Station Teaching and Alternative Teaching: Two Effective Co-Teaching Instructional Models
If you are fortunate enough to work in a co-teaching situation, we encourage you to try station teaching and/or alternative teaching as instructional models. Station teaching is perfect for when you want to implement a variety of learning activities, and alternative teaching is an excellent method of differentiating instruction for two groups working at different academic levels.
Co-Teaching is becoming more common as administrators begin to see the benefits to students including increased student performance and decreased student behavior issues. Co-Teaching can be defined as two or more certified / licensed professionals sharing the duties of lesson planning, implementation, assessment, and classroom management. It is generally accepted that there are six instructional models that co-teachers can use to present instruction and they include: One Teach / One Observe, One Teach / One Assist, Team Teaching, Parallel Teaching, Station Teaching, and Alternative Teaching. Both station teaching and alternative teaching provide a defined structure for differentiating content and delivery and allow teachers to work with mixed ability levels. This article will cover these two models in greater detail. For a brief overview of all six models, please read the resource available for download here, The Six Models of Co-Teaching. If you want to learn even more about co-teaching, and how to implement it successfully in your classroom, you may want to consider our full course, Planning for Co-Teaching: Strategies and Tools to Ensure Success.
Station Teaching Overview
In the station teaching model of instruction, students and content are divided into three or more groups. Each teacher teaches one section of content, while the remaining sections are based on independent practice activities, and students rotate between all of the stations. Smaller group size inevitably means that students get more individual attention. Additionally, teachers can plan their lesson based on their own instructional strengths. However, implementing station teaching has its challenges as well. It requires a great amount of planning, and timing is critical so it may be hard to coordinate perfectly. Teachers must also consider that some students may not be able to manage themselves appropriately in independent stations, so strong classroom management is key. Station teaching can be used frequently as long as it is planned well based on teacher strengths and implements a wide variety of differentiated activities.
Forming Flexible Groups for Station Teaching
How you form groups for station teaching will be primarily based on the content being taught at each station. Most likely, you will want students to be in homogenous groups so that when they are at a teacher-led station, instruction can be differentiated for the level of that particular group. Even when students are working at an independent station, it will be easier to manage if each student in the group is working at the same level and can have the same activity. However, the key here is flexibility. Groups will need to change from day to day and subject to subject. Your group organization should be based on data from assessments, which can be actual tests, daily assignments or even informal observations. You may even have occasions when heterogeneous groups are warranted. For example, this could be particularly effective if you want to pair up an on-level reader with an above level reader in a buddy reading station.
A Classroom Snapshot of Station Teaching
Here is a look inside an elementary classroom where two first grade teachers are co-teaching a literacy block. The class has been divided into three similarly sized groups and will rotate among three stations. At station 1, they will be paired up to read a fiction text with their reading buddy and then they will each draw a picture representing what they visualized while they read. By this point in the year, students have already had a mini-lesson about visualization, so this is not a new skill. At station 2, they will work with one teacher in a guided reading group, and the teacher has separate plans for each of the three groups based on their previous assessment data. At station 3, they will work with the second teacher on their new spelling list, sorting the words based on the spelling pattern. Again, the teacher has planned three separate spelling lists based on levels. For this particular day, the students have been placed in three homogenous groups based on student reading levels, which were determined from a beginning of the reading assessment. Within each group, the teachers have identified pairs of students that are reading at the same reading level and have similar interests.
Station teaching is not limited to elementary school! Here is what it might look like in a secondary setting:
Two high school math teachers are co-teaching an algebra class. The class has been divided into four similarly sized groups and will rotate among four stations. At station 1, they will work with a teacher-assigned partner to solve a set of five polynomial equations. At station 2, they will use laptops to complete a Desmos activity on graphing polynomials. This activity is self-paced and teachers will be able to determine the extent of their knowledge based on how far into the activity they get during the allotted time. At stations 3 and 4, they will work with each teacher as they take notes on a new skill. The groups they have formed are heterogeneous with a mix of ability levels, but for station 1, the teachers planned pairs of students with one higher performing student and one who struggles a bit more with polynomials. This was based on data they collected from an exit ticket the previous day. The teachers are comfortable with the mixed level groups for their new lessons because at only one fourth of the class per group, they will still be able to provide enough individualized attention during their station teaching.
Planning For Station Teaching
Use the resource shown here to help you and your co-teacher plan a successful set of stations for an upcoming lesson.