Delegate, Separate, and Rotate!

Utilize all available resources to create a learning rotation system that will lighten your load and enliven your students.

By Mollie Moore


Teacher-led center

In one classroom that I worked in, one of the most consistently successful routines from year to year was reading and math group rotations. Many teachers use some form of subject groups and/or rotations in their teaching already. Probably none of us implement it identically, which is why learning how one another does it can only enhance our own teaching. We also do not all have the same resources available to us, such as aides or student teachers, parent help, multiple computers, and so on. Allow me to share with you the gist of how I saw it done, and I invite you to pull from this list whatever may be helpful in your classroom.

Divide Children into Semi-Permanent Groups for Each Rotation Subject

In this case, students should be grouped by ability and performance. This is merely for the sake of being able to teach to each group at a pace that will benefit all group members and leave none either bored or behind. These groups are only semi-permanent in case it becomes apparent later that any child may thrive in a different group.

Utilize the Best Resources Available to You to “Lead” Each Rotation

You, of course, will teach one rotation. Take advantage of this small-group teaching opportunity to spend extra time on the more nit-picky parts of the subject matter that are difficult to address in a whole class setting. As one option, the other group or groups may be led by another adult present in the classroom, such as a teacher’s aide, student teacher, parent helper, or other regularly present adult. Another possibility is to have one station be self-led by the students. It may involve a group or individual activity on the computer, or a project or assignment to be completed at their desks. Get creative in utilizing the resources to which you have access. 

Use a Timer and Practice Transitions Between Stations

As teachers, we know that minutes can be precious. Keep the time spent at each station consistent, and time spent transitioning from station to station minimal. Plainly explain your expectations to your students regarding what they should do and not do during transitions, and have them practice it. For instance, “When the timer dings, we finish the sentence we were speaking or writing, then immediately close/turn off/return our materials, push in our chairs, and quietly walk to the next station.”

Apply This System to the Subject Areas with the Widest Range of Ability and Performance in Your Class

The goal is to make learning as accessible as possible for every one of your students, and to ease the burden of teaching to several different levels of learners simultaneously. Identify the academic subjects that you and your learners would most benefit from dividing into groups. Math and reading are commonly done in this style of teaching, although science, technology, and any other subject may be covered just as effectively in group rotations.