A few years ago, I attended several ELA inservices that suggested using stations in the classroom at least twice a week. Well, I teach science. And I wanted to use stations too. So...I did. Stations have become a normal routine for my students. I incorporate them into my weekly lesson plans. They are great! I love them, students love them, and principals love them. Stations allow students to move around, work on time management skills, review important content, and get the differentiated instruction needed that "lecture days" just don't provide.
Now, if you spend just a second looking around Teachers Pay Teachers or Pinterest, you'll see "TASK CARDS" everywhere! So today's discussion, I'd like to share my thoughts on task cards versus stations. I use them both...every single week in my current 8th grade science classroom.
I use stations if I have a lot of supplies I need to set up and only have the resources to set it up once or twice. I usually always try to set up at least two of the same station so groups of students don't have to stand around and wait for another group to finish. Sometimes I rotate groups from station to station but most usually, I allow the students to rotate at their own pace as long as their whole group is ready to rotate. When we did our Litmus Paper Lab last month, stations came in handy because students were exposed to 14 different substances. It would've taken me a lot longer to set up 14 liquids at each station (since I usually have seven groups). Instead, I set up two liquids at each lab table and allowed the students to move around. I also use stations if each "activity" will take about the same time...around 4 or 5 minutes to complete. Click on any picture and it will take you to a lesson.
I like to use tasks if I'm afraid different activities will only take one or two minutes and then another activity might take more than five minutes. Tasks are good because students can review a lot of material in a short amount of time. Example of the tasks I use might be: #1) Answer the five questions on this page; #2) Around the room there are pictures taped to the walls. Walk around and identify the pictures as a solid, liquid, or gas; or #3) Use the space on your response sheet to draw a picture of the particles in a solid. A lot of times, my "task cards" and "stations" are very similar. If they are stations, students wander around the room. If they are tasks, students know their "home" is at their desks. They only get up if a task instructs them to. Every once in a while, my task cards are traditional task cards...basically a worksheet cut up into cards. Students work together to answer a stack of questions.