A Dozen Ideas for Back to School Learning Stations

Back to School Learning Stations
Ready to plan out an engaging set of back-to-school stations? If so, you’re in the right spot!

Earlier this week, I blogged about five reasons you should start your school year with back-to-school learning stations. If you’re here, then perhaps you’re sitting with a cup of coffee, your flair pens, and your lesson planner, ready to get your station planning on. If so, WELCOME! I’m a fellow planning nerd, and I’m here to help you brainstorm ideas for an engaging set of back-to-school learning stations.

By the way, I do have a student-ready resource for you: Back-to-School Learning Stations, if that’s what you’re looking for! My resource includes many of the below ideas, but it’s also editable so you can mix and match activities to create a set of stations that work for you and your students. I also have other stations and blank sets of templates that you can check out HERE, as well as multiple blog posts on creating and facilitating learning stations.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m a bit of a stations fanatic. Wondering why? Start reading HERE to learn about why this instructional strategy is a game-changer in any classroom. Then, head on over HERE for all the reasons why you might as well start with stations during the very first week of school. When you’re done learning, come right back here with your lesson planner and teacher brain. 🙂 

Ready to plan out your best back-to-school lesson yet? Here are a dozen ideas for engaging back-to-school learning stations:

Syllabus Station

We all know that we need to cover the syllabus during the first week of school, but let’s not bore our students by reading it aloud on Day 1! Instead, sneak your syllabus into your learning stations and make the students responsible for gathering the most important information. At this station, ask students to read over the syllabus and answer essential questions, highlight important information, or find key info in a “scavenger hunt” of sorts. Let students explore the syllabus on their own/in their station groups first; then, when you’re reviewing stations, make sure they understand the most important parts.

syllabus station
Learning stations allow you to cover your syllabus in a much more engaging way.

One-Word Activity Station

If you’ve never heard of the one-word activity, it’s pretty simple: Students pick one word to define their year and/or goals. You can dress it up or down, whether you do it with notecards or premade templates. The best part is that you can display the completed activities around the room, so they will double as inspiring classroom decor! My back-to-school learning stations come with both printable and digital versions of the “one word” activity, so you can make it work for you and your students!

Goal-Setting Station

Start the year strong by asking students to set goals, whether they are academic, personal, or a mix of both. One way to do this with a purpose is to give students a simplified, user-friendly list of learning objectives (perhaps even just the couple of objectives you’ll be working on in your first unit). Then, ask each student to self-rate their ability to perform each objective AND set a goal for each as well. Nothing like gathering some qualitative data during the first few days of school!

Start the year strong by asking your students to set goals during back-to-school learning stations.

Student Survey Station

Gather important information about your incoming group of students with an efficient, purposeful student survey station. My #1 choice for student surveys is Google forms, because it organizes responses into a super convenient Google sheet that I can reference all year long. My survey includes questions like the following:

  • What sports/extracurricular activities are you involved in?
  • What do you like to do in your spare time?
  • What do you hope to learn in this class?
  • And more! You can check out the full survey in my back-to-school stations.

Padlet Selfie Station

Want some help connecting the names on your roster to the sweet student faces in front of you? Use your students’ love language–selfies–to create a fun Padlet board that will build class community and help you learn names. Like Google forms, I love Padlet because you can archive or download boards and keep them as long as you want. If you don’t like the selfie idea, you can still use Padlet as a way to get to know your students. Whether you ask them to share a fun fact, a meme, their interests, etc, it will help you associate something with each student and connect with them. You can learn more about the Padlet selfie station in my back-to-school stations resource HERE.

Investigate the Teacher Station

Looking for a way to help students get to know you (without the boring “Get to Know Miss G” slideshow)? Try my all-time favorite back-to-school activity, Investigate the Teacher. During this activity, students search my classroom to make inferences about my teaching style, personality, interests, hobbies, etc. I actually use this as a full first day of school activity, but I’ve heard from many teachers who add it as an extra station in my back-to-school learning stations. You can grab the print and digital version HERE or read the following blog posts for more information:

I do Investigate the Teacher as a separate activity, but I’ve heard from many teachers who include it as an extra learning station.

Unit Preview Station

Get started on tiny bit of content without overwhelming students through a station that previews your first unit. A simple KWL Chart (Know, Want to Know, Learned) is a great way to structure this, but you can also use strategies like anticipation guides or “personality quizzes.” If you’re an ELA teacher who begins the year with a novel unit, check out this blog post for more pre-reading activities.

Tech Tutorial Station

Have some kind of technology or platform that you’ll be using all year long? Get a quick tech tutorial out of the way with a station. For example, maybe you want to showcase the important features on your Google Classroom page and how students can find essential information. Perhaps you want to show your students how to check out books on a classroom library platform like Booksource. The possibilities are endless! If you’re screen recording a tutorial, I highly recommend using the free tool Loom.

Book Browsing Station

Help your students get excited about reading and become familiar with your classroom library through a book browsing/classroom library station. Whether you let your students explore the shelves on their own, give them some parameters, or offer them stacks of pre-selected high-interest texts, this kind of station will help them jump into independent reading sooner.

Keep it simple with a “book browsing” station during the first few days of school!

Scavenger Hunt Station

Help students become familiar with the classroom’s features, important procedures, and general expectations by creating a “scavenger hunt” station that requires them to find important spots around the room. For example, you can make students find places like the “turn-in tray,” late work copies, students supplies, etc.

Book Trailer Station

Jumpstart students’ independent reading by giving them a few buzz-worthy book trailers to watch as part of your learning stations. Just make sure you or your school library have some copies ready to be checked out because students will want to read after pressing play! If you’re looking for book trailer ideas, I actually have a FREE master list of links for middle and high school. You can grab those book trailer goodies HERE and then check out this blog post to learn more about how to use book trailers to hook students on reading.

Teacher-Led Station

Have some critical information or important expectations that you just need to formally review with students? Or do you just want to sit down and get to know each student better? Either way, consider making one of your stations a “teacher-led” station. This means you will join each group at one station, rather than bopping around the room to check on various groups/stations each rotation. 

Consider making one of your stations a “teacher-led” station.

I hope all these ideas have you ready to map out your learning stations for the first day or week of school! If you are low on time and want a shortcut to a student-ready set of stations, you can check out my Back to School Learning Stations HERE. Have a fabulous first week of school!

If you’re looking for similar engaging, student-centered resources for the first week of school, check out my favorites below:

For more help planning your first few days of school, check out the following posts:

To learn more about facilitating learning stations in your middle or high school classroom, check out the following posts:


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