Teaching methodologies #1: Implementing the Learning Station concept in your lessons

Recently I have been creating some Grade 4 Intermediate Phase Science lessons using the Learning Stations concept (better known as Learning Centers in the US) and I thought this could make a great blog post. A learning station is a self-contained section of the classroom in which groups (or individuals) engage in self-directed learning activities provided by the teacher.


Types of Learning Stations

Most teachers will agree that there are three different types of Learning Stations: Enrichment Stations: Skill Stations and Interest and Exploratory Stations: . These can be set up according to the teacher’s preferences:

  • By topic: Coral Reef, Machines, Plants, etc. 
  • By learning styles: auditory, tactile, visual, etc. 
  • By subject: Maths, Science, Reading etc.

The value of using Learning Stations

Teachers who incorporate learning stations into their daily routines find that they have the time to spend more time working with students in small groups, a method which research shows adds to the success of all students. The varying activities are designed to provide students with opportunities to enrich and enhance their appreciation and understanding of the topic. Each learning station deals with a different aspect of the topic being studied and contributes to the topic being studied from different angles. The tasks are usually short and available at the learning station. The plan is that the learners teach themselves information and learn from each other.

Video: ‘ITC – Consider Centers – Integrating Technology In The ClassroomThis is a 6 minute video from SimpleK 12 webinars showing the different types of Learning Stations are in a classroom.

Pointers for setting up successful Learning Stations

The teacher should be well-prepared for the lesson and needs to take a number of preparation steps to ensure this.

Groups: How will you decide on your groups? Will they be of a similar level or will the students be of varying abilities? This needs to be decided before the lesson. Whatever is decided it is always best to use group roles to ensure the smooth working of a group. Make sure that you have group role cards available and that you instruct the learners about the different roles before the lesson starts.

Time frame: How long should each learning session centre be? 15-20 mins? More? Less? If the sessions are too long some of the students might start to get out of hand if they are finished their work. How will you accommodate that?

Activities: Each group will need to have the correct amount of materials to work on. Will they work on photocopiables or will they work in their books? Will the students know where to find the task and the recording sheets? What will happen to the sheets after the group moves to the next learning station?

Video: ‘Organizing Classroom Learning Centers’

This 8 min video by Shelley Gray shows how a teacher can organise her content for each learning station

Technology in the classroom: If you have access to ICT technology in your classroom, be sure to take advantage of it during learning station time. For activities located on the Internet and they could include have QR codes to help the learners get there faster.  Even if you do not feel totally comfortable with ICT technology, do not let this stop you from letting the students use it!

Smooth transitions to the various learning stations: In a classroom where students are moving from station to station, smooth transitions are vital! Explain what is required and then get your learners to practice, until each person knows exactly what to do.

Signals to mark the end of a learning station session. Also, consider implementing a signal so that students know when it is time to change learning station. A rainstick is popular with teachers. Otherwise you could have a timer, or an online timer.

What will you be done at learning station time? Know precisely what you need to be doing during the activities. Will you be working with a group or will you be circulating the room?

Example of a Grade 4 Science Learning Station lesson idea

The Water Cycle (A learning stations consolidation lesson)

This takes place after previous activities on the water cycle.

Learning Station 1. The teacher revises the water cycle using a flipchart. The students complete a related worksheet activity.

Learning Station 2: An experiment with instructions is set up

Learning Station 3: The students use a QR code to view a water cycle animation and answer questions

Learning Station 4: The water cycle vocabulary cards game

Learning Station 5: (optional) The students create an animated PowerPoint about the water cycle

Video: ‘Learning Centers’

This 2 min shows a Learning Centre in action from Terry Smith an Associate Professor of Education

Further Reading

  1. Brainy approaches to learning
  2. Learning centers
  3. Setting up learning centers
  4. Classroom learning centres
  5. Organizing your Classroom Learning Centers
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