September 4, 2012 by Megan
Like most of you, I have big classes. It’s usually around 30 kids together at the same time. A lot of activities we do in class require little extra help from me. Reading, writing, and listening can usually be done alone or in a small group. With simple directions and a little trust, students can be just as successful without you. Even the task of coming up with new vocabulary can pretty much be done on their own. Our time, as teachers, can be much better utilized!
Here it is! The teacher’s role is extremely important when it comes to modeling the language and providing feedback to students. This is the reason I started using stations. While the majority of students are working together in other stations, one group is right in front of me. It’s just us for ten full minutes. Students are much more likely to participate in a conversation in the TL and take language risks in this smaller setting. I would have never learned Spanish without the 1 on 1 practice I had while studying abroad and some of our students won’t without this special attention either. I usually leave a question written at the table for the group to think about when they first come to me. I give them a minute to prepare what they want to say, while I walk the room and see that the other students get started in their new station. When I get back, we just chat. I start with yes/no questions and work my way to their opinions. To motivate my level one students, I’ll give the group a piece of candy if we all stay in Spanish.
Other times, I’ll use this time to give my students feedback. I don’t teach a lot of grammar during class but find this station gives me time to teach students what they need to know. After a written assessment, I can group students that can benefit from the same feedback. I suggest one way to improve (word order, noun adjective agreement) and let them go through their assessment and self-correct. I answer questions, they talk about how they can improve on their next assessment, and we celebrate success! It’s great!
Both of these activities were stressful to me as a teacher when I was dealing with the whole group. Nothing is more frustrating that trying to get the whole class involved in a group conversation. Some are bored, others are confused, and some want to translate it all. Giving feedback used to be a race – I knew I was limited on time and I was always rushing to get to the next student. Stations give me that personal time with each kid that helps me do what really helps them the most.