Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Learning Stations in Social Studies

Mary Braggs, Mariana DeLoera, Cody Sivertsen, Tanner Lusher | Published: May 4th, 2023 by K20 Center


How can we place students in the role of being active rather than passive learners? How do we allow students to have choices in their learning while at the same time creating a diverse learning environment? The answer is learning stations. In this professional learning session, participants will discuss how learning stations can authentically be used in the social studies classroom. Learning stations are designated areas where students use their prior knowledge and educational experience to complete an educational task. This session demonstrates how learning stations provide opportunities for students to read critically, interpret various information sources, engage in evidence-based writing, and evaluate evidence to formulate informed decisions.

Essential Question

What academic skills are essential in the social studies classroom?

Learning Goals

  • Participants will be able to identify the benefits of learning stations in the classroom. 

  • Participants will be able to reflect on how to apply learning stations authentically in the social studies classroom. 

Materials List

  • Session Slides (attached)

  • Instructions handouts (attached, one page per learning station)

  • Learning Stations Infographic and Template (attached, one set per participant)

  • Note Catcher (attached, one per participant)

  • Painting a Picture handout (attached, refer to Facilitator’s Note for session prep)

  • Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning handout (attached, refer to Facilitator’s Note for session prep)

  • H.I.P.P. handout (attached, refer to Facilitator’s Note for session prep)

  • Historical Mingle handout (attached, refer to Facilitator’s Note for session prep)

  • Historical Mingle Cards (attached, one set needed)

  • Pens/pencils 

  • Highlighters (optional)


10 Minute(s)

Use the attached Session Slides to guide the PD. Display slide 2. This is where all presenters should introduce themselves and the topic of this session. Move to slide 3 and review the essential question. Move to slide 4 to state the learning goals for this presentation. Proceed to slide 5. Participants will discuss the following question using the Inverted Pyramid strategy: What methods do you currently use to teach a substantial amount of information in a brief period of time?

Discussions should begin between Elbow Partners before expanding to small group discussions with everyone at their table. Allow 1-2 minutes for discussion. If time allows, give participants the opportunity to share out with the entire group. The entire discussion activity should take approximately 3 minutes.


10 Minute(s)

Go to slide 6 and ask participants to respond to the following question using Mentimeter. Participants can use any device that is connected to the internet. 

Question: What academic skills are essential in social studies classrooms?

Take a moment to read through a few of the responses aloud to encourage whole group discussion and reflection. Move to slide 7 and describe what has been identified as essential skills and practices within social studies.

Move to slide 8. Give each participant a copy of the attached Learning Stations Infographic (the first page is a blank template that they will use later). Instruct participants to read through the infographic silently to enable them to develop a better understanding of how learning stations work and think about what a lesson containing learning stations might look like in their own classrooms. After they have finished reading the infographic, use the Point of Most Significance (POMS) instructional strategy to share out to the whole group. Encourage participants to consider what their point of most significance would be when planning to use learning stations with their students. Facilitators may call on a few members to share out their POMS.


35 Minute(s)

Display slide 9. Read and review each step with participants. Tell participants they have 6 minutes to complete each station. A timer is provided on the next slide. Move to slide 10. Ask participants if they have any questions before you begin the timer. Click to start K20 timer. Leave slide 10 viewable as participants experience each station.

After 6 minutes have passed, instruct participants to rotate to the next station and restart the timer. Repeat until participants have completed all four learning stations.

At each station, participants analyze handouts that target a Social Studies Practice Skill and use an instructional strategy. Participants explore the structure and materials of each station in order to help them understand why the skill or strategy was used in this particular way. Using the Note Catcher, they will answer the following questions for each station: How were the skill and the strategy modeled at this station? How can I use this strategy?


5 Minute(s)

Once groups have rotated through each station, have them remain at the last table. Display to slide 11 where participants will use Padlet and a device connected to the internet to answer the following questions:

  • What are some benefits of learning stations? 

  • What are some challenges you anticipate?

  • What changes would you make to address your classroom needs?

Once participants have been given time to respond, ask a few to share out their responses. The Padlet can be displayed to show all responses. 


10 Minute(s)

Move to slide 12 and direct participants to review the blank Learning Stations Template they received earlier in the session. Explain to participants the template serves as a planning document when creating an activity with learning stations. 

Allow 2-3 minutes for participants to brainstorm and fill out the Learning Stations Template. If time allows, ask participants to share their ideas to the whole group.

Ask participants if they have any questions concerning this presentation. This discussion concludes the session.

Research Rationale

Delivering instruction using learning stations offers an opportunity for self-regulated instruction that uses a variety of strategies and learning opportunities, which yields greater engagement and understanding (Alsaadi & Al Sultan, 2021). Physical movement increases students’ energy, enhancing classroom engagement (Marzano, 2007).

Use of student-centered strategies enables students to reflect on their learning and evaluate their own and other's solutions or ideas. According to some scholars, teachers play a critical role in successful implementation of authentic classroom practices (Boaler, 2016; Darling-Hammond, 2000). Ultimately, when teachers implement instructional strategies, they can create a positive student-centered classroom.


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