The math department at the high school where I teach is big into stations. If the concept is new to you, here’s the lowdown: On a station day, several learning centers are set up around the room and students circulate among them. Montgomery County schools in Maryland has published details.

From what I’ve seen, stations are particularly good at providing opportunities for reteaching and practice, in addition to acceleration.

The key here is that stations are useful as a differentiation tool. According to the MCPS folks, you should use assessment data to break students into groups. Not all students will visit all stations and time at the teacher station will differ based on the data.

I’ve applied stations a few times this year and have learned a few things:

  • how incredibly important it is to model the concept to the class
  • you must give explicit instructions in the stations where students work independently
  • I like using assessment data to divide students
  • give students their station assignments during warmup
  • students need a way to check their work in the stations (I’ve posted solutions on the back of index cards taped to the wall)
  • you need an assessment tool or record of students’ work in the stations — they need to turn something in. I’m thinking a culminating question at each station that has no solution posted makes a lot of sense.

Your time spent in planning stations is huge. Not only must you plan approximately three activities but you must also provide differentiation for each group. This could mean upwards of six times the work in advance. This time is so worth it! Do I even need to say it beats the heck out of lecture or drill-and-kill practice?