Using Stations to Engage Secondary Students: 3 Ways to Incorporate Movement Into Learning

June 17, 2016

Learning centers, also known as stations at the secondary level, are ideal activities to use to bring movement into your middle school or high school classroom. Find out how to implement stations on your first day of school, as you review key ideas or terms, and as a way to preview texts.
Stations, otherwise known as centers or rotations, are a great way to increase engagement in your classroom. Research has proven the connection between movement and the retention of knowledge. If that alone isn't enough to convince you to use stations in your classroom, try to imagine what it is like to be a typical middle school or high school student.

For about seven hours straight, you sit at a desk, pen or pencil in hand or in front of a computer screen. No moving except for your walk from one class to the next and little talking except at lunch time. Feeling bored yet? Fidgety? Maybe a little sleepy?

Stations: The Basics
Stations not only allow students to move around the classroom, channeling their energy into a productive purpose, stations also encourage academic conversations and collaboration among students.

Stations can be used to spice up just about any activity. Think about the last worksheet you handed out to students. How could you divide that up into five or six parts that could be placed around the room? For example, instead of using a handout to review a grammar concept, you could have one station where students take notes, another where they write sentences demonstrating their knowledge of the concept, and another where students correct errors from real world examples.

Skill-Based Stations
Learning centers, also known as stations at the secondary level, are ideal activities to use to bring movement into your middle school or high school classroom. Find out how to implement stations on your first day of school, as you review key ideas or terms, and as a way to preview texts.
One way I use stations in my classroom is to reinforce and review skills such as plot and setting, conflict and characterization, figurative language, point of view, and nonfiction. I find that my students have had exposure to these literary elements, but do not have the definitions committed to memory and lack a deeper understanding of the terms. Instead of just taking notes or practicing with a drill and kill worksheet, using stations allows students to move around and engage in purposeful academic conversation with their peers. They become the teachers, helping and correcting each other, and sometimes even explaining terms in a new and helpful way to their classmates.

For these types of stations, I often use matching, sorting, and ordering activities because I can quickly and easily check them, eliminating lag time and off topic conversation between stations. When checking, I can also eliminate manipulatives that students matched, sorted, or ordered correctly and just have them focus on the ones with which they are struggling.

Stations for Previewing Texts
Another way I use stations in my classroom is to preview novels or other texts we will be reading as a class, especially if it is helpful to have background information or prior knowledge of an issue or historical time period in the text.

Learning centers, also known as stations at the secondary level, are ideal activities to use to bring movement into your middle school or high school classroom. Find out how to implement stations on your first day of school, as you review key ideas or terms, and as a way to preview texts.
For example, when teaching Night by Elie Wiesel, a piece of literary nonfiction centered around the Holocaust, I use a set of stations to help students begin to grapple with this almost unbelievable event. Some of the station activities relate to the Holocaust as a whole, such as matching caption descriptions with images from the time period and then selecting one image to analyze. Other station activities connect directly to the novel, such as placing the events of Night author, Elie Wiesel's life in chronological order.

Some of the stations require students to work as a group, while at others, students will work independently or do a mix of both. Based on indicated student interests from a previous lesson, I may add a media station where students watch and respond to a short video on a topic such as Adolf Hitler or the Nuremberg Laws. You can find all of my resources for teaching Night and the Holocaust here.

Stations on the First Day of School
Finally, I have also used stations as an activity on the first day of school. I've never liked standing at the front of the classroom, giving the same speech over and over, class period after class period. And if it is boring for me, I can only imagine how boring it is for my students.

Learning centers, also known as stations at the secondary level, are ideal activities to use to bring movement into your middle school or high school classroom. Find out how to implement stations on your first day of school, as you review key ideas or terms, and as a way to preview texts.Last year I decided to change things up a bit and designed station activities that would accomplish everything I wanted to get done on the first day of school: review my syllabus, introduce the novel choices for literature circles, hand out necessary materials, and have students set goals and begin getting to know each other.

The six station activities I created, some of which included group tasks while others included independent tasks, were intended to be completed within a 45 minute period. There were some activities that students didn't completely finish before the timer went off every seven and a half minutes, but this created an urgency for students to get done as much as possible.

While students were working at stations, I was free to walk around the room and interact with groups and individual students, a much better alternative to being tied to a PowerPoint presentation at the front of the room staring out at a sea of faces.

If you are interested in starting your school year off similarly, you can find my first day of school stations, which are fully editable, here.

For more engaging resources for your English Language Arts classroom:

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