Transforming classrooms where learning is more personalized takes time. After Kathleen McClaskey and I created the chart “Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization” we have been receiving comments and stories from around the world about personalizing learning for their students. The personal journeys many of these teachers and students are traveling are exciting. So I decided to start sharing some of these journeys with you.
Lisa Welch’s and Wanda Richardson’s Personal Journeys
Their team email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wales Elementary School, Wales, Wisconsin,
Kettle Morain School District
Lisa shared their story here:
We team teach in a classroom with 43 kindergarten students. We have two classrooms that have been opened up using an 8 ft. doorway. This year, as part of the Kettle Moraine School District initiative along with NxGL and CESA 1, we were given the opportunity to facilitate a transformation in education via Personalized Learning.<
Our goal is to help personalized learning become scalable throughout our district. Our classroom is a 1 to 1 environment through the use of netbooks. We have spent a good chunk of the year trying new things and finding new ways to engage the kids while at the same time making sure that we are meeting the kids’ needs both academically as well as socially/emotionally. It has been quite a journey!
We started the year with a learning plan where there were approximately 8-9 activities that fit into a specific theme and used the multiple intelligences as the basis of each activity. The students’ task was to complete each activity on the plan, but they could decide in which order they worked. After trying this model for approximately 4 weeks, we found that we weren’t getting the engagement that we had hoped. We were also finding that the kids weren’t as independent as we had hoped.
Upon reflection, we found that really, we were “missing the boat” when it came to truly personalizing learning.
We went back to square one and really started putting our thinking caps on. Some of the questions we were grappling with were:
- How can you personalize learning for students who are not yet able to read?
- How can you help student’s become independent learners at this young age?
- How can the 4 c’s of 21st Century Learning make their way into everything we do?
- How can we impart that core knowledge that is vital at this age?
We don’t have all the answers by any means, but we are certainly finding that we are on an exciting path at this time! Currently, every child in our classroom has a PERSONALIZED Learning Plan. These plans are created according to the child’s interests in learning styles as well as in subject areas. For example, one child is studying the subway and is interested in creating on the computer, math and music/dancing.
His learning plan includes researching various books for different examples of the subway, after looking through the books, he will use Post-It notes to mark and take notes on these pages. His next task is to use Microsoft Word to access clipart that he can transfer to another program (Promethean ActivInspire) and create a story using the pictures. Finally he will listen to different sound waves of a subway passing that we embedded into a computer program for him and drew and wrote what the sound inspired from him.
Each child’s plan has my voice recording the words (this is possible through ActivInspire) so that while the kids still cannot read, they can be independent in working with the plan. When all the activities are completed, they can choose to extend their earning on the same subject. For example, this particular child who is learning about subways went home and made a subway using recyclables. This prompted us to talk with the kids about Anytime/Anywhere learning. We explained to the kids that learning can happen everywhere they go; in the store, at dinner, right before bed, on trips, etc. They are starting to extend all of their learning and parents are becoming more involved in this process.
We even have some kids (three as of now) who are interested and started creating some of their own learning plans with our coaching. Right now, along with following certain district goals, we are using the Common Core Standards to assess and frame our student’s learning. It is working quite nicely. Also, we have been using DreamBox math and RAZ-Kids to supplement our math and reading work.
Finally, we have changed our classroom environment so that we have more areas where smaller learning communities can take place. We have replaced many of our tables with coffee tables, pub tables, and comfortable, chairs. I have attached pictures of this environment. Since creating this type of environment, we have seen more opportunity for communication and collaboration.
As previously stated, we have much to learn, but we are on our way to creating a truly personalized experience for those who count the most; our students!”
Thank you Lisa and Wanda! I see some resemblance to the Reggio Emilia approach and will definitely keep following your journey.