Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Personalizing Learning in the Elementary Classroom

The beginning of the school year is always full of possibilities, and I’m so excited to start a new adventure with my students this year.

I intend to continue gamified blended learning like last year, and one of my new goals is to take steps to further personalize learning for my students. I began increasing student agency in my classroom by offering more choices and then teaching students to self-assess and plan their own learning steps.

I found new ideas for personalized learning through two sources this summer. Empower by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani is so incredibly inspiring! The book is focused around the idea of students owning their learning. I was also inspired this summer by hearing author Barbara Bray speak at ISTE 2018. Her books about personalized learning are a great resource for teachers!

What is personalized learning?

Personalized learning is focused around the learner. If individualized learning is creating a specific learning plan for each student, and differentiated learning is focused around the teacher providing instruction for small groups, then personalized learning empowers the learner to make choices to drive their own learning. Barbara Bray’s website Rethink Learning offers a great chart that compares these three learning approaches. I plan to give the following ideas a try this year to further personalize learning.

Geek Out Blog

Last year I began blogging with my students. Each student used their personal blog to reflect on their learning, share triumphs, and publish classwork they felt proud of. Not only were students able to publish for an authentic audience, but our class also practiced the skills needed to be positive members of an online community by providing positive feedback and encouragement.

In addition to the ways in which my students used their blogs last year, I’d like to add what Spencer and Juliani call “Geek Out Blogs.” This format allows students to select the topic, format, and information they publish. They are able to "geek out" about what they love while owning the entire writing process from brainstorming to researching and publishing.

Personalized Learning Paths

I began using a blended learning model in my class about a year and a half ago. Over that time, I’ve learned to create online content, track student progress, connect online and face-to-face learning, and engage students through gamification. My next step is to create multiple learning paths for students. Multiple learning paths means that students have many paths and resources available to best meet their learning needs. This will empower students to reflect on their progress and make informed choices about what support they need to be successful. The map below shows three learning paths within Classcraft, the gamified learning platform I use.

This map shows multiple learning paths for success. The yellow path is the general
content, red provides remediation, and purple includes more advanced applications of skills.

Passion Projects

I’ve been interested in trying passion projects, 20% time, or genius hour for a while now. Did you know that Google employees spend 20% of their work time pursuing projects of their own choosing? This concept has fascinated me. If we truly want students to be intrinsically motivated to learn and create, then I think this is a great place to start. This year, I’ve considered our district curriculum units and have chosen one unit where I can begin implementing a choice-driven project.

Wonder Week

Spencer and Juliani challenge teachers to choose one week, possibly right before a longer break or at the end of state testing, where students are given time to explore a topic or idea they are fascinated by. The idea here is to promote student curiosity and creativity. I am looking forward to exploring and creating with my students in this way!

Have you had success personalizing learning with your elementary students? I’d love to hear about what you have tried or would like to try with your learners!

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