Using stations in the world language classroom

My students in Spanish 3 have just wrapped up a unit on works of art called “Bajo la mesa“. I wrote the unit after I saw the video for the hit of the same name by Morat and Sebasti├ín Yatra. In my planning, I tried to work in as many opportunities as possible for students to practice describing in detail. This is an AP and proficiency based assessment skill that they need to develop if they hope to earn our state’s Seal of Biliteracy at the Intermediate High level.

We only have four years of language study to move them from beginners with no language experience all the way up to the level many of our college graduates achieve without a study abroad. As you can imagine, it takes planning from the beginning levels through the higher levels to help them reach such a lofty goal. Many fall just short at the border of Intermediate High and Mid and earn the Global Seal of Biliteracy, an equally prestigious micro credential for them to carry with them to the university level.

After our study of the Bajo la mesa unit, I wanted to share the reader Frida Kahlo by Kristy Placido. Not only would it give them another artist’s work to describe, but it would bring the story of art to the American continent and include a female artist. Frida is an engaging reader and my students have always enjoyed it. This year I decided to introduce it in a little different manner. Through stations.

I created 7 Frida Kahlo based stations, set a timer for 7 minutes, and had my students learn a little about the artist before we even began the unit. With writing, speaking, listening, and reading stations, they were flexing all their new skills that they had gained in the art unit.

It was great to watch them learn things that made them curious about Frida and her life. It made reading the reader more exciting since they knew they were going to find out more about who she was.

I really love stations as a part of any unit I share with my students. Often there is so much information that I want them to be exposed to and not enough hours in the day/week/year to take a full day to learn it! Stations let me give little bites of side information that often lead them to do some exploration on their own. We’ve even had times that something interested them so much that we paused our unit just to dig a little deeper.

Have you ever made stations to accompany a unit? Have you used a unit with stations included? If you haven’t tried them, what is holding you back?

Here are my top tips for creating stations to accompany a unit:

  1. Make 7-8 stations. Your students will only be able to visit approximately 5 of them in a class period of 45-50 minutes, but having extras helps with crowding at the tables/centers.
  2. Allow students to select which stations they go to. Sometimes I make one particular station mandatory, but I always give them a lot of freedom to choose the stations that sound the most interesting to them.
  3. Try to touch on a variety of communicative modes in the activities. I attempt to include something that has them read, listen, write, and speak in each set of stations I create.
  4. A conversation with the teacher is a very popular station. The students always like the chance to have some 1 on 4-5 time with their teacher. This station is a great place for you to evaluate what students already know and where there interests in the topic are.
  5. If they don’t quite finish at a station, that’s fine! Sometimes I underestimate how long a station will take and we have to adapt on the fly. If it is only ONE of the stations that seems to be taking a lot more time, then I just let them complete what they can and move when the timer sounds. If I have underestimated on multiple stations, I lengthen the timer by a couple minutes and let them have a little longer to finish.

Hope this helps you as you consider which units might be best introduced through stations! My year is flying by already, it is SO nice to have a semi-normal experience again. Cheers to us all for making it here.

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