Episode 34: Super Successful Stations!

brain breaks stations Feb 20, 2023

I really, really, REALLY needed a week to sit and check in with students and not feel so "on"! If you're needing the same, stations might be JUST the thing you're looking for!

Below find the various links mentioned during this podcast!

Freebie, Station Expectations sheet!
Classroom Jobs Course
Old Blog on Stations
TPT coloring page for Black History Black Futures Month- by Diversigraphics


Welcome to Teaching la vida loca, a podcast for World Language Teachers seeking inspiration, unapologetic authenticity and guidance in centering joy and facilitating language acquisition for the people who matter most our students. I'm your host, Annabelle, most people call me la maestra loca, and I'm an educator just like you, and inspiring teachers is what I do.  

Episode 34 

Hey there, welcome to episode 34 of teaching la vida loca. And I'm so glad you're here with me today. I shared a lot last week in my Instagram stories about stations and how it was doing stations in my classroom. And I cannot tell you how grateful I was for the break. I feel like February is hard. I don't know why February is as hard as it is. It's such a short month, but it just feels so long, and so slumpy sometimes, so I really needed something to give myself the ability to not feel so on all the time and give myself the ability to take some time to check in with kids. And let me tell you this break in what they were used to. And the routine was so welcomed from students, and they thrived last week. In fact, this week on Monday, I, their do now was what was something you enjoyed or felt great about stations? And what was something that felt challenging. And I had tons of answers of kids saying, I loved how independent it felt. I loved how one little girl said, I loved how much effort you put into it. And I said, oh, I love that. But I want to tell you today how you don't have to put in so much effort. But I love that she felt like it was a lot of effort on my end. And they just loved it. They loved it. The challenges. They said were what I thought they would, the time limit. It felt like not enough time at stations, which that's what you want. You don't want them to run out of time. Right? And the other challenge was they said, they said is is it over? We're not doing them anymore. And I'm like, Yeah, we will in the future. But let's get back to like what we're used to. It was such a welcome break for me.  

How to Maximize Stations  

So, I want to tell you today about how you can maximize stations and make them feel really powerful, and super for you and your students. And I have a blog that accompanies this that dives deeper into like, what my stations look like. But today, I just want to talk to you about how you can maximize station time. So, let's dive in. 

Station Tips 

Okay, so the first tip I have for maximizing stations and really making sure that they go smoothly with your students is to take the time to talk about the stations in advance when the stations aren't even set up yet. I literally took an entire class period to do this with my students. Now I get them 40 minutes a day, right, which actually ends up being more like 35 minutes. Okay, I think we're scheduled to have 45. But with transitions, it ends up being between 35 and 40 minutes a day, I took an entire class period with my classroom setup as usual, which I don't have desks. So, they'd sit in a little rainbow, or a horseshoe, whatever you want to call it. I call it a rainbow. And I talked to them about stations, I told them what that would look like. I told them what that would sound like. I told them the themes of the stations. And I really laid it out to them so that they knew exactly what my expectations would be for transitioning from station to station, exactly what they could expect at each station. Because I knew that investment of time was going to be so worth it when they actually went to do the stations together for day one, right? So, I used to do this in middle. But it wouldn't take a whole class period, it usually took about half a class period. But I still think that investment of time is so worth it. I was observed, of course, formally observed the day that I was doing this, and I spoke Spanish, maybe 60% of the class, but I am used to speaking Spanish 90 to 95%. But my admin was like I am so freaking excited about seeing how these stations work because you've invested this time. Oh, sure enough, it was glorious. And the next day when kids walked in. It wasn't even the next day. It was the next the following Monday. They knew exactly what was happening. They were so excited. Even when they came in. I still had them sit in the center of the floor, so I could show them where the stations were and remind them of what the rotation would look like. So, that was really important. 

Monday – Friday   

I mentioned something a second ago, I said the station theme. I did stations for an entire week, if I'm going to take the time to reset my classroom, to move everything around to set this up and to take the time to do it, well, I'm going to make it last. I'm going to do it all five days of the week. I did it Monday through Friday. And it was amazing. Especially because, honestly, by Tuesday, all of the kinks were worked out. They knew exactly what the movement felt like because they already knew what to expect. And then on Monday, when they were doing it was like, okay, yeah, this is exactly what it should look like. And then by Tuesday, they knew exactly what to expect, exactly what it should look like, exactly what it sounds like. And it gave me the time to figure out any kinks that I needed to, right? 


So, every station had a theme. So, that even spread out over a week, the kids knew, Okay, first I am going to start in the black history, black futures station. Then I moved to the fvr station, then I move, and they go from station to station, right? So, I talk about, like what my stations look like in my blog. So, I'll let you read that later. But again, having a theme for each station and doing it for a whole week really helped because again, it was a routine, it was something they were used to. They know exactly what to expect. 


Speaking of knowing exactly what to expect, each day, when they came in, I displayed their grouping. And I did one grouping for the whole week. They were in groups of three, and they rotated to six different stations for five minutes a piece. Is that fast? Yes. But there's a benefit to that, too. I'll talk about that in a second. So, the grouping only changed on Tuesday. On Tuesday, I changed any groups that I felt like that didn't work so well. I made the grouping, very mixed. So, it wasn't just my highest flyers with the highest flyers, I had a mixed grouping, so that they could really support and learn and grow from each other. I also assigned a number each day to be the station captain. So, each day I would come in and say the person whose name is next to number one in your group is the station captain. As they move from station to station, the first 30 seconds of each station, or 30 seconds or less was spent with the station captain, reading the station expectation sheet. I have this linked in my blog. I'll also link it in the show notes here. This station expectation sheet is a free download for you if you want to use it, it had the station number on it. It had the station description in English on it. And then it had four indicators in four different corners, it had a voice level indicator, letting them know whether they were going to be at a voice level zero, like silent, was level one or whisper voice level two, like group voice. There was a time indicator which was the same for every station five minutes, they had an indicator of whether they were supposed to turn something in at the end of that station, like if it had a paper whether they had to turn that in or take it with them. And then finally it had a grouping indicator. If it had a one in it, it meant they were doing that work individually. It might be a level one and then a voice level one and individual work but indicating they could still chat while they were there. Or it might be a level zero meaning silent, and individual work. If I wanted them to work with a partner, it had two in it, or two little people in it. And if I wanted them to work with three or more like if their group happened to have four, it had several a cluster of people meaning that it was group work. So that's kind of what the station expectation sheet was. And it was amazing. Because I didn't have to take the time to re-explain stations at the beginning of every class, because students knew there would be a station explanation every time they rotated. This was so key and important for me because I really wanted to be able to be at one station that was the Maestra station. And the Maestra station was slightly different every day. But at that station students were individually having time with me checking in with me talking about assessment, talking about progress talking about their classroom job because another perfect timing for this was, we just rotated classroom jobs. I reassigned all 26 classroom jobs. Students got to apply for new ones during these stations. They absolutely needed the time to learn about their new job and get super excited and hype about it and learn about their new role in the classroom community. If you're interested in learning more about classroom jobs, I have a whole course on it with John Seifert, people are absolutely loving it. And it is definitely saving a lot of teacher sanity, which is something we all need. So, if you want to learn more about that, that's also in the show notes. I will link it for you. 

Station Support 

But it was really essential for me to not have to be rotating answering a ton of questions. If everything every expectation was re outlined for them on that station expectation sheet. They knew what to expect. And the station captain read it aloud as soon as they got there. With that intentional grouping, it also really helped because in every group, there was somebody who could help support another student, if they needed help reading if they needed help answering questions, I was somebody who could do that at each station. Now, I think another key to doing stations is to make sure that the morning prep is manageable for you. Right. So that goes along with my blog post on like, what my stations intentionally looked like, and what I titled them like the themes, because, for example, my senor Wooly station, each day kids knew it was something related to senor Wooly, it was literally three computers open at that station, they would open the computer, log into their student account and boom, be in senor Wooly listening to songs or playing the video game. The next day, it might be a worksheet from one of his songs. The next day, I had a drawing activity where they had to demonstrate comprehension of sentences by doodling above the drawing, right. So, it was different every day, but still on that theme. And I got to choose how much energy and effort I had time to put into each station. And it was very intentional to make sure that I only was focusing on creating materials for two stations a day. The other stations were very easy, super manageable, like a printout or a computer where I had to do very minimal work because I wanted to have the time to put an effort on just two stations each day. The beauty of this was students felt like, Oh my gosh. Another comment that they said on Monday was the variety. They loved the variety every day that every day it was like doing so many different things, and getting to still be in Spanish, but in a much more independent way. And to them, it felt like it was tons of effort. But really, it was totally manageable for me. And because I wasn't on all day at least it didn't feel like I was. My, I don't even know how to explain it. I just it felt like spa week. If any of you follow up, follow Tina Hargan She talks about like a spa week where you just like, get to step back, and kids are still doing meaningful tasks and still acquiring the language. But you don't have to feel on that's the only way I can explain it. So, if you're looking for a little break, encourage you to try stations. Go ahead and go read my blog on what my stations look like and for more tips. 

Brain Break Station  

And the one more thing I will say is it's very important to have a brain break station. You thought you almost made it through a whole episode without hearing me do that. Well, I did it. So, a brain break station is not what you might think it might be like some of you might be thinking, oh Annabelle How are you doing a brain break when there's kids supposed to be silently reading in another station? The brain break doesn't have to be loud, obnoxious fun every time a brain break is a break in the rigor, right? So, one day, I had a coloring sheet at the Black History black futures station, and it's this beautiful black woman with amazing locks. And it's a very detailed coloring sheet that I got off TPT I'll link to it in the show notes. They freaking loved it. It was a brain break coloring. The next day at my gratitude station, it was a doodle like literally a scribble on a page that they had to turn into a picture and then write a short gratitude to somebody in their life in English or Spanish. I got some of the gratitude notes. They melted my heart. I got three that day. But it doesn't have to be a loud brain break is just the idea of one of the stations that they rotate to is more hands on is more like chill, tranquil. I've got this work that they don't have to use as much brainpower for. Right? There's a lot of power in that because it's still been building that brain break into your class time. And hands down, it was one of my students’ favorite stations all week, every time, whatever that brain break station was. So, I think that there's a lot of power in that. And again, brain breaks, build community boost engagement. We know how powerful they are. So that's just another tip.

Read the Blog 

Okay, so that's it for this podcast. I hope this is helpful. I hope it inspires you to want to try stations for yourself and have that one-on-one check-in time with your students, perhaps even try classroom jobs, and use this as a way to make time to roll out an entire system of class jobs. Again, if you have questions on any of this, please reach out, connect with me on social, I am super excited for you to try this. And don't forget to go and read the blog for more tips on exactly what those stations could look like. I'm also going to link a blog that I wrote a couple years ago, maybe three years ago, even when I was teaching middle school and doing stations. I also even then removed from recommended multiple days of stations because, again, if you're putting in the effort to set this up for yourself, why not drag it out? Right? Maximize that time. Get some time for yourself where you're not feeling so on and get some one-on-one time with kids. Thank you for all that you do. Thank you for listening and supporting me and thank you for hanging in there through February with me because, why does it feel so hard? Okay, until next time, I'll be teaching la vida loca and I am sure you will be too. Take care teacher.

Thank you!

My husband is walking through the house so loud, and I just need to record this podcast ending and he won't stop. Do you hear his boots? I hope you heard his boots. He's so obnoxious. Anyways, thank you for listening this far. Thank you for supporting me, if you could do me a favor and share this with a friend who might need something to get them through this week or this month and a little inspiration might be just the trick and stations might be just the thing. And then if you could do me another favor and just give me a review. It would mean the world to me. Wherever you're listening on or wherever you're listening from. It really helps me impact more teachers. Thank you so much for all that you do. And thank you for supporting me as you listen to teaching la vida loca. Take care teacher bye bye.

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