18 August 2014

Why and How You Should Do Stations on Day 1

I spent less than 15 minutes in front of class the first day. I explained the stations and set them loose. I wandered around just watching, troubleshooting here and there, suggesting where to go next as a group or individual wrapped up an activity.

I think I'll do this every year.

Observe Work Habits
Notice how they cluster. Figure out who has trouble following directions--oral, on the board, online, or on paper. Make a mental (or physical) note of how long they take to complete assignments. Watch how they handle frustration and problem solving. Feel out attitudes--toward the subject, the tasks, each other, you--themselves. See how high they aim and how accurately they judge their ability level and how realistic they are with their goals.

Previews and Goal Setting
Between SSR and weekly coros, students will be engaging with different books and Spanish music regularly. I want to get them interested in it first, maybe get a feel for their preferences and convince them the Spanish-speaking world has something they want. The idea is to get them hooked and comfortable with taking in the language in context, so they are ready for engaging with cultural products. "Shelfies" tap into the teenage drive to take pictures of themselves while familiarizing them with the picture books and magazines available for their consumption in the classroom, and the Pinterest board o' music videos gives a hint of how to stay connected to the language beyond. Shoot, comparing paragraphs they wrote to post-translator paragraphs even demonstrates what could await them if they attempt the "easy" way out.

Instruction Cards
Copy enough of these cards for each student to get one, cut them apart, and set out stacks at corresponding stations. Students should write something to demonstrate their interaction with the station, and then they can tape them into their interactive notebooks!

Random Grouping

I chopped up some index cards and had my six-year-old help me apply a fruit sticker to each card. I had four cards each for fresas, sandia, manzanas, naranjas, bananas, and uvas. Using fruit allowed me to bring up cognates from the start and do a quick check to see if they got which word was a cognate. Also, it was kind of nice not to have to have a seating chart ready before it all started. I mean, I never have to, and really I already had these kids' names memorized months ago (egad I love working at a tiny school!) But the main thing it does is lend a sense of fluidity and flexibility to the beginning of school--but not too much. There is still an order to things, but it's not an order born of desperation for control. Just a logical way to keep things rolling.

Extra Stations
Have at least one station with an assignment students can take home if they don't get finished. This will allow everyone to complete all the work regardless of their pace and also give the high fliers and speed demons something to keep them occupied and productive. I also had a station that when it came down to crunch time that they could totally skip. Really it was something for me to collect ideas from the class collectively (the marshmallow tower to collect essential teamwork vocabulary), so I had what I needed whether or not everyone got to it. And really, their answers were already starting to repeat.

Technology Alternatives
5 of my 6 stations depended on some sort of technology. When the laptops went wonky, that put 2 stations in trouble. Fortunately, between the desktops and iPads, most everyone was able to access that they needed, but there was the one assignment that ended up having to be relegated to the homework zone for 80% of the class that had to skip a station. I might have had to resort to using my SMARTboard as a radio for one station, get students to share their own phones for shelfies and translator activities (with a printout of the assignment), and break out paper bags or popsicle sticks to do real puppets instead of a Sock Puppets app.
The next day, set up Tweetbeam to run through their tweeted shelfies, or throw the emailed ones together in Photopeach (after you quickly "download all attachments" from the flow of emails to Drive--which it helps to have synced on your computer). Cobble the Sock Puppet videos together (I had to hold another iPad in front of each of theirs to record...I don't have the paid version) and let them giggle at a few. Compile and translate the "emergency vocabulary" suggestions into a master list, maybe even copy it and have them tape it to the inside of the back cover of their interactive notebooks. Have them do an alphabet brainstorm on what they expect to do, see, hear, and try throughout the course.


  1. I really like this idea! Could you give further details on the stations you created? Exactly what did they do with "shelfies"? I have a pretty extensive library I would like my kids to get aquatinted with. I'm looking into a way to let them explore French music/ music videos at one of the stations. What were the other stations? Please give the low tech version. Using my lap top for the music will be the extent of my technology available.

  2. I'm in 3 different rooms this year so I'm soaking up as many ideas as I can and details are so key! Could you please share what the directions were at each station and what each station was?? I would love to try to implement this :)

    1. Ask and ye shall receive! I cleaned up the cards I used for you to download here: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/First-Day-Stations-Instruction-Cards-1403750