Ah, stations… I hear mixtures of reactions when I bring this up or see it come up in Facebook groups online. I love using stations in my classroom! As so many of you know, music teachers do not get much downtime during our lessons – we often have our songs memorized, transitions perfected, dancing shoes on, mallets in one hand and a Kindergartener’s shoelaces in another… we are BUSY! Each class is like a presentation in and of itself, and as a young teacher there was certainly a lot of anxiety that came along with it, what with being in the spotlight for 7 hours straight.
Stations are a great way to take the focus off you and put the focus on them. You have to do the work picking your stations, your focus, preparing the materials, and prepping the students, but once you’ve done the work backstage the students can really shine. For my Kodaly-inspired classroom, I utilize stations as a way to practice their concepts. Once I have prepared my students with experiencing a concept without the formal label and symbol, we present the concept with its true musical name, and then we begin practicing – putting the new symbol into the music.
What grade levels do I use stations with? I use stations with every grade level, from practicing musical opposites in Kindergarten, form in 2nd grade, sol-mi in 1st grade, to advanced rhythm patterns in 5th grade. You know your kiddos – I know that one of my Kindergarten classes can work more independently while the other needs much more pre-teaching and modeling to be successful. I also know that my 3rd graders LOVE TALKING – and working as a whole group gets derailed easily with all of the chatter, we all tend to be more successful when I let them work with each other in small groups.
How do I set up my stations? Carefully! I don’t do this overnight – but once you’ve done the prep work a couple times, they snap together quickly.
I prefer to pick one concept for all stations to practice – this lets them delve deep into one concept and set a firm foundation.
It’s easiest for me to control and prep 4 stations, and I like to diversify their practice – with some shifting based on the concept, I like to choose 4 stations from that focus on composition, listening, reading, iPad, or instrument practice. Once I’ve chosen my concept, I spend some time looking through my resources, Teachers Pay Teachers, my flashcard sets, iPad apps, and such, and choose station assignments that break the concept into those different categories.
For example, if we’re practicing ‘re’, I’ll choose four stations of material to focus on different aspects of re:
Composition or writing practice with a worksheet (Lindsay Jervis has some wonderful “Ready, Set, Print!” activity pages that have composition and writing practice for many different melody concepts)
iPad/app practice – in a picture below, you’ll see an app called DoReMi Zoo that lets students play a keyboard labeled with the solfege pitches. I’ll often combine flashcards with this app so students can play pitches or notation printed on the flashcards to aurally connect to the visual printing
Listening station – students will practice aurally identifying re in musical passages
Hands-on – with a SmartBoard activity or just using play erasers to build melodies on a staff, students practice re kinesthetically
There are lots of different directions to take stations – I believe that giving my students a variety of ways to explore their visual, aural, and kinesthetic learning most solidifies the concept in their minds and bodies.
I see my students for 45 minutes every three days – I spent 10-15 minutes explaining and modeling stations on the first day, then they have 10-15 minutes at each station for the remainder of the 1st class period and the duration of the 2nd. I put up a timer on my screen so the students can track how they are using their time and how long is left at each station.
I also pick their groups and post their names on cards so they know who they are working with – this lets me control behavior issues and balance my students by their abilities. I tend to use the same groups throughout the year unless there are big issues – we don’t use stations every week by any means, so they don’t get tired of them. I make a single card for each group and list all of their names, and then I post these on my whiteboard underneath the station number, like so:
John, Paul, George, & Ringo
My young ones often forget where they should go next, even with the stations numbered around the room and their friends to follow. I move the cards as they change stations, so they know to go check the board when they’ve forgotten where they should be. This saves me time herding my little ones around!
Here are some more photos of my students at work at their stations – I’ve captioned them with their concepts and details on the resources!
With a little thought, time, and creativity, stations are a perfect way for students to learn while they play and create. I love to let my students practice their craft while I get to step back and watch the magic unfold – they always surprise me with their thoughtfulness and kindness, especially towards each other. It also gives me the freedom to focus on the students who need the help and support them as they need. Take your time, explore your ideas, try something out – and have fun!