What is the difference between centers, stations, and studios?
As a blended learning coach, I get asked this question all of the time. "What is the difference between centers, stations, and studios?" A lot of educators feel that when they implement blended learning into the classroom that it is just a new form of centers. However, the Three Phases of Blended Learning showcases how to deploy a lesson where the students learn in four different learning modalities. The four learning styles include, visual, tactile, auditory, and kinesthetic. Recent research has found that not all students learn in one form of modality but rather in multiple forms which will in turn increase the ability for the students to learn more quickly and be able to have a deeper understanding of the content.
What are Centers?
When I taught in the second-grade classroom, I deployed centers during my math and reading time. The students would travel from one center activity to the next during a given time frame while I worked with a small group of students at the kidney-shaped table. I am going to share out a sample center activity map that the students completed during my math time.
Launch: To kick off the math lesson, I would have all of the students gathered around to hear the whole group lesson of the day. Next, the students and I would complete a quick number talk activity.
Centers: After the launch, I broke the students up into different groups based on their level of understanding or last test scores. The centers included the following activities along with time to meet with me for small group instruction on the math concept of the day.
The students would work through the different centers until it was time to wrap up the math for the day, and then we would end with a closing activity that tied back into the key concepts for the day. Note that the students would only be able to complete two or three centers a day.
The station rotation model is one of the key deployment plans mentioned by Michael Horn in his book Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Education. Phase One of the Three Phases of Blended Learning process deploys station rotation as a way to train the students and the teachers. Stations help to build and develop the ability to learn in different modalities. A lot of our teachers enjoy the station rotation model because the teacher still has control of the classroom. An example lesson of a station rotation model would look like this in a Social Studies classroom.
Launch: The teacher would kick start the lesson with a quick five-minute overview of the lesson topic, objectives, or essential questions.
Stations: The students would move to the following stations during the given time frame. Note that each station would last for ten minutes and focus back on the learning objective of the day.
Teacher Station: Small group instruction with the students
Independent Station: Students working on their own to complete a worksheet
Technology Station: Students would complete an online activity that ties back to the daily objectives
Hands-on Station or Vocabulary Station: The students would have an opportunity to explore the content through a hands-on learning lab or work through key vocabulary words that align with the daily objective.
As a blended learning coach, I have realized that moving to Phase Two of the Three Phases of blended learning is when pure magic happens in the classroom. The Station Rotation model (Phase One) is a great way to start to transform the classroom from whole group instruction to now allowing the students to work in small groups with different forms of learning styles. However, there are flaws with the station rotation model because not all of the students learn at the same pace. If the groups of students have to wait to move to the next activity when the timer goes off, then what happens to the students that finish early? What happens if the students don't have time to complete their work during that station?
Studios, allow the students to move at their own pace freely. With the implementation of a checklist, the students can pick what studio they would like to complete first, second, and third. (Note that in Phase Two, the students can not choose the mini-lesson studio as a choice. The teacher will call the students back to the mini-lesson based on the data.) With studios, the students also can pick where they want to learn the content. The Phase Two studios, provide equal opportunity to learn the same content in four different learning modalities.
The Launch: The teacher would point out the learning objectives and the starting zones for the day to the whole group. She would also provide any key concepts or resolve any misconceptions from previous days.
The Checklist: The students would be given a multiple-day checklist that would include mini-lessons, digital content, independent practice, and future-ready activities (hands-on learning labs). Note, to prevent the students from staying in one learning studio too long, add in suggested time boxes on the checklist.
Studios: The students start at their first learning studio. When the student completes the studio, he will move to the next learning studio of his choice. The goal of the day is to complete at least four studios, if possible.
Mini-Lesson Studio: The mini-lesson, also known as small group instruction, is an essential part of the checklist. The teacher will meet with every student every day to teach, reteach, or enhance the learning in a small group setting.
Closure: At the end of the class period, the teacher will conclude the lesson by reviewing the essential question and tieing the learning back to the primary objective.
Centers- Stations- Studios
Regardless if you are implementing centers, stations, or studios, you are changing the delivery method of the content from whole group learning to small group learning. The students will be able to retain the information for more extended periods because they are learning the content in different learning modalities.
Marcia Kish - Blended and Personalized Learning coach that designed the Three Phases of Blended Learning