Stations in the World Language Classroom

This is a follow-up post to the #langchat Twitter discussion last night. I frequently use stations in my classroom, with all levels from 8th graders to seniors, levels 1-AP French and the occasional Spanish class.

Logistics: Stations are a great way for everyone to be engaged in a variety of language activities. Students can be randomly divided by counting off or you can use your standard cooperative learning techniques. Groups should not be any larger than 4. You can then determine the number of stations or with a large class, you could actually have two groups per station. As the teacher, you can decide for all activities to be independent with you as monitor, constantly walking, answering questions and refocusing students or you can be at one of the stations to facilitate conversation, read a dictée or assist with a more challenging task. Allow about 10 minutes per station for the first attempt. This lets students know your expectations: be on task! Students should record answers, provide a reflection or have some accountability at most, if not all, stations and this should be turned in at the end of class. To make things easier on yourself, especially the first couple of times, ask:
“Are there activities that I’ve previously used that would work well in this structure?” No need to always recreate. Students need to be trained, so plan on trying this type of classroom organization two to three times, not too far apart in your planning, to establish the routine. It’s messy, but always ask: is it messy because a lot of students were involved in a lot of language learning? If so, bravo!

Sample activities:
Pictures make great prompts: descriptions, activities, tenses appropriate to levels, items to shop for. You can also provide questions to discuss or a form for a pre-writing chart but with more mature students, they could also independently discuss or journal, follow their own tangents.
For a more structured speaking, provide a textbook or on-line picture sequence; students role play those represented. Remember-no prewriting, just practice and they raise their hand when they’re ready for you to listen.
With a computer: web quest or topical search, reading, quia, response to a tv news story, youtube without lyrics-what did you hear; follow with same song with scrolling lyrics. How close did you get?
More traditional practice-focused vocabulary or structural practice; make this no more than one of your stations.
Listening: have the content up and ready to go; students may listen as many times as they like-which is different than they’re able to do as a whole class.
Reading-have selection available on line or copied so students can highlight, pick out cognates, find ‘known’ words, summarize or apply to unit of study.
Other ideas? Please share!

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