Designing Group Stations for Station Rotation Model

Designing effective learning stations for a station rotation model
552 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.

Implementation Steps

45-60 minutes
  1. Decide whether you want students to engage in a group station rotation or an individual station rotation by exploring the Differentiating Station vs. Individual Station Rotation edpuzzle included in the resource section below. If you would like to have students engage in an individual rotation, consult the "Designing Individual Stations for Station Rotation Model" strategy.

  2. 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.

  3. Group students based on data. To learn more about how to do this, consult the "Using Data to Group Students" strategy.

  4. 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?

  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. While the students are engaging in the stations for practice, be sure to know what you (the teacher) as well as any other teachers in the classroom will be doing with individual or small group instruction.

    • If you plan to work with a small group yourself, 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.

    • In the station that you will be in, plan for students to engage in an independent warm-up task so that you can help students transition to their new station in the first 5 minutes.

  7. Think about how you will support students to transition between stations. To learn more about this step, consult the "Attention and Transition Signals" strategy.

  8. Determine how you will define expectations for the process in which students will engage in the work when they will be working remotely from you. Consider using a teamwork rubric for example if some of the stations are collaborative. (See the strategy "Involving Students in Creation of Mastery Levels and Rubrics" to learn more.)

  9. Before introducing the stations you've created to students, engage in a hot mess protocol in which you proactively think about all of the things that could possibly go wrong during the station rotation, and then plan for how you might make adjustments (to learn more, consult the "Hot Mess: Proactive Planning and Testing" strategy)

Designing Group Stations for Blended or Digital Station Rotations

Jaime Speed
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

This strategy will help teachers design station rotations in a blended learning model.

Implementation steps:

  1. Choose the content you want to teach or review during the station rotation time, and make sure that using digital tools is the best way for students to demonstrate knowledge of the content.

    • Consider using the SAMR model in BetterLesson's Assessing Digital Tools for Meaningful Technology Integration strategy below to determine whether using technology is the most effective choice for the stations.

  2. Establish the norms for working in digital station rotations before beginning the digital station rotation model.

    • These norms will be different from in-person station rotations. Explore BetterLesson's Developing Norms for Group Work strategy below to develop those group norms.

  3. Create a learning target for each station. Make sure that it is clearly identified at the station and that students are aware of the learning target at each station.

    • Take a look at BetterLesson's Assessing Digital Tools for Meaningful Technology Integration strategy listed below for choosing appropriate digital tools for the learning targets you are focusing on. 

  4. Design learning tasks for each station. Make sure the instructions are written very clearly for each station, so students know what they are being asked to do.

    • Consult the resources and locate the Blended Station Rotation Ideas, Student-Centered Stations, and BetterLesson's Hyperdoc Path to Mastery strategy.  They provide examples of possible digital station ideas.

    • For support with planning with online collaboration in mind, look for the article titled 6 Ways to Use Google Docs to Support Collaborative Learning for help get started with collaborative documents.

  5. Start simply at the beginning using 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. In this simple rotation, students can practice the norms you earlier developed, and can practice working with the technology and with one another. 

    • Make sure the students are practicing the exact expectations you are looking for when doing station rotations, especially when using digital station rotations.

  6. Be sure to think about station transitions by considering the following:

    • If you are using digital station rotations in a classroom, plan for transition time and practice transitions by using the resource "Classroom Screen" which is posted in the resources section. This tool allows you to project a timer and a noise meter. This helps keep students moving quickly and quietly between stations. Make sure the students are practicing the exact expectations you are looking for when doing station rotations.

    • If you are using digital station rotations in a distance learning model, transitions are a bit different. Instead of worrying about how to get students to move locations, think about how much time you want them to spend on each station, or what level of mastery you want them to achieve. Then build that into the instructions for the station. You can see an example of this in the resources titled Digital Daily 5.

  7. Strategically create your groups. You can base them on current mastery levels so students are working on things at a similar level.  You could also make a mixed ability group so they can support one another. Keep them changing and flexible so that students are not always working with the same peers.

  8. Decide on how to hold students accountable for their work.  Consider the options below:

    • You could use exit tickets, the actual task, a screenshot of their work from their device, or something like a google form.  Take a look at the examples below titled 3-2-1 Exit Ticket.

    • Students can use your LMS of choice (such as Seesaw or GoogleClassroom) to have one set place in which to turn in work.

  9. Make sure you have a list of activities for students who finish their task(s) early. Make sure that one of those activities is conferencing with the teacher.

  10. Gather student feedback to get their input to see the rotations from their side.  They will be more likely to buy in when you gather and use their input. You can do that with a google form or a simple sharing of learning on Padlet.

  11. Once the students become comfortable with station rotations, you can take it to a deeper level by making more stations with more tasks and fewer students per group. Or, you could allow students to choose their own stations and work at their own pace.

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.

Questions to Consider

  • How will you monitor students' progress during a station rotation? Or, how will students monitor their own progress?

  • How will you know whether the station rotations were effective? What data will you use to show the efficacy of each station?

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: