Years ago as a teacher I used a station approach for all my ESL classes. It really worked and the students normally not so engaged with stand and deliver or traditional Prepare – Practice – Produce styled lessons were actively involved and learning.
It was an eye-opener. So well suited for a skills based subject like learning English. I went on as a teacher trainer to do many workshops on the model (with teachers learning how to station teach by actually doing station learning – looped feedback at its best!). Many teachers in the years to follow reached out and told me that when they could do it – it was the best approach possible (and that’s the rub – so often teachers don’t have the freedom in their content delivery approach!).
So what is ELT station teaching? It’s really simple. It’s basically students in pairs or small groups rotating around the classroom at set intervals doing pre-designed “tasks” or activities to practice and learn English. Put numbers on the wall and use the classroom edge as the “track”. When time is up, students proceed to the next station One or more of the stations can have devices that students use to learn. It’s a blended approach, most often associated with co-teaching but you don’t need to be co-teaching to do it.
This approach really is invaluable now that many teachers are being asked to “hybrid” teacher – teach two cohorts of students at the same time. One online and one in the physical classroom. An almost impossible task – draining, confusing and one I don’t advocate at all unless teachers are using a station teaching approach.
In hybrid “station” teaching the teacher can have the students in the class working and rotating through stations as normal. Online students will have the same activities but set up online. They may be different but will be doing tasks that match the same teaching objectives as the students in class.
Key to station teaching is low teacher fatigue / stress. Students work mainly independently with the teacher conferencing with one group during each station interval. The teacher can assess their learning then, give students practice time with a fluent speaker, gather feedback, learn more about the students’ learning etc … One or multiple of the station intervals can be the teacher conferencing with the online students as the in-class students are independently learning.
Sure, this model takes some time to set up. But once set up, it can run itself. It can also be used, again and again with subsequent student intakes. Students, especially those usually struggling in class, usually thrive in this more “active”, less cerebral, less command and control, less top down approach. As mentioned, it also avoids teacher burnout – fatigue. Tremendously.
There are so, so many types of tasks and stations you might set up. Suffice to say, use your imagination, you know your students and their needs best. Throw in a few stations as “brain breaks” where students get choices to do an activity not so academic. Read something, play a game etc … Other stations can be roleplays – put the scenario on the wall. Listening stations. A song or karaoke station. A game station. A whiteboard for a writing activity. Etc … Online, you can replicate these.
In the coming weeks, I hope to post up more detailed examples of my stations and approach. This nice Edutopia article is a good rundown on the topic too. I’d also encourage teachers to investigate the
inside-outside circles” delivery method. It really works too and I advocate it strongly for student learning.
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