even though they (don’t need to be) talking to complete it.
All students at the group read a text and write 3-5 True/False statements about it (depending on how many students are at the station—more per student if there are few students at the station). They should write each statement on its own index card and write whether it is TRUE or FALSE on the same card. Once all students have finished reading the text and writing their statements, ONE student in the group becomes the game host. All other students in the group pair off (or they can be in groups of 3) to play Pencil Grab while the host reads each statement. Group mates can challenge an answer if they think that the statement was incorrectly marked as true or false.
Learn more about Pencil Grab here!
LOW PREP STATIONS ACTIVITIES
Each of these low prep activities can be put together with a little time spent manipulating a text or writing questions.
IN MY HEAD OR IN THE TEXT?
Students read a short text, then they have to answer some questions about it. ¡OJO! Before they do, they need to consider whether the question is asking for information from the text, from their head (opinion or background knowledge), or a combination of the two. This is a great, gentle introduction to QAR!
- 1 minute: Everyone in the group reads a summary in the Target Language of a story, song, video, or other piece of content that they will consume (something that will take them 3 minutes or less to watch, listen to, or view!).
- 1 minute: Then, each group member makes 3 predictions about something specific that they will see or that will happen.
- 2 minutes: Everyone shares their prediction.
- 3 minutes: Everyone consumes the content together (reads the story, listens to the song, watches the video).
- 2 minutes: Everyone reads aloud their predictions again and sorts them into two piles: things that happened and things that didn’t happen.
Give students a photocopied new or familiar text (this is a great one for #authres!) and a list of things to highlight in different colors. Here are some ideas:
- People in yellow, places in green, things in blue, ideas or concepts in orange
- Problems in pink, solutions in green
- Verbs in yellow, subjects in green, adjectives in blue
CLOZE Call is just a fun name for a Binary CLOZE activity. These are pretty easy to prep for, because you just need to grab a text and replace some of the words with (sets, dogs) of parentheses with two or three (creatures, words) in each one. If you want, you can tack on some comprehension or personalized questions, or a task like illustration.
Split the students at the station into two teams and give each one a unique, unfamiliar text. One member of Team 1 reads aloud their story or text to Team 2. Then, Team 2 has 2 minutes to recall as many sentences from the story as they can. They should say each sentence aloud and Team 1 tells them whether or not it appeared in the story. Then, switch! Team 2 reads aloud their story or text and Team 2 has 2 minutes to recall as many sentences as they can. The team with the most correctly sentences wins!
“LO MISMO” TEAM WINDOWS
Team Windows is another Kagan activity that lends itself well to stations. I recommend having all students at the station work together for this activity. I find that it is most successful when you give students time to complete sentence frames before they begin sharing their thoughts so that they have some built in processing time and don’t have to come up with ideas on the spot. Some sentence frames to work with are…
- I like…. (answering the question “What fruit/TV show/sport/song/plant do you like?”
- I want to live where… (answering the question “What kind of a place do you want to live in?”
- First, … ; Next, … ; Then, …; Finally, …; (answering the question “What happened in the story?”
- I think…, I agree/disagree…, In my opinion, … (answering the question “What do you think about X?”)
This is of course one of my favorite ever student activities for the whole class, and it works really well as a station—just make it the station that’s closest to the door!
SIGNIFICANT PREP STATION ACTIVITIES
These stations require significant prep work as they each involve creating sets of pieces or cards that students will be working with while at the station. When possible, I try to plan stations activities that I will be able to use year after year, so that the prep work seems more worth it! Often, I will only use ONE of these Significant Prep activities on a given station day—unless I already have one prepared! Creating and assembling more than one set of pieces for a station is too much to tackle in the limited planning time that we have!
Chain Reaction can be played in a variety of ways. You might choose to do it as a communicative activity (à la “I have, Who has?” where students read their cards out loud and create a spoken sequence with their classmates. My preferred method (because it is individual, quiet work) is to print out the cards and have students work on their own or with one partner to sequence them. To put together the station, though, you need to first write a set of questions and answers, type them into a template, and then print, copy, and cut them apart. This is definitely one of my favorite stations, and I like that it is easy for students to extend the sequencing by reading through their cards with their partner.
My students called this the impossible puzzle when I would give them a 3×4 puzzle set. For a 10 minute station, you probably want to simplify it—maybe giving students as few as 9 puzzle pieces.
List some events from a familiar story or piece of content or create an original series of events that can be ordered using logic. Cut apart each event so that it is on its own unique slip of paper, and have students work individually or in small groups to put the pieces in order.
FAN N PICK
Fan N Pick is one of my all time favorite Kagan Cooperative Learning activities. Fan N pick really only works as a station if your students are familiar with the activity (since it is confusing the first time that you do it), but once they have done it, they can work in small groups at the station without you micro managing. To prep for a Fan N Pick station, all you need to do is write 8-12 questions! If they are in reference to a text, I try to use a range of QAR types. However, they could be questions about anything. If you’d prefer to keep this interpretive, check out these adaptations for Fan N Pick that were inspired by Lauren Tauchman!
Go Fish is a GREAT station game, and there are many different kinds of content that you can play with. All you need are 4 copies of 13-15 game cards, and an entire group can play together while they are at a station. Visit this post on playing Go Fish for ideas on different kinds of cards that you can create!
¿QUIÉN LO DIJO?
Have students read a new text or reference a familiar text at the station. Then, give them a bunch of quotes or possible quotes from characters in the text. Students have to sort them by character, determining who said or would have said each quote. Make it a manipulative activity by having a set of quotes and character sheets prepared for each student or pair of students at the station, or make prep work easier by giving students a worksheet. To make it communicative, make one pile of quotes. Then, make a pile of possible characters for each student at the station. Have students take turns reading a quote from the quote pile. Everyone at the station listens to the quote and chooses the character card that they think said it, then everyone reveals their guess at the same time.
Learn more about “Who said it?” here!
Here are some ideas for different kinds of information pairs that students can match—taken from the Cada oveja con su pareja post:
- Match a word with its student-friendly definition (in the target language, of course).
- Match a character with his or her description.
- Match a description of an event with its location.
- Match the first half of a sentence with the second half that best matches it. This can be taken directly from the text, or they could be paraphrases or statements about the text to make it more challenging.
- Match a character with a quote that s/he said or would say.
- Match a cause with an effect.
- Match a quote from the text with a conclusion that can be drawn from it. Consider having students identify the quotes from the text with a little symbol as an additional step to the activity.
- Match an image with a description
Still need more stations ideas?
These games are not necessarily communicative, but they sure are fun! If you have planned out four or five really solid communicative stations, don’t be afraid to throw in one just for fun.
What stations do you love?
What are your go-to stations? How do you implement stations seamlessly in your classes? We want to hear your ideas–post them in the comments!