Learning stations in primary education - A training tool that keeps students motivated and active

Abstract. Imagine a learning tool that keeps students motivated and actively involved while they review old information, receive new information and practice skills related to what they have learned, and which does it all at the same time! This amazing tool, called Learning Stations, can do all that - and more! Learning Stations are separate areas set aside in the classroom specifically designed for small group interactive learning. Each station is equipped with teacher developed learning materials and activities which are designed to teach or reinforce a specific skill or concept. The teacher designed materials and activities can be of various formats. Basically, you set up a number of “learning stations” around the classroom – designated tables or spaces where small groups of students will do specific learning tasks for a specific amount of time. The small groups rotate from station to station, doing a different topic-related task at each station. When every group has participated in each station’s activities, you lead a debriefing session with the entire group to discuss what they learned from the Learning Stations. You can also answer questions and explore “next steps” during this processing time.

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JOURNAL OF SCIENCE OF HNUE Vol. 57, No. 1, pp. 81-87 LEARNING STATIONS IN PRIMARY EDUCATION - A TRAINING TOOL THAT KEEPS STUDENTS MOTIVATED AND ACTIVE Pho Duc Hoa(∗) and Mai Thanh Hang Hanoi Nationnal University of Education E-mail: (∗)phoduchoa40@yahoo.com Abstract. Imagine a learning tool that keeps students motivated and ac- tively involved while they review old information, receive new information and practice skills related to what they have learned, and which does it all at the same time! This amazing tool, called Learning Stations, can do all that - and more! Learning Stations are separate areas set aside in the class- room specifically designed for small group interactive learning. Each station is equipped with teacher developed learning materials and activities which are designed to teach or reinforce a specific skill or concept. The teacher designed materials and activities can be of various formats. Basically, you set up a number of “learning stations” around the classroom – designated tables or spaces where small groups of students will do specific learning tasks for a specific amount of time. The small groups rotate from station to station, doing a different topic-related task at each station. When every group has participated in each station’s activities, you lead a debriefing ses- sion with the entire group to discuss what they learned from the Learning Stations. You can also answer questions and explore “next steps” during this processing time. Keyworld: Learning Stations, active teaching-learning, inquiry teaching. 1. Introduction Learning Stations is a center where students have activities to gain mandatory or voluntary skills. In this center, students try to reach objectives through prede- termined activities geared to their levels. Although the goals of Learning Stations are similar, the specific content and the number and the types of activity settings differ depending on the grade level and the subject matter. Activity settings can be designed for individuals or small groups where students can move around inde- pendently or as small groups. Activities can occur in the classroom or in a location outside with resources related to the academic tasks. Directions are posted at learn- ing stations where students can work on tasks at their own pace or during a set 81 Pho Duc Hoa and Mai Thanh Hang time. Activities may operate independently of the teacher or teachers may position themselves at one learning station for more direct instruction. In all these cases, teachers must carefully craft an instructional plan to be enacted within a commu- nity of learners (Tharp et. al., 2000). A learning station has six component parts: (1) It is located somewhere in space – a wall, bulletin board, hanging on a shelf, or free standing. (2) It is designed to enable the student to reach a specific objective. (3) Logical, sequential directions are provided for the student. (4) Multi-media and multi-level activities are available to the learner. (5) Assessment procedures are clearly defined. (6) A means of recording student progress is included (Manuel, 1974:1). 2. Content 2.1. Learning Stations – A type of Cooperative Learning As a type of Cooperative Learning, Learning Stations enables your students to: - Review segments of previously learned information in a variety of short, quick ways. - Teach themselves new, topic-related information. - Practice topic-related skills for a short period of time. - Learn from each other, self correct and coach each other. - Link new learning to old learning, and draw on what they already know. - Keep both their minds and bodies awake and alert as they move around the room doing various learning activities. - Participate in the training in a unique and novel way, thereby increasing motivation and interest as well as learning and retention. Students receive work schedules with mandatory and optional tasks to sta- tions. The students do have choices regarding the timing, order of tasks and social form (individual, couple, group work) to get the job done in a certain time. The assignments include: • Mandatory tasks: These must be made and used to develop new material or to consolidate and exercise as well. • Optional functions: they may be edited and serve to broaden and deepen or for repetition. Different types of work such as crafts, writing, reading, listening, seeing, smelling, computer work, playing, moving, etc. provide variety. The teacher accompanies the students in their learning process and provides specific assistance 82 Learning station in primary education - a training tool that keeps your learners... for planning the next learning steps. Students will experience open learning, the implementation of self-control (accuracy and the detection of errors), timing, self- assessment and reflection of their own learning progress, recognizing one’s own learn- ing needs, planning and implementation of their next steps and taking responsibility, such that an independent design and planning their own learning process are pos- sible. A special form of learning circle is possible in which the inner connection is chosen such that the students have to go through all the stations as they build on one another to serve an end, the educational attainment of the goal. 2.2. Useing Learning Stations in the Teaching and Learning Process Like a form of cooperative learning, Learning Stations includes the features above but it has specific characteristics to make it work: 2.2.1. Time, Materials, Set-Up Before using Learning Stations, you will need to do the following preparation steps: • Decide what topic-related information you want your students to review, what new information you want them to learn, or what skills you want them to practice. • Decide how many learning stations you want to include. A general rule to follow is: There should be no less than 3-4 and no more than 6-8 people at each station at one time. So if you have 30 people in your training session, you can have as few as 4 stations or as many as 10 stations. Usually 4 - 6 stations will work with most groups. If you have ten students at a station, you can always divide them into 2 smaller groups of 5 each before doing the station activity. • Decide what kind of activity will be at each station. Activities can include: games, puzzles, worksheets, discussion questions, reading assignments, skills practice in pairs or as a group, individual or group self-corrected tests, charts or diagrams to make, flashcards to review, direct instruction from you or an assistant, presentations or skits to prepare. If you include the last item, students can perform their skits during the processing time after the station activities end. • Decide how long you think each activity will take, and then take the average of that time for the length of all station activities. In other words, the time for each station has to be the same, so you will have to adjust the station activities to fit the time allotted. Station activities work best when they are from 5 to 20 minutes in length. If you have to err, make them too short rather than too long. Whatever time you choose, make sure that the station activity pretty much fits that time span. Allow for about 30 seconds rotation time between stations. 83 Pho Duc Hoa and Mai Thanh Hang • Time for the entire Learning Stations process will vary depending upon the time allotted for the stations and for debriefing afterwards. For example, if you have four 10-minute stations, a 30-seconds rotation time in between and 15 minutes to discuss the station activities afterwards, allow about an hour for the entire process. If you have six 15-minute stations, you may want to run four of them in an hour, take a short 5-10 minute break, and then run the last two. With rotation time, the break, and the whole-group processing at the end of the station activities, allow for about two hours of Learning Stations time. •Decide on a rotation signal to use. It may be high-energy music, a noisemaker, flashing the room lights, or simply saying “Time to rotate.” Upbeat music is the most fun signal, as it lightens the mood and energizes the learners as they move around the room. • When setting up the training room, designate certain tables or breakout areas for the stations. Post each station activity set of instructions on a chart or handout located at or near the station. Make sure all necessary materials are at the station and that there are enough materials for all rotations. If using games, have all game materials ready to go. If students need to bring writing or handout materials with them to a station, make sure they know this ahead of time. • Do one final check of each station to make sure instructions and materials are there and that there are enough materials for all groups to be able to do the station activity (example: enough art supplies, worksheets, blank chart paper, etc.) 2.2.2. Activity Instructions • Explain to the training participants the purpose of the Learning Stations strategy. Tell them how groups will rotate (clockwise, counter-clockwise, randomly), the time allotted for each station and what the rotation signal is. Let participants know what they need to take with them and what they do when they finish. • Check for understanding by asking students yes/no questions about the procedure to make sure they know what they will be doing. • Have participants count off from one to the number of stations you have (example: they count off from 1 - 6 if you have six stations). All the ones go to Learning Station One, all the twos to Learning Station Two, etc. • Tell station groups to choose a facilitator for the entire process. Or they can choose a different facilitator for each station activity. Also let them know that they will be staying with their station group for the entire activity. • Begin the Learning Stations process and time each rotation (or assign some- one to do this). While the activities are going on, walk around the room monitoring the station groups, answering questions and offering assistance if necessary. Pay at- tention to the station time allotted - if it seems too short or too long for most of the 84 Learning station in primary education - a training tool that keeps your learners... groups, then change it to fit the needs of the majority. • When participants have rotated through all the learning stations, announce a short break, and then talk about the station activities with the whole group. Be sure to allow enough time for processing the entire learning experience. Have a list of discussion questions posted that station groups can talk about among themselves first and then discuss with the whole group. Discussion questions can include: Which activity challenged you the most? Which activity did you learn the most from? Which was the most meaningful for you? What were three important things you learned from the activities? What did you learn about yourself? About others? What are three take-a ways for you from the Learning Stations? What knowledge/skills will you use back at work because of these activities? What is your action plan as a result of these activities? What is one question you still have concerning any of the learning station material? • Have participants acknowledge and celebrate their learning station groups with kudos, applause, handshakes, or high fives. 2.3. Techniques used with Learning Stations in the Classroom 635 : - Six groups with an equal number of participants each receive a large sheet of paper. This will be divided into three columns with six lines in 18 boxes. Each participant is asked to write in the first line three ideas (one in each column). After a reasonable period of time – about 3 to 5 minutes – the sheets will be passed clockwise to the adjacent group. Next, try to complement and develop the ideas seen on the paper. The name of this technique, 635, is based on the six people who produced the initial three ideas and then the five times that each is developed ideas (by the other members of each group). This method produces 108 ideas in less than 30 minutes: 6 participants x 3 x 6 lines of ideas. Mind map - Students write down a topic or issue in the centre of a large piece of paper. - Using branches, pupils draw related ideas around the central concept, con- necting them to the center. Students can use a different color for each main idea and highlighters to underline key words and concepts. Students can also add images to enhance the visual aspect of their map. - Students draw sub-branches in order to highlight ideas connected to the main branch. - If used as a revision tool, students might want to use the mind map as a 85 Pho Duc Hoa and Mai Thanh Hang springboard for more extensive revision. They might, for example, wish to make revision notes on a postcard – one postcard for each sub-branch. These postcards could contain the same colors and images as the relevant sub-branch on their mind map. - A debriefing after the completion of the mind map may encourage students to think about why they clustered particular ideas together along with how the map has clarified their thinking. Topics good for mind-mapping include: Geography: rivers Art Spiral -A large spiral of paper is placed in the center of an open space. The paper should be large enough to allow for easy movement with space for a contribution from every student. - Everyone in the group selects a space on the spiral and draws something which represents their thoughts on a particular topic. The students might be encouraged to include a few words which spring to mind on the topic beside their drawings. - After an allocated time students might move onto another free area of the spiral and graphically represent their thoughts on a related issue. - After completion of the activity, the facilitator should allow time for students to look at the whole spiral and view other people’s contributions. Students might be encouraged to develop or add to other people’s contributions. - A debriefing afterwards might encourage students to verbally communicate their initial thoughts on the issue and then their emotions after their drawings are seen by the whole class. Were their thoughts and feelings modified as a result? How did they feel when someone added their contribution? Brainstorming - Define and agree on an objective. - Brainstorm ideas and suggestions having an agreed upon time limit. - Categories/condense/combine/refine. - Assess/analyses or results. - Priorities/options/rank list as appropriate. - Agree to an action and timescale. - Control and monitor follow-up 3. Conclusion The Learning Stations training tool provided these opportunities for the stu- dents: 86 Learning station in primary education - a training tool that keeps your learners... • They reviewed segments of previously learned information in a variety of short, quick ways. • The students invented new, topic-related information. • The students practiced topic-related skills for short periods of time. • The students learned from each other, self-corrected and coached each other. • The students linked new learning to old learning and drew upon what they already knew. • The students kept both their minds and bodies alert as they moved around the room doing the various learning activities. • The students participated in the training in a unique and novel way, thereby increasing motivation and interest as well as learning and retention. REFERENCES [1] Pho Duc Hoa, 2009. Active teaching and learning & approach to teaching in primary education. Education P. [2] Ministry of Education and Training, Hanoi 2000. Teaching thinking skills. Doc- uments of Vietnam Belgian project Support for remote teaching. [3] J.Samuel Barkin, 2010. Realist Constructivism: Re thinking International Rela- tions Theory. Cambridge University Press, UK. [4] Carol Blades, 2002. Thoughts on Children and Learning. University of Calgary, Canada. [5] SEAMEO Regional Centre for Education, 2006. Applying constructivism and inquiry models in teaching volume-temperature relationship of gases (Charles law). Penang, Malaysia. [6] Tharp, R.G., Estrada, P., Dalton, S.S. , & Yamauchi, L., 2000. Teaching trans- formed: Achieving excellence, fairness, inclusion, and harmony. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. [7] Kagan, Spencer. Cooperative Learning. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing, 1994.www.KaganOnline.com [8] inqiry teaching; discovery learning 87
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