It’s no secret that I love learning stations! So when the pandemic hit and forced all of us to learn how to adapt our instruction, virtual learning stations were at the top of my priority list. After spending some time ~virtually~ reinventing the wheel, I landed on an engaging digital alternative to my beloved traditional learning stations: interactive Google Slides learning stations.
Here’s what so cool about these stations! Just like students would physically move around the classroom with traditional learning stations, they can “move” through the interactive slideshow, thanks to a “home menu” and clickable buttons. They can navigate the stations and explore the content at their own place, making the virtual version an engaging, student-centered spin-off of the real thing.
Ready to create a set of stations? You’re just a few steps away from a lesson you can create today and teach TOMORROW! For a jumpstart on the creation process, check out my collection of interactive virtual learning stations. All of the following ideas are designed to work with any of these templates, which you can find HERE.
Go grab a template or a blank slate of slides, some coffee, and your lesson planner, and let’s get started! Here are 10 different ideas for virtual learning stations that will work for anything & everything!
1. UNIT INTRODUCTION STATIONS
Ready to ditch that old unit introduction slideshow once and for all? With a little creative thinking, you can launch almost any new unit with a set of well-designed virtual stations. Give students just enough information to pique their curiosity and preview the unit. Find different images, excerpts, quotes, infographics, videos, and other artifacts that will allow students to make inferences and generate questions about the new unit of study. Pose an essential question or two and find out what students can discover on their own.
Stations work well for any kind of introductory lesson because they shift the ownership to the students. I never begin a new unit or text with a teacher-led mini-lesson because I prefer to see what students can learn on their own before I fill in the gaps with my instruction later.
2. PRE-READING STATIONS
Want your students to start your next whole-class novel strong? Use learning stations to provide background knowledge, preview key themes, and introduce the main characters. This is my favorite way to start novel units because it encourages students to make inferences, connections, and predictions before they even open the book. Pre-reading stations are a great way to scaffold the text and get students engaged from the start.
I’ll usually include a station on setting, another on main characters, one with “anticipation guide” style questions, an intriguing excerpt to analyze, and any other essential information or questions I want students to consider before reading. I also like to mix up these stations with movie/book trailers (if available), photo galleries, nonfiction, videos, and more. With virtual stations, the possibilities are endless. If you can paste it, embed it, or link it onto a station slide, you can include it!
3. VIRTUAL FIELD TRIP STATIONS
No field trips? No problem! Take students on a virtual trip with interactive learning stations featuring photos, maps, videos, Google Maps, and Google Earth. This kind of virtual activity works well for history or geography OR any kind of novel with a faraway setting. If students can see and “experience” the setting, they will be more likely to engage and remember the content!
When I taught Into the Wild, I brought the beautiful places Chris McCandless visits to life with a station activity. I dropped different pins and links on a Google Map and let students explore the stops on his road trip. After exploring the settings, students chose one setting and wrote a postcard from McCandless’s perspective.
4. EDITING & REVISION STATIONS
Overwhelmed with teaching students how to edit and revise their writing? Tired of giving the same feedback over and over again? I get it. Revision is hard, and teaching it is even harder! But I’ve found that the best thing you can do is break it down, whether that’s via stations or “peer review speed dating.” To structure these types of stations, simply break down your editing/revision goals into 4-6 different categories. These can be different traits of writing, categories straight from your rubric, common errors & how to fix them, various writing techniques, and more.
When you’re creating revision stations, don’t forget about all of the digital resources available! You can easily incorporate tech tools like Grammarly or the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) into your stations.
5. VOCABULARY STATIONS
Want to mix up your vocabulary instruction? Vocabulary stations are basically an engaging mash-up of vocabulary tasks, activities, and games! Here’s my go-to setup for simple but fun vocabulary stations:
- Vocabulary Charades
- Vocabulary Trading Cards
- Creative Writing Task
- Vocabulary Pictionary
- Quizlet/Kahoot/Gimkit/Your Choice
6. MENTOR TEXT STATIONS
Want to help your students develop a critical eye and curious mindset? Gather a variety of mentor texts, make each one a virtual station, and simply ask students, “What do you notice?” This could be asking them to catalogue what they notice about poetry…introductions to essays…a literary genre…newspaper articles…ANYTHING that you’re studying. “What do you notice?” is simple but powerful because it gives students the freedom to be observant and inquisitive. Sometimes, all they need is the permission to be curious.
Anytime I facilitate an activity like this, I am always so impressed with how much students can discover on their own. The next time you are tempted to deliver a mini-lesson, give this activity a try instead. Then, use what students gather to fill in the gaps with a more targeted lesson the following day.
7. MULTI-GENRE STATIONS
If you’re a fellow fan of a juicy essential question, then you’ll love the idea of multi-genre learning stations! These work well for synthesis writing, thematic literature units, nonfiction, and more. To create these, gather a collection of multimedia, multi-genre texts and frame the lesson with an overarching essential question. For example, you might incorporate poetry, art, infographics, songs/lyrics, videos, nonfiction articles, excerpts, and more. Students can explore different perspectives, articulate their thinking, and even compare/contrast to an anchor text. Once again, the possibilities here are endless! If you can copy/paste it onto a virtual template, then you can create a set of stations!
9. PRIMARY SOURCE STATIONS
Challenge students to understand history or the context of a novel by examining primary source documents in learning stations. To do this, simply copy and paste different artifacts and excerpts into different virtual station slides, and create different questions to guide students through the sources. I’ve done this with the front pages of historical newspapers in my journalism classes. Newseum is a great source for historical and current front pages!
8. LITERARY ANALYSIS STATIONS
Ready to break up the monotony and routine that can sneak up during long novel units? Try facilitating some form of literary analysis learning stations! Here are a few different ideas:
- Theme Learning Stations: If theme is a challenge, create a set of learning stations that will help students discover themes on their own. With the right excerpts, guiding questions, and support, students will be able to generate more insightful theme statements after a round of stations. For my version of this resource, check out my print & virtual Analyzing Theme Learning Stations.
- Symbolism Learning Stations: To help students understand symbolism, gather a set of excerpts from the text. Pair each excerpt with a question, and assign them as stations! By giving students excerpts, they’ll waste less time skimming through the book and spend MORE time analyzing!
- Post-Reading Learning Stations: For an efficient review of the entire novel, combine the most important literary elements into stations. For example, one station could be character development, the next theme, and another symbolism. These stations are a great way to make sure you’re hitting lots of lit standards! For a print & digital version of this activity, check out my Learning Stations for Any Novel.
10. INDEPENDENT READING STATIONS
Looking for a way to bring students together during an independent/choice reading unit? Try using learning stations to give students a chance to discuss their books with their peers. For example, you could use any of the above learning stations because they’re designed to work with any text. Students can complete the station tasks for their individual books and then discuss their texts with their peers. In addition to offering the perfect balance of individual accountability and engaging collaboration, these stations will expose students to more books, encourage intertextual connections, and generate more interest in reading.
Depending on the books your students are reading, you may want to group them by genre or topics so they can have richer discussions at each station. For example, a group of students reading dystopian titles could discuss government control and world-building, while a realistic fiction group could analyze how real-life issues are depicted in their texts.
THANKS FOR READING!
Inspired yet?! If you’re ready to start creating a brand new set of stations, you might be interested in my learning stations templates. These interactive Google Slides templates feature “home menus” with clickable buttons that create a student-centered learning experience. The best part is all the time you’ll save because all you have to do is copy & paste your content and click “assign.” You can check out my sets of station templates HERE.
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