George Lucas Educational Foundation
Blended Learning

How to Make Station Rotation Work During Hybrid Learning

Implementing this method makes dividing a teacher’s time between students in class and those working at home much easier. 

September 29, 2020
Teenage boy at desk attending online class.
UfaBizPhoto / Shutterstock

As a result of the pandemic, many schools throughout the country are moving forward with the hybrid learning model, combining face-to-face instruction with both synchronous and asynchronous learning. The tricky part is during synchronous class time when some students are in class and the rest are at home. How can a teacher best manage in-person and at-home learning at once? According to Dr. Kristen Turner, “Teachers who are being asked to do concurrent teaching (it is technically not a hybrid/blended model unless lessons are designed virtually/asynchronously for those who are not present face-to-face) are facing an enormous challenge. No one has been trained for this scenario.”

Let’s begin to address this challenge with backward-design basics. Only after we know the lesson goals and assessments can we make decisions about the class schedule and range of activities, including who is doing what at what time, whether in person or at home.

One of the seven models of blended learning that stands out due to its ease of use is station rotation. The Blended Learning Universe site reports that the station rotation model “allows students to rotate through stations on a fixed schedule, where at least one of the stations is an online learning station.” The inner workings of the model allow teachers to align a variety of activities to the learning goal and then break up the class into small groups to closely monitor their progress while students actively engage in the content.

To accurately reflect the station rotation model in our era of social distancing, students who are in person are grouped in squares so that all peers are only six feet apart and can easily turn to each other to talk. Students at home should be grouped together to easily shift into asynchronous instruction as the teacher decides how the learners will divide their time among stations.

A station rotation setup uses small groups for the purpose of teacher-led instruction, online learning, collaborative activities, and offline learning. Here is a sample lesson plan template for a station rotation; this is a good way to begin to map out your stations. When you are ready to go live, here is a great template to use for planning your rotation and sharing it with students.

4 Stations to Provide Teachers Greater Flexibility

1. An online learning station for independent practice. Use of the online learning station helps to drive immediate data-informed instruction. The online station is maximized by investing in a web-based learning platform that provides standards-aligned immediate feedback to the learner and teacher. With a focus on priority instructional content, teachers can leverage learning.

Several low-cost or free programs provide teachers with an effective way of getting students to practice grade-level material with immediate feedback upon completion signifying progress on the standards. At the end of the online learning station time, in-person students move on to the next station, with students at home potentially joining a virtual, small-group station.

2. A teacher-led station for real-time feedback. The teacher-led station begins with the learning goal. The STEPS Small Group Lesson Plan Form can work across content areas to teach into the learning goal and effectively work within the established time frame. Students try out the learning, and the teacher makes observations while providing real-time feedback in the instructional moment.

The teacher-led station is highly coveted instructional time. It’s when connections are made, and teachers get to know how kids learn to better plan for and support their progress.

3. A no-tech station for independent practice. An offline station is critical to avoid screen fatigue in a virtually demanding environment. Materials such as books, notebooks, manipulatives, and other resources should be distributed at once to the students to keep for the duration of the marking period or semester. Students may be journaling in a marble composition notebook, reading a book, or creating a graphic organizer to self-check their knowledge of the content.

The first table in this article offers questions to promote students’ understanding in planning, monitoring, and evaluating their work, which can be used in a journal entry. Ideally, the independent practice may serve as a time to engage in routine, written reflection.

4. A collaborative-learning station using peers as partners. This station can be hosted in a mixed (at-home and in-person) small group. It may also be an in-person group of four students in their square and an only-at-home group holding a virtual meeting. When only one group is in this station at once, ideally one in person or one virtual, the teacher can check for understanding by taking a brief pause from their teacher-led station.

Equally important, students build relationships, confidence, and trust by learning to rely on each other in group work. Here is a reference for establishing formal, cooperative-learning groups along with research that supports the need for socialization during student learning to grow understanding.

Before Stations Rotate: Invite a Brain Break

Students benefit from a brain break and physical movement every 15 to 20 minutes, or the typical duration of one station activity. Before transitioning into the next station, end the station by inviting all students, whether in school or at home, to stand up tall, stretch their arms out, and circle them forward and then backward while walking in place. After 30 to 60 seconds, students sit back down to begin their next station.

Simply put, the use of the station rotation is a time-management planning strategy that allows the teacher to break up learning activities and consider how to maximize his or her time. As a tip, teachers might want to see station rotation as a plan over a few days or class meetings as opposed to trying to fit all rotations into one block of time. Once you get started with a station rotation model, it can easily transfer to any instructional environment, whether virtual, in person, hybrid, or concurrent.

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  • Online Learning
  • Teaching Strategies
  • 3-5 Upper Elementary
  • 6-8 Middle School
  • 9-12 High School

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