Elementary Students Embracing New Stations
By SHARI STONE
As an educator of intermediate students for most of my career, I took the leap in the primary world four years ago, and I have never looked back. During three of those four years, my classroom took on a blended learning station rotation model. My reason for doing so was to increase student agency. As educators we know we want our students to be focused, engaged and learning for as long as possible. In the primary world this can be a daily struggle, since their attention spans are so limited. That is the greatest asset of blended learning, the flexibility of being able to determine the pace, path, place, and time of lessons for your students.
Updating the Rotation Model
We already use a rotation model within our primary classrooms which include small group instruction, independent/partner activities, and stations/centers. So, for us to make our classroom blended we need to include a technology station in place of the stations/centers rotation. So infusing technology and personalization should be no problem.
WELL ... as with anything in the primary grades, anything can happen. Will they be able to log in independently? Will they remember what to do? Will they interrupt my group a thousand times? Will they be engaged? The answer is YES! We just have to be patient and willing to have those moments until the onboarding process is complete.
Model, Model, Model
Onboarding is the process where we have to model, model, and model how to use a technology tool. We have to show them how to use it appropriately and for the purpose it was intended for. Primary students are familiar with lots of technology that allows them to be entertained (i.e. games and video apps), but we need to educate them on how technology can help them learn and demonstrate their understanding of concepts.
We have to remember to “start small but think BIG” when it comes to using blended learning in our classrooms. Sometimes too much of a good thing ends up being not a good thing. When introducing a technology tool in the primary classroom, take about two weeks to model, explore, and use the tool before introducing another one. Determine those students who are your tech experts (“Siri” and “Alexa”) and give them the job to help others first who may need help. You will be amazed at how quickly they pick up on the technology tool and are eager to help others.
As with anything in our primary classrooms, expectations are needed. Make sure to set clear expectations that are developed with your students so they take ownership of their responsibilities. Allow their curiosity to guide your lessons and technology tools that you integrate. You will be amazed at how much their student agency increases. This is the perfect age to create our 21st century learners and prepare them for the careers of tomorrow that haven’t even been thought of yet.
Shari Stone is a 2nd grade teacher at Brunswick Elementary in Frederick County Public Schools. Connect with Stone on Twitter at @sharistone_FCPS.