No More Lectures – Try Back To School Stations Instead

About Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, at http://jenniferwolfe.net, and grab a free copy of "8 Tips For A Successful School Year" while you're there.
Author's Back to School Passports

Author’s Back to School Passports

I’m not a direct instruction kind of teacher. I’ve learned after 25 years of teaching junior high that kids need to be moving, thinking, collaborating and switching activities frequently during a 50 minute class period – especially on the first day of school.

When I think of the years I spent the first day talking at the students, not to them, I cringe. What a boring introduction to my class – and my class is definitely not one for passive learning.

The last several years I’ve experimented with group activities on the first day of school. I’ve done everything from partner work to dividing the class into four medium sized groups for rotations. I’ve used poster paper, post its and handouts with varying degrees of success. This year, however, was the best yet – with a little help from some teacher friend websites, I created my Back To School Stations – and they were a huge hit!

I have really large classes – between 33 and 36 – so I created between 8 and 9 stations. I like having kids work in quads; it’s a good number for dialogue without having too much distraction, and it’s easy to put my desks together into four.Jennifer2

Next, I collected lots of Back to School ideas from websites, Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers. I found a variety of lessons, including reading, writing, speaking and art focused ideas.

I tried to divide them up so every station would switch up the learning modality. I decided the theme would be ‘Back To School passports” after finding this lesson on TPT.

Kids started at the station where they were seated. I typed up cheerful, motivating and clear directions for each station, and put them inside sheet protectors to keep them from accidentally getting scooped up or wrinkled. The order they traveled didn’t really matter; I asked kids to keep their papers with them as they moved.

I found that between 7-9 minutes per station worked well. I wasn’t worried about them completely finishing each station; I told them if they finished early they could pull out a station they hadn’t completed, and when we got to the end of the rotation, they would have time for ‘finishing touches’. It worked great – when kids were done, they were able to talk about what they were writing/drawing/reading, or just chat about their summer. In 7-9 minutes there wasn’t much time to goof off, but it created a nice, busy hum in the classroom.

Jennifer3While the kids were working it allowed me to wander around the room, observing the personalities, watching their work habits and stop and comment on what they were doing. With these stations I felt as if I really had a better sense of who they were as people than I ever have before – the lessons created easy openings for dialogue about their interests, their families, their experiences and their hopes for 8th grade.

All together the stations took about three days – we had a few other mini-lessons each day, but the main portion of class time involved the rotations. At the end, I walked them through how to assemble the passport page by page. They stapled them together and turned them in – giving me only one assignment to record for that week, and some super cool decorations for Back To School Night!

Reviewing the syllabus

Reviewing the syllabus

I created a Pinterest Back to School Board here. The passport idea came from Presto Plans, and I modified my stations to reflect

my syllabus and classroom goals. If you’d like a copy of my station directions, just let me know in the comments or send me an email and I’ll share the Google Docs.

Stations work well with many different kinds of lessons – they get kids moving, interacting, and engaged. Try stations the next time you feel like you’ve got a lot to cover and want to make it more fun – your students will love you for it!

 

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By | 2016-11-01T13:59:43+00:00 September 9th, 2015|Common Core, Featured, Instruction&Curriculum, Management, Middle School|54 Comments

About the Author:

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, at http://jenniferwolfe.net, and grab a free copy of "8 Tips For A Successful School Year" while you're there.

54 Comments

  1. Sylvia Spruill July 19, 2016 at 11:45 pm - Reply

    Just found your post from the #2ndaryela chat! Would love the station directions and info!

  2. Andrea July 21, 2016 at 9:48 am - Reply

    I’d love the stations directions and info. I also teach middle school and this sounds great for the first week!

  3. Jessica Winters July 21, 2016 at 6:49 pm - Reply

    This sounds fun…but I am wondering how to adapt to high school. If I knew your stations, it might help.

  4. Sherry Adams July 21, 2016 at 6:56 pm - Reply

    I would also love to have your station directions. Thanks for sharing the station idea.

  5. Kim Evans July 21, 2016 at 6:58 pm - Reply

    I would love a copy of your documents. I was thinking of doing something similar with my 7/8 graders. I’m having a student teacher this year so it will be neat for her too.

  6. Jerri martin July 21, 2016 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    Please send me your station directions and info. Love this!

  7. Eileen July 21, 2016 at 7:02 pm - Reply

    Stations please! Always looking for ideas.

    Thank you!

  8. Gretchen Morgan July 21, 2016 at 7:29 pm - Reply

    I would love a copy of your stations directions. Great ideas! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Lisa Walker July 21, 2016 at 7:30 pm - Reply

    Hi Jennifer! I am always looking for more ways to engage my students and this sounds like something I would love the station directions and info.

  10. Sue Warren July 21, 2016 at 7:39 pm - Reply

    I love this idea. Please send details about the stations.

  11. Catherine Cable July 21, 2016 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    Please send me your stations. I would love any advice for stations to teach Social Studies in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. I teach Special Ed mild to moderate.

    • Jennifer Wolfe July 21, 2016 at 11:16 pm - Reply

      Hi Catherine, Thanks for reaching out. I would think about what do you want to establish in your first few days – rules, expectations, curriculum…and what do you want to know about your kids? I would think of some way to tie in their real life to what they’re studying (if not direct to curriculum, I’d think of overall themes/essential questions). The trick is to keep them short and ‘do-able’ so they can feel like they finish. For SPED I would cut the number of rotations and give them more time at each station for sure. Here’s my directions: http://jenniferwolfe.net/teaching-resources Keep me updated!

  12. Lisa Turzai July 21, 2016 at 7:59 pm - Reply

    Would love the directions to the stations you set up! Thank you!!

  13. Trisha Clark July 21, 2016 at 9:28 pm - Reply

    I would love to have your station directions. Thanks so much for sharing the station idea.

  14. Bonnie Garrert July 21, 2016 at 9:32 pm - Reply

    Hello! This is a great idea! Thank you so much for being willing to share it with us! I pray please I previously thought middle school and made the leap to 4th grade. I think this idea would still be great because we rotate between teachers and I definitely think this would be more enjoyable to show them around my room, explain procedures, and keep them from sitting still for so long. I tried clicking on the link in your post, but my phone is being wonky and wouldn’t connect, but I would still greatly appreciate a copy of your directions! 🙂

  15. Karen July 21, 2016 at 9:45 pm - Reply

    I would love to know the stations you use! I’m trying to find fun ways to switch things up this year!

  16. Kim July 21, 2016 at 9:48 pm - Reply

    Please send me the station directions.
    Kmisaac305@gmail.com

  17. Tammy Stierle July 21, 2016 at 9:57 pm - Reply

    Hi. This sounds like a great idea. Please send me a copy of your stations.

  18. Jennifer Wolfe July 21, 2016 at 11:16 pm - Reply

    Lisa, here they are! I’d love to hear how you use them! http://jenniferwolfe.net/teaching-resources

  19. Mary July 21, 2016 at 11:44 pm - Reply

    I love the idea of stations and would so appreciate any information you could send me. Thank you so much.

  20. Jennifer Wolfe July 22, 2016 at 12:09 pm - Reply

    Hi Mary, So happy you like the idea – here’s the link. Please let me know how they work for you! http://jenniferwolfe.net/teaching-resources

  21. Ann July 23, 2016 at 11:44 pm - Reply

    Love the idea and would like to give it a try! Thanks for sharing

  22. Bonnie (Presto Plans) July 30, 2016 at 6:11 am - Reply

    Hi Jennifer!

    I just stumbled across your site, and I was so happy to read about how you used my passport activity in your classroom! There is nothing better than seeing pictures of something I created in action. I’m so glad you/your students enjoyed it. Thanks so much for sharing the post 🙂

    • Jennifer Wolfe August 6, 2016 at 9:15 pm - Reply

      Bonnie, I’m so glad you connected with me- I love your product, and hope lots of new teachers come your way!

  23. Maureen August 4, 2016 at 10:19 pm - Reply

    Can you please send me your amazing stations?!!??!? Wvussteach@gmail.com

  24. Teri Smith April 2, 2017 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    I would love a copy of your back to school stations. smitht@martin.k12.fl.us Thank you.

  25. Christine Sulva June 19, 2017 at 11:53 am - Reply

    I tried stations on the first day this past year; looking to switch one up for this upcoming September. The kids really liked the more active period! I’d appreciate if you could share.

    csulva@ebnet.org

  26. Christina June 27, 2017 at 11:05 am - Reply

    I would love a copy of your stations. Do you have to pair them up to the state standards? I am new to teaching middle shool and would love a copy. my email address is cdfblair@yahoo.com

  27. Lea Ann Marks July 11, 2017 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    I would LOVE to get a copy of your station instructions. Could you please send those to LeaAnnMarks@gmail.com

    Thank you!

  28. Ruth Carranza July 11, 2017 at 11:07 pm - Reply

    Would love the station directions and info!!
    Awesome Idea!!!

  29. Jamii vogt July 12, 2017 at 8:03 am - Reply

    I would love to have your station ideas and directions. Thanks for sharing!!

  30. Jenna July 12, 2017 at 8:29 am - Reply

    Hi, Jennifer! What a wonderful idea! I would love the google docs, but the link above isn’t connecting me to your email. My email address is jcantin@oconeeschools.org

    Thanks so much!!

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