Advantages and Disadvantages of Station Rotation

By Samantha Casey

For this blog post I’m going to focus on some of the advantages and disadvantages of teaching using the station rotation model. Two of the advantages I have had so far with station rotation is: more one on one time with students, student engagement, and student creativity. The students in my class look forward to having small group time. I’ve noticed that they are more focused when we do small group rotations. Station rotation has also allowed me to spend more time with the students who need extra help. For example, I am able to give my lower reading group extra time to read and discuss the story of the week. It has benefited them greatly to have this additional time in a smaller setting. Station rotation has also allowed for flexibility. I have moved students to different groups depending on their knowledge and strength of a particular topic. Station rotation has also allowed students to be more creative by using different technology applications. I had students create an adobe voice video on why recycling is important. They completed this project during one of our language arts rotations. The students loved completing this project on adobe voice because they were able to express their beliefs about recycling in a creative format and it also related to their persuasive essays.There are many advantages of the station rotation model, but there are also some disadvantages. Some of the disadvantages I have experienced with station rotation are failing technology, distractions, and elevated noise levels.Unfortunately, there have been times when iPad applications haven’t worked properly or updates have interrupted an activity on an iPad during a rotation. time this has happened, the student has had to leave the iPad station to come ask me something while I’ve been working with my group. I have also had instances where students have been distracted while at the iPad station. There have been times where they have been off task because it is the independent station that isn’t led by a teacher or paraeducator. Lastly, another issue I have encountered is the noise level in the classroom and noise level while transitioning from station to station. Overall, I would recommend station rotation to teachers, but I do know that there are some disadvantageses to it.

Samantha Casey is a fourth-grade teacher in Santa Clara, CA. She has taught using the blended learning model in education for two years. 

Station Rotation

By Samantha Casey

I am a fourth-grade teacher at a Catholic School where blended learning is primarily used for instruction. There are many ways that I incorporate the station rotation model in my classroom. I will start off by discussing how I use this model for Language Arts instruction. I have thirty students in my class and I have divided my class into three groups based on ability levels. Of course, these groups were created with the flexibility of changing the entire year depending on student growth.I use station rotation three times a week during language arts instruction. Eachgroup spends either fifteen to twenty minutes at each station. The first station isalways an independent study station using the iPads. I use a language artsapplication called HMH readers that is provided by my school’s language artsprogram. Each student is given a different symbol of which books they are allowedto read (square, triangle, or circle). Each symbol represents a different reading level.Once the students have been given their reading assignment they are able to use theiPad to access their story. They can read their story with or without headphones. I usually leave it up to them to decide. After they have completed reading their story,they are to complete a series of reading activities in their composition books. The activities are on different reading strategies based on the story they read. The next station is a guided station. The students are guided by my paraeducator on different reading activities that relate to the weekly story. Some of the activities they do in this group  story maps, vocabulary graphic organizers, and vocabulary stories.The last station is my small group, which is different based on each level of the students. For my high group, I usually provide challenging activities that are based on the reading. They are usually questions that involve higher order thinking. For my average group, I usually review the story with them providing questions that are based on the story. For my lower group, I use the differentiated instruction book that provides similar stories to the weekly story using the same vocabulary words.We usually read the story together and discuss the vocabulary and questions indepth. I usually stick to these groups each week during language arts stationrotation.

Samantha Casey is a fourth-grade teacher in Santa Clara, CA. She has used elements of blended learning for two years. 

Using Project Based Learning for Class Team Building While Learning to Solve Complex Math Problems

by Shawn Gallagher

First of all, let me tell you what Project-Based Learning is, and why you should use it in the classroom. PBL is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working in a group format for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex problem or a question. I have found that Project Based learning can be a very effective way to teach important math concepts, while at the same time, it helps students to learn the value of teamwork to solve problems.

Over the course of six days, I had the pleasure of implementing a PBL assignment with my fifth grade students. The goal of the PBL was for students to see if they could start and run a successful lemonade stand business. The project implemented California’s 5th grade math standards for computing with fractions, mixed numbers and decimal operations. To kick start the project, I showed a short video of other students who started a business. Once I showed the video, students completely bought into the project. I was truly surprised at how excited students remained about the project throughout the week. Students worked in small groups that I selected. In those groups, they had to collaborate and work as a team. It was the job of each group to pick a team leader to oversee the project, a secretary to record all their notes, and two artists to work on their poster board and advertisements.

Each day, the class time was divided into four independent but linked sections. We would start out each day with a short video that would deal with one aspect of running a business enterprise. The video would lead directly into the driving question for each day. In small groups, students would discuss four or five topics related to starting a business. The group leader would direct the questions where everyone was expected to contribute, and the secretary took notes on the discussion. The group discussion would last about fifteen minutes. During discussions, students were encouraged to use their iPads to research business concepts that they did not understand, such as, profit and loss, margins, supply and demand and cost analyses. It was the job of the group leader would report to me if students were not participating. After the group discussion, students worked with their group to solve the math portion of each day’s project. Students were given worksheets where they had to calculate how they would spend their investment money, how to use a recipe, and then figure out how much lemonade they would need for a day and then for a week based on their estimated customer base. The math portion usually lasted about thirty to forty minutes. For the final part of the lesson, each student wrote a reflection on what he or she had learned that day, what went well, and what failed.

The PBL was successful in many ways. First of all, the students really loved the concept of doing something new. They bought into the idea of starting a business, and working on a lemonade stand poster board. Students really enjoyed researching the various business terms and concepts that I asked them to find out about. Most groups worked on their lemonade stand poster at recess and lunch. I had a lot of parents come up to me to let me know how excited their students were doing this project. I liked how the small group discussions went where most students stayed focused and talked about the topics under discussion. I learned that students need a lot of help when it comes to converting units of measure. This knowledge was important worked because I was well prepared to teach further math lesson of units of measure after the project was completed. The highlight for students was actually getting to sell their lemonade to the other TK – 4 grade classes.

In order to be successful, projects like this, require a lot of planning and good time management skills. In addition, you really have to push students to keep the project on schedule. Although PBL’s are a lot of work, the academic and social rewards for students more than justifies the efforts. You should give Project Based Learning a try in your classroom too.

Shawn Gallagher is a 5th grade teacher at St. Clare School in Santa Clara, California. This is his second year teaching 5th grade and using Project-Based Learning in his classroom. 

Too Much Technology in a Day?

Too Much Technology in a Day?
How much technology is too much for first graders?

This is my second year teaching first grade with the station rotation model of learning. I have seen great achievements by my students because of the time I get to spend teaching in small groups and tailored lessons for students’ needs. I have also seen my students become familiar and comfortable with the technology that is presented to them and learn to use this technology to support their learning. The students are so well trained on the station rotation model that when I say it’s time for groups, they know exactly where to go, what material to pull out, and how to get started right away. I thought to myself, “Bravo, Ms. Wick, Bravo. You have trained them well.” As I have watched my kids continue to learn daily, I started to recognize that although my students loved being in my group or my paraeducator’s group, they were WAY to excited when it was time for them to go to the iPad group. Now, I know I am a good teacher, but I cannot complete with an iPad! I began to think, “Is connecting the students to these iPads 2-3 times a day a GOOD thing? What is it doing to their brains? How are they going to be communicable adults if all their communication is done on a screen?”

In my classroom, I teach using the station rotation model 4 times a week. I teach math and language arts in 3 rotations for 20-30 minutes in each group. That is almost an hour at school that my students are on the iPads. I’ve asked many of them if they use their own iPads at home or other sources of technology. Many of them agree that they use their iPads/computers/video games for at least another hour at home each day. That is a grand total of 10 hours of technology during the week and who knows how much technology is allowed at home on the weekend! For my little 6 and 7 year olds, 10+ of technology a week seems a little much. When I was 6-7, the most technology I had was one 30-minute show at night on the weekends. What happened to playing outside when we got home from school? Do children play board games or card games anymore? What about arts and crafts, Legos and Tinker Toys, puzzles and Lincoln Logs?

I know that the times have changed but I am still getting used to this new ‘technology age’ and how we must form to it. I have tried to teach my students how to play board games, put together puzzles, and build imaginary towns with blocks. I can guarantee that at least one student always mentions how they have done this on an iPad app or on their computer or that a video game is similar to one of the board games we are playing. My students relate everything to something that they have seen in the technology world and it completely blows my mind!

I know there isn’t much I can do about this fast growth in technology and its presence in our education system but I just hope that my students can learn to ‘un-plug’ and enjoy the simple things in life. I hope that they are successful and make a difference in the world. I hope they make their footprint in many people’s lives. I know they will become masters at all things technology. I hope they use their knowledge in technology to make a difference for the common good.

My name is Leah Wick and I am finishing my 5th year of full time teaching. My experience has included teaching first and second grade, while incorporating daily technology and station rotation model teaching. I have absolutely loved watching my students learn from both books and the technology outlets I have provided. I look forward to continuing to grow in the area of technology and gain insight on the newest and neatest ways to reach my students, their learning needs, and their own personal interests.

Why I Use ALEKS in the Classroom and You Should Too!

By Shawn Gallagher

First of all, let me tell you what ALEKS is. ALEKS identifies each student’s knowledge in math, and then it delivers targeted instruction on the topics each student is most ready to learn, as they follow their personalized learning path. Students receive immediate feedback, detailed explanations, and are reassessed regularly for retention of learned concepts.

Now, I will explain why I love ALEKS. Last year, the greatest problem I faced was differentiating students into small groups based on their math ability. All to often, when I worked with my small group, the other two groups would get distracted ,lose focus, and get off task. The reason for this was that I really did not have a math app that truly engaged and motivated students to learn independently, while I worked with a small group. ALEKS helped to solve that problem. Once students took the initial assessment on ALEKS, the app’s pie showed students how many concepts they already knew, and how many they needed to complete 5th grade mastery. Then it set an individual learning path for each student.

I like ALEKS for several reasons. It really helps students who are struggling with math concepts. Students can work at their own pace without feeling pressured to keep up with the rest of the class. When students do not fully grasp a lesson in Go Math, they can go back and review that lesson concept on ALEKS. In addition, ALEKS has proven its worth time and time again when I have students working in small groups. I can pull a group of six to eight students and work with them on a math concept that they have found difficult; meanwhile, the rest of the class can work quietly and independently on their individual learning path. I have been really able to help my struggling students during these interventions. At the start of the year, there were ten students below grade level. Right now, I only have two students who are a little below grade level. It is great to have a captive audience during these interventions thanks to ALEKS.

Furthermore, ALEKS is wonderful at motivating my higher end students. When students complete the pie for 5th grade math and take the final assessment, they receive a nice certificate for completing their goal. I always present the certificates to my students at the start of the day, and the students love to receive it. It has the positive effect of really pushing the other students toward completing their learning goals. Out of a class of 32 students, 20 students have completed 5th grade math, and are already working on 6th grade math, plus I have 6 students working on 7th grade math. Many of these students are self-motivated, and go on ALEKS at home without me assigning it. In a regular 5th grade class, I could never cover the sheer amount of material that students have been able to do on this math app.

Finally, I have found that ALEKS has greatly improved students confidence in math. As they see their pie fill up, they understand that they are improving all the time. Yes, the work does get more and more challenging as the pie fills up, so that is when I have students at the same level team up on different days to help each other. It really encourages students to slow down, read the instructions and follow the examples. This type of independent learning will give students the skills to learn on their own in other subject areas.

My recommendation to you is to use ALEKS in your classroom. It will motivate your students, it will encourage a love of independent learning, and teach them those valuable 21st century skills that they will need in tomorrow’s workforce.

Shawn Gallagher is a 5th grade teacher at St. Clare School in Santa Clara, California. This is his second year teaching 5th grade, and fortunately this year, he has had the opportunity to use the math app ALEKS in the classroom.

Finding Time to Stay Current in Technology: Feeling Overwhelmed with Technology as a Fulltime Teacher

By Leah Wick

As many of us know, being a teacher is not an 8 hour day. In fact, I don’t know if I have ever ‘worked’ anywhere close to 8 hours a day being a teacher. My time working is not measured by minutes but by the satisfaction I feel about the day’s lesson, how my students are doing, and if I am fully ready for tomorrow’s lessons. Being a teacher requires more than punching a time clock at the beginning and ending of every day. It is about investing your time into your students; or children as I call them. Being a part of an education system where I have the children’s best interest at heart, is such a rewarding experience school-year after school-year. I am very lucky to be given the opportunity to help form these small beings into our future leaders.

It is not a secret that technology has surely implanted its footprint in today’s education system. In my short 5 years of teaching, I have seen technology grow from a once a week option to a daily requirement in all subjects. When I was receiving my training to become a teacher, I think I had to take one or two classes on integrating technology in the classroom. Since becoming a teacher, I have taken almost 2 years of classes on integrating technology in the classroom. I have learned so much about technology in the last few years of my teaching career that at times, I feel overwhelmed with all the wonderful options there are out there. For instance, at the beginning of my 2-year technology course, I learned about an app called Adobe Voice that I absolutely fell in love with. I saw the benefits in using it in many different subjects and grade levels. I had my students create an animal report using Adobe Voice and they did a wonderful job. I shared their projects with their parents and other students and admin at school. I was so proud of myself. I was proud that I was able to embrace technology and successfully use it in a first grade classroom. My pride was short-lived, however, because a bunch of new apps had come out that we were asked to use daily in the classroom. I immediately felt defeated and unsure if I could keep up with the ever-changing technology requirements.

At first, the teachers needed to be trained on the new technology, which we did. However, it takes awhile to get used to the new apps as well as figure out a way to integrate them in our own classrooms and grade levels. All last year, I felt uncomfortable putting my students on their iPads to use these new apps because I was unable to see how it was used in other classrooms. It took me all year to finally feel comfortable using the new apps in my classroom. When this school year rolled around, I felt like a pro and was able to start my kids using these apps the first day of school.

I know that technology is changing daily and there are new apps out there being created all the time. How am I supposed to keep current on all this wonderful technology? We live in Silicon Valley… the technology hub of the world! To help with my overwhelming feeling of all the new technology, I have devised a plan that won’t cut into my not-so-much-of-an-8-hour-teaching-day. Step 1: Don’t feel overwhelmed. It will be okay. Step 2: You don’t need to know ALL the technology out there. Step 3: Explore the technology world one app at a time.

I have decided to explore one app a week for 3 weeks in a different subject so by the end of the month I will be familiar with 3 new apps in 3 different subjects. I can explore these apps while drinking my morning coffee, during commercials while relaxing on the couch at night, or while dinner is cooking and I’m waiting for the timer to tell me it’s time to eat! After I feel comfortable with these new 3 apps, on the fourth week of the month, I will integrate my favorite app into my classroom. I will feel confident enough to lead a lesson or project with my students to successfully use this app and create a well thought-out, educational learning opportunity. If I follow these 3 steps to find time to learn about the new technology out there, by the end of the school year, I will have used 9 new apps in my classroom and be familiar with at least 27 new apps! I refuse to be burnt out and overwhelmed with technology anymore. After all, wasn’t technology created to make our lives easier?!

My name is Leah Wick and I am finishing my 5th year of full time teaching. My experience has included teaching first and second grade, while incorporating daily technology and station rotation model teaching. I have absolutely loved watching my students learn from both books and the technology outlets I have provided. I look forward to continuing to grow in the area of technology and gain insight on the newest and neatest ways to reach my students, their learning needs, and their own personal interests.