Tips for the 21st Century classroom
By Welda Simousek
If personalized learning is the direction in which we want to move, how do we “tip the scale” in favor of it, to help us as educators to facilitate the academic success of each student through their learning needs, strengths, and interests? After all, whole group learning, standards, the scope and sequence, and, especially, the standardized assessment we typically use and teach to tend to drive our curriculum.
In personalized learning settings, teachers assess students’ strengths, needs, and interests to better align their teaching with each student’s learning profile while maintaining high standards. This can be accomplished through a variety of methods:
Some of the answers rely on technology, but even without a great deal of technology at educators’ fingertips, it is possible to deliver personalized learning. Here are some tips from many people who manage this on a daily basis:
Automate what you can, and allow students to make choices whenever possible: Utilize educational computer programs to do much of the basic-skills practice and assessment so this does not eat up too much of your or your students’ time. Then, whenever possible, instead of you making all of the decisions, allow your students to make choices (remember, they need to have access to their own data on progress to help them do this).
This also means you need to provide students with multiple options for demonstrating their learning, keeping in mind different learning styles as you do so. Student choice is a powerful tool to help students be engaged in whatever tasks they pursue. Allowing students to conduct part of the instruction is also a powerful opportunity to let them demonstrate their strengths and interests, as well as saving you time and energy.
Sitting with your students and developing a “T-chart” for behavior expectations in each setting will go a long way to making things work smoothly. You might have an expectation of “working quietly” for example, and in your head, that looks one way, but in your students’ heads it may look entirely differently. So, write up a T-chart with one side stating, “looks like” and the other side stating, “sounds like” and have your students suggest what it looks like and sounds like to “work quietly.” Now, you’re all on the same page.
T-Chart for “Working Quietly”
|LOOKS LIKE||SOUNDS LIKE|
|Heads of students down or close together||Hearing no sounds or “6-inch” voices|
|Work materials laid out in front of students||On task discussion, if any|
|No students moving around the room|
In the book, How to Get to the Heart of Differentiation, Real Time Assessments, 2nd Edition,*** you can find many different ways to have students self-assess, many of which only take a few moments of time. The Novice to Expert technique mentioned earlier is one. Another excellent one is the Stoplight Method where you draw a large stoplight on a piece of chart paper, and as the students leave the room, they place a post-it note on one of the three colors:
If all or most of the above is put into place and practiced in classrooms, the balance can indeed be tipped in favor of personalized learning. This would mean students are likely to learn more content, learn more about themselves, and take more control of their own learning. What a wonderful scenario for our 21st Century classrooms!
* Novice to Expert line: This is an imaginary line (or one made with tape) that goes from one to ten, one being the “novice” or beginner end and ten being the “expert” end. Explain to students that it’s okay to be a novice in something, as long as they work on getting better; it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert. Each student should stand on the line where they think they are in their understanding of a certain concept (do this with about five students at a time). Have each student explain why they’re standing where they are. You should first practice this with a simple question like “How well do I clean my room?” and then go on to the real concept you want to know about.
**How to Get to the Heart of Differentiation, Book 2, Student Strengths/ Interests, by Welda Simousek and Virginia Pickerell contains several sample student inventories. It can be purchased at http://weldaconsults.com.
***How to Get to the Heart of Differentiation, Real Time Assessments, 2nd Edition by Welda Simousek and Virginia Pickerell contains the Novice to Expert line example and Stoplight example, as well as many other simple formative assessments. It can be purchased on Amazon or at http://weldaconsults.com
This article was first published here.
About the Author
Welda Simousek is the author of several books (mentioned above), an experienced educational consultant, and owner of Welda Consults, LLC, which is a customized professional development company, http://weldaconsults.com.
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