Designing Group Stations for Station Rotation Model

Designing effective learning stations for a station rotation model
604 teachers like this strategy
Station Rotation

About This Strategy

The station rotation model provides students with an opportunity to practice skills independently and in small groups. This strategy supports you to design stations that will meet the instructional needs of your students by planning on how to organize stations, the flow and transition between stations, and what stations to develop to meet specific needs.

Plan It

Prior to implementing the station rotation model, it is important that you strategically plan for implementation by completing the following:

  1. Start by determining targeted skills, based on student-level data, that students need to practice independently or with a group.

    • For example, in the early grades students could focus on phonics practice, fluency, independent reading, etc.

  2. Decide how you will group students. 

    • At times, it may be helpful to have students based by skill level. However, heterogenous groupings can be beneficial as well. Consider the following when grouping students:

      • Skill Level

      • Reading Level

      • Interests

      • Random

    • Be sure to change groupings frequently!

  3. Determine which type of stations students will engage with when practicing skills, and how you may vary that station type based on students' skills.

    • Will there be a tech component?

    • What resources will each station need?

    • How will students engage in learning tasks, and what will they need to be successful?

  4. Determine what modifications students may need to be successful with the station rotation model and the activities. 

    • Review the EL Modification and Special Education Modification sections below for support.

  5. Plan out the targeted skill, station level practice and resources for each station.
    • Start small and identify 3-4 stations that students will interact with.

    • Think about how you might differentiate each station for the varied skill levels of each group of students based on the data you collected to group students.

  6. Determine your role and the role of any other teachers in the classroom during station rotation.

    • This may be a good time to have a teacher-led station. However, think about how you will position your station and your body in a way that allows you to have a full view of what is happening at each station. 

      • Watch the video in the resource section below for more information on a teacher-led station.

  7. Determine how students will transition from one station to the next.

  8. Decide how you will monitor students' progress during a station or how students will monitor their own progress.

    • You may have students turn in their work or complete a formative assessment.

Check out the planning template in the resource section below to help you plan for implementation!

Practice It

Now that you have planned for the station rotation model, it is time to implement it with students. You may need to revisit these steps and expectations frequently as students gain confidence. 

  1. Introduce the station rotation to model. Begin by defining expectations for each station. 

    • It may be helpful to begin with activities that students already know so that they may focus on the expectations for the station rotation itself.

    • Consider having the stations posted for students to refer to. See the Google Slide template and the example video in the resource section below.

  2. Explain the stations to students. Be clear about expectations, materials, and tasks.

  3. Have students practice going to their stations. 

  4. Students complete the work at their first station. 

  5. Use your transition to signal to have students transition to the next station.

    • You may need to practice this. It will take some time for students to develop these new routines. Model and practice!

  6. Have students engage in the next station. Continue until students have completed the stations for the day.

  7. Engage students in reflection.

Reflect and Refine

The station rotation is a model that will take time to refine in your classroom. After you begin implementing the station rotation model, consider the following:

  • What went well? What was challenging? 
  • Did the students meet the objectives for the stations? Why or why not?
  • What iterations should be made to make the station rotation model successful?
  • What was the feedback from your students? How can you incorporate their feedback into the next iteration?

Consider filming the stations in action in order to reflect and refine. 

After engaging in reflection, determine any changes and go through the implementation steps again. This is a process that will take time!

Special Education Modification

Nedra MassenburgDEMO
Special Education Specialist

Station rotations serve students with disabilities well by not only breaking up content that could easily overwhelm them into more manageable tasks but providing a variety of ways for students to engage with content.  

The variety of different tasks that may be used in station rotations may require developed reading comprehension, writing, verbal communication and/or executive functioning skills (task initiation, prioritization, working memory, impulse control, etc).  In order to support students with disabilities who have difficulty in these areas, consider the following modifications:


  1. Teachers should thoughtfully lesson plan modifications for each station planned. A variety of modifications should be considered for each chunk of a lesson, i.e. the first stations of a lesson could allow a group of students with disabilities access to read aloud for a text, a different station could provide the students with sentence stems to write their responses to a text or all stations could be identified by an easy visual to make it easier for students to identify where to go. See the "Focus on Five: Tips for Setting Up Daily Rotations" and the "How to Set Up Work Centers in a Special Education Classroom" resources in the resource section below for more information.
  2. Teachers should think carefully about the approach of quality over quantity of a task, i.e. in which ways can a station be modified for students to allow the most time to be spent on the high leverage tasks of a chunk?  This could look like students with disabilities only responding to the first question on a list provided, or giving them the opportunity to provide their answers verbally as opposed to in written form at a station. 

  3. If multiple teachers are present in a setting, consider having one teacher work in a small group of students with disabilities to provide them more scaffolded modeling and more frequent feedback at each station.  As an alternative, an additional teacher could also perform an alternative teaching station of a specific skill for all students. See the "Station Teaching and Alternative Teaching: Two Effective Co-Teaching Instructional Models" resource in the resource section below for more information.

EL Modification

Shannon Coyle
English Learner Specialist

Station Rotation is an excellent tool for differentiating learning experiences for English learners. Learners benefit from a variety of chances to explore a topic using multiple modalities. Teachers benefit from the opportunity to assess understanding and address misunderstanding in a small group setting.

English learners may engage in all four domains of language during Station Rotation Model learning: reading, writing, speaking, listening. While stations will vary dependent on learning goals, learners are generally required to listen to directions and fellow learners, speak with and listen to peers, read content and respond in writing. In order to support English Learners consider the following modifications:


  1. Ensure English learners understand directions, norms, and procedures for station rotations. For instance, ask learners to restate directions. Provide visual aids and reference them wherever possible, for instance, a reading station may have a picture of a book, while a spelling station may have an image of letters. Consider partnering with learners’ language specialist to preview directions, norms, and procedures.See the "Teacher Tool: Leveled Question Stems" resource in the resource section below for more information.
  2. Provide English learners with reference sheets such as graphic organizers, word banks, sentence stems, formula sheets, etc., to use at any given station. 

  3. Provide comprehensible content at stations that require learners to read-to-learn. Consider providing home language content as available during independent or technology-based stations.  See the "Research and Bilingual Content Sources for English Learners" resource in the resource section below for more information.

  4. Consciously group English learners. Alongside assessment data, consider social dynamics as well as language skills to ensure all learners’ participation. Consider assigning roles to individual learners. Consider anchoring learners at lower levels of proficiency with learners who speak the same home language to allow for idea generation in the home language. See the "How ELLs Should Be Grouped" article in the resource section below for more information. 

  5. Provide a variety of ways for learners at lower levels of proficiency to express learning including drawing, short phrases, matching words and pictures, multiple-choice, and cloze worksheets. 

See the "Supporting English Language Learners Through Station Rotation" article in the resource section below for more information.

Coach Tip

Digital and blended stations may be used in the classroom following the process above. If you are using a digital or blended model, consider the following as you begin implementing:

  • Determine the digital tools that students will engage with. Consider using SAMR to ensure you are picking appropriate digital tools.

  • You may decide to start small beginning with a three station rotation model.

    • For example, one station could be a digital individual activity, one could be a digital collaborative activity, and one could be conferencing with the teacher. This allow students to practice norms and develop the digital skills. 

Suggested Tech Tools

Tech Tools to Flip Instruction at a Station

If you would like to flip the instruction and have students learn via video, the following tools may be helpful.

Tech Tools to Demonstrate or Record Learning at a Station

If you would like students to record their learning and/or demonstrate their learning, the following tools may be helpful:

Tech Tools to Support Management of Stations

BetterLesson Lessons

To learn more about implementing station rotation in the classroom, review these lesson plans:

BetterLesson Blogs

To learn more about station rotation, read these BetterLesson blogs:

Additional Reading

For more information on the station rotation model, explore the resources linked below.