6. Be flexible and add in some fun!
Contributed by Liz Goetze
An argument FOR stations …
The reason that more teachers don’t use stations is that teachers all feel there is too much curriculum to cover and we know that letting students out of their seats increases transition time. Therefore one might reason less teaching time is available with stations.
That said, I teach grade 9 and 10 science along with grade 11 University level chemistry. I use station labs all the time. Yes, we do lose transition time. BUT working with their friends and allowing students to move at their own pace reignites the joy in learning. So students are more willing to concentrate during longer lessons – so we actually cover more! Ironic, isn’t it?
And I am also finding the pandemic has caused a hard reset in student behaviour. Students are grateful for everything again. They say thank you for lessons; they help clean up after labs; they are so happy and grateful for labs. And they are listening better and thinking about little ways to honour their friends. Hey – we’re turning back into Canadians again!! As a person who is Canadian first, and any genetic heritage as a strong second, I love this.
Planning for stations …
Station labs require much more thinking and advanced planning on the teacher’s part as well. I have to backmap my planning so that students receive enough formative assessment in the type and quantity of observations to make, the type of vocabulary I need to assess, the type of calculations I need them to understand and work through and a balance of fun reactions (generally involving Bunsen burners or something they can eat 🙂 along with slower reactions that are more like “a dry toast”- necessary but a bit boring because they take longer – like waiting for silver to precipitate.
Incorporating fun …
I also love and use escape rooms, gallery walks, sidewalk chalk outside in warmer weather. Right before a holiday kids are wired, so right before March break we did a tie dye lab as a stations lab that was completely optional. There was no quiz, and nothing to hand in. Some students tie dyed their socks because they forgot to bring anything. Some students had a nap because they had written a Chem test for me, a physics quiz, a French immersion essay and they were ‘burnt out. And some students had a math test on the the last day before the break, so they studied. And some meditated or chatted with their friends. It was perfect.
So, really, I guess what I am saying is that a teacher has to start building a positive and trusting relationship with students starting on the very first day of class.
Students have to understand why we need a safety agreement, how to build positive relationships with their peers and the teacher, how to pay it forward for their families. And mental health for students has to be number 1. I have to trust the students; they have to trust me. And if you’ve got that rapport with your students, there is absolutely no reason that any discipline should not be using station work!