playlists

Exploring Characterization in “Raymond’s Run” with Playlist Stations

After our reading of “Raymond’s Run”, I wanted to find a way to engage students in thinking about character that would also get them up and moving since they had been sitting and doing some quiet thinking/reading work for a few days.  I decided to craft a new playlist station activity with a focus on character, and I crafted stations that included:

  1.  Station 1:  Notice and Note Signpost “Contrasts and Contradictions”
  2.  Station 2:  Choose your best HOTS questions from your reading reflections without repeating one that has already been posted on the dry erase board.
  3. Station 3:  Character Focus STEAL–Speech
  4. Station 4: Character Focus STEAL–Thoughts
  5. Station 5: Character Focus STEAL-Effect on Others
  6. Station 6: Character Focus STEAL-Actions
  7. Station 7: Character Focus STEAL-Looks/Physical Appearance
  8. Station 8: Character Continuum Activity
  9. Station 9:  Silent Table Talk (looking at Squeaky through a feminist lens)

I used this blank station template to design my station signs; I also purchased and used these marvelous STEAL thinking prompts to go with stations 3-7.    You can access my playlist handout for students by clicking here.

I gave students a starting point for their stations, and then they could move on as they saw fit and choose their next station.  I let them work at their own pace, and we completed the activity in two days.   Students could work alone or with a partner; best of all, I could quickly see if students were struggling with their understanding of a concept because of the “checkpoints” built into each station with the playlist concept.

On Day 3, I used a variety of methods to bring it all together, including small group or partner talk to highlight what they felt were the most interesting insightful responses from each station across classes.  We also followed up our discussion with a Kahoot story review before taking an open note, open story quiz in Canvas.

Students who finished early on Day 2 could work on Membean or read their library book.  Though I have other fun and meaningful learning activities I’ve used in the past for generating thinking and discussion about characterization, this activity I designed seemed to be a good fit for where we were last week.

Playlists with Stations Are Music to My Ears—Best Ever First Days of School FTW!

In my last post, I shared a preview of my playlists with stations first days activity.  We used the first three days of class to engage in a variety of literacy learning tasks to engage students in classroom community building, engage in some reading and writing, and knock out some beginning of the year tech tasks.   I am happy to share that the playlist oriented activity was a huge success—students were engaged right off the bat, and they did a fabulous job working through the stations at their own pace during our first three days of class August 7-9.

Just to recap from the last post (you can also get a video tour of the stations in that post), here are my stations on the playlist:

  • Station 1: “One Word” language and art activity
  • Station 2: Brainstorming positive behaviors to help us learn and brainstorming behaviors to avoid that get in the way of learning. (free signs via TPT)
  • Station 3: All About You as a Reader/Writer Survey (Google Form)
  • Station 4: Critical Reading and Constructed Response in Canvas (see below)
  • Station 5: Silent Conversation Response Activity on What Makes a Great Book or Read
  • Station 6: Sign up for NoRedInk
  • Station 7: Syllabus Station
  • Station 8: Writing Skills Wishlist
  • Station 9: Partner Work Brainstorming Ways to Care for Our Classroom Materials and Workspace
  • Station 10: Putting the U in Language Arts Survey: (purchased on TPT here as part of a bundled purchase plus a free version)

A few reflections that I’d like to share about my first ever go at using the playlist strategy:

  • Using the playlist strategy with stations really upped the accountability piece for students, and it provided me ten different opportunities for quick formative assessments in different areas with my students.  I cannot stress how insightful this was for me, and how much the playlist aspect helped keep students on track with very little direction from me.
  • Active learning experiences and structures as well as station work in a variety of formats are staples of classroom for my 8th graders.  Using the playlist with stations helped establish the tone and expectations I wanted for the beginning of the year.
  • Observing students in action was instrumental in giving me a sense of students as learners—who works well independently, who might need just a bit of coaching, who works well with partners, how well students can follow written instructions, and how well students manage their learning time.
  • The check in with the playlist helped me learn names much more quickly the first few days!

I was very fortunate that my tech-oriented stations worked well since our hardware and software applications were ready to go for Day 1 along with student log-ins.  I must give props to our media specialist Tracey Kell, school technology specialist Terrie Hudson, and our district tech gods/goddesses for all their work over the summer and behind the scenes prior to pre-planning that helped us be tech-ready—with hardware, student log-ins, and software apps via our Launchpoint portal– on Day 1.  I am also pleased that the time I put into designing the stations and getting everything set up paid off because students were able to navigate the stations very easily and with minimal assistance from me.

The first days of the school year are the best I’ve had in many years—maybe ever!  My 8th graders are going to be a terrific group to teach and learn with this year, but I do feel the playlist with stations helped establish the right notes on those first days.  I am grateful for our assistant principal Libbie Armstrong for showing and modeling this strategy with teachers during pre-planning, and I know many of my fellow teachers across multiple grade levels and subject areas utilized the strategy with great success as well.

Eve of First Day with Students Plus a Tour of My Station Rotations with a Playlist Twist for the First Days

Notes: 

  • Station 1: “One Word” language and art activity
  • Station 2: Brainstorming positive behaviors to help us learn and brainstorming behaviors to avoid that get in the way of learning.  (free signs via TPT)
  • Station 3: All About You as a Reader/Writer Survey (Google Form)
  • Station 4: Critical Reading and Constructed Response in Canvas (see below)
  • Station 5: Silent Conversation Response Activity on What Makes a Great Book or Read
  • Station 6: Sign up for NoRedInk
  • Station 7: Syllabus Station
  • Station 8: Writing Skills Wishlist
  • Station 9: Partner Work Brainstorming Ways to Care for Our Classroom Materials and Workspace
  • Station 10: Putting the U in Language Arts Survey:  (purchased on TPT)

Station 4 asks students to accept the Canvas course invitation; then, students read an argumentative essay in NewsELA and write a constructed response analyzing the writer’s argument and techniques for developing the argument.

All station learning activity design is by me and original; station posters/templates are from Building Book Love on Teachers Pay Teachers.

A Playful and Powerful Twist on Stations: Playlists

Today was our first day of preplanning, and we engaged in three breakout meetings to tackle beginning of the year topics.  Our administration divided faculty and staff into three groups, and we completed three rotations of 45 minute session.  The first session I attended was led by Assistant Principal Libbie Armstrong ; she introduced a teaching and learning strategy, playlists, as a medium for us to cover and address the following topics on procedural expectations:

  • Lockers
  • Cell Phones
  • Backpacks
  • Agendas
  • Hallways/Bathrooms
  • Grading
  • PLCs
  • Teacher Handbook

What are playlists?  Caitlin Tucker says:

The playlist concept stems from the Individual Rotation Model in which each student works from an individual playlist of activities. I’ve used playlists for formal writing, grammar, and projects. The goal of the playlist model is to allow students some control over the pace and path of their learning.

Playlists may include both face to face as well as digital learning activities and opportunities to respond.

We began by reading over the instructions and then picking a “learning path” as an entry point.  Even though they were numbered, we could actually do them in any order as long as worked through them and then did the appropriate checkpoint with Ms. Armstrong.  Our tasks were both individual and collaborative, and every teacher was highly engaged.  We recorded responses on chart paper, at table group areas, and on our individual response sheets.

After Tweeting about the activity this morning, fellow educator Brittany Griffin shared this guide she created on playlists!  Additional resources to browse:

We all left the session extremely jazzed about this approach and were sharing ideas about different ways we could use this strategy in our different subject areas.  I’m so excited to design my own for my 8th graders later this month.  Have you used playlists?  If so, what tips and best practices can you share?

Hat tip to my AP Libbie Armstrong for teaching this awesome strategy plus helping us tackle a wide range of important topics in a fun and engaging way!