Independent Student Learning
Like It-Love It-Gotta Have It is a strategy I use to differentiate assignments within my micro-groups in a Live Investigation. The three names are, in my opinion, a better way of saying high, medium and low. The kids really love the names. In a Live Investigation, there is usually varying levels of abillity or knowledge in that particular skill. By making a high, medium, and low activity, students have the ability to challenge themselves at their own level. I assign different parts of the room for each activity so I can physically see where the students are. Most of the time, I let the students self-assess and they move throughout the room according to which level they are. They are free to move (up or down) from one section to the next. Most of the activites I assign here are digital. I really like using Khan Academy here, as I can track students physically as well as digitally. With this strategy, I can also target the students at the Like It level and allow the Gotta Have it students to fly a bit on their own.
Students rarely have the opportunity to show in an authentic what way what they have learned and what they can do with the knowledge they have obtained. To this end, it has been my philosophy to provide students with a task that requires a deeper depth of knowledge rather than traditional paper-pencil assessment. Performance task data that reflects a deeper understanding of content and tasks students to transfer their knowledge to novel situations matters most. As a school community, the transition to a competency based learning model has signaled a change in the way teachers deliver content and the way students are assessed. Independent Performance Tasks measure student learning when they are ready to assess. Similarly, leveraging the power of technology has been instrumental to making the assessment process a positive experience for students.
Students set weekly goals via Google Forms every Monday and reflect on if they meet these goals at the end of each week. This is a reflective process where students are asked questions that allow them to understand what factors contribute to their success or failure in the class. It also gives me a document I can refer to if I see students are consistently not meeting their own goals.
Yoda Master is a way for students to learn, practice, and assess a skill that they previously did not master. Students utilize the Workshop strategy in a variation: everyone is remediating a past skill. They first access their formative data trackers and choose a skill they did not master. Then they create a playlist using approved resources and incorporating their learning styles. The teacher will approve the playlist and students begin the process. They have to check back in with the teacher once they have gone through the Learn, Teach, Practice,and Retake steps. The teacher serves as a true facillitator in this strategy, and can still pull groups or do data chats. This is the ultimate level of student agency and self driven learning!
Annotation Logs in my class can be on paper or online, usually depending on what modality the student prefers, as well as what their access is to technology at home. Annotation Logs are a routine through which my students explore the unit text by analyzing quotes, asking questions, and making clarifications. Whether online or on paper, it is my routine to respond to their annotations. Because each student writes so many annotations throughout a unit, I have many opportunities to dip into their thinking at multiple points along the way. Annotation Logs are fundamental building blocks to some of my other classroom practices including Socratic Seminars, TIED analysis paragraphs, and essay writing. For each annotation in the log, my students must include their focus for the annotation, the quote itself, the page or line number, and the analysis. The focus of the annotation could be a literary device, a theme connection or an approach through one of the literary theory lenses we have studied. Citing the quote and where it is found makes for easy reference later on. The analysis is 3-4 sentences that shows how the quote addresses the initial focus they indicated. It is in this last part that I address any feedback by asking questions and clarifying any plot confusion.
The students' Digital Content Notebook is where Pencil and Paper Notetaking occurs. It is exactly what it sounds like. No frills. But it is even more essential in a blended format. My colleagues and I did a lot of note-taking style modeling at the beginning of our year to set the expectations in our blended classroom.
Computer support hand signals are a way for students to nonverbally communicate a need while on the computers. It may be that they have tech issues or perhaps they need help with a lesson. Students hold two fingers up in the air and they wait for either the computer captain, which is a student role, the teacher, or the blended learning coordinator to offer assistance.
The quick search feature can be a great resource for students. The quick search poster can easily be made to list the topics you want students to search for. While there are book lists that can be created in programs such as MyOn, having students use the search feature gives students some flexibility in what they read while staying on topic.
Each of my students is given the option to use different notepads, lined or grid paper, and scratch paper we have. This strategy is implemented to develop students' ability to convey understanding using models or ideas that they have when using our math software. Students in this clip are given ideas about how to express their thinking using our math strategies card along the computer. Students use the notepads or paper to refer back to their previous notes, and to also help one another by referring back to notes where applicable.
The class pace is always posted at the front of the room, including the lesson that should be completed by the end of class as well as the following class. The class pace serves as a benchmark for students, letting them know how many lessons they should have completed by a certain date. The grading system I use is primarily based on student progress, so for students to get a good grade on their progress reports, its essential that they keep with the pace of the class. This is essentially a guide for students to use as they go through standards at their own pace.
Initially, the writing product was the major focus in my classroom. I noticed the products overall were not meeting grade level standards. Therefore the focus shifted to the writing process and doing each part of the process well. Giving students the opportunity to choose not only the place but also the pace at which they complete a prompt significantly changed the learning outcomes and products. A self-paced writing prompts give students the option to choose the order in which they will complete the writing prompts assigned for a unit of study. Making the writing prompts self-paced also gives students the freedom and latitude to simultaneously grapple with content and the writing process to produce a quality product.
Even with the wealth of online resources used my classroom students are still exposed to traditional methods of instruction and organization, especially as it pertains to writing. To this end, graphic organizers are used as a way for students to do everything from capture notes to outlining a writing prompt. Students, especially those that are struggling readers often need a visual to help them organize and connect their thoughts.
While students work on online practice problems, they use white boards to support their practice and show their work. When using white boards, students are very excited and engaged, being able to erase all or part of their work quickly to determine the right answer for their problem. They have the blank space available to show whatever they need - a model, drawing, calculation, or even explanation.
At the beginning of each trimester students are given a checklist to track their own mastery. As they progress through the lessons, they mark off what they have completed, in addition to the grade they received on each lesson. This acts as planner, letting students know at any given moment what they have completed, and what is left for them to learn to finish the trimester.
Sometimes students need a lesson or concept explained to them in a different way than has been done in the video I recorded. For this reason, I try to find other resources for students to use to get unstuck.
I’ve been interested in the power of checklists ever since I read Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto. His book highlights how simple checklists have revolutionized industries like architecture, aviation, and surgery. When students are regulating their own work pace, I offer them structure in the form of Mastery Checklists that provide guidance around individualized learning paths. Students start each day by looking at data from previous assessments, and adjusting action plans with learning goals for the day. Then they work through their checklists and update their Trello boards with finished work samples. By pairing Mastery Checklists with a visual organization tool like Trello, it’s easy for me to keep my finger on the pulse of each student’s activity, and guide them in the right direction.
The most common answer I give students when they ask me a question is "look at your notes." The course is designed so any question in the practice problems or mastery quiz have been directly addressed on the current video lesson or a past one. Because the design of the lessons has been created with this intentionality, it's easy to refer students to the exact place in the notes they can find their answer. It's been a challenge to not jump in and immediately offer students help, and many get frustrated in the moment, but over the course of the year students develop strong independence in their learning, able to use their notes, peers, and online resources to find the answer they were looking for.
One of my goals as a first grade teacher is to develop independent learners that can problem solve or decide when it is time to request assistance from others. Self-reliance is a need that many parents talk to me about during conferences and as a result, I've turned to two different strategies in the classroom that allow students to continue their work while informing me of their comfort level of the task. These strategies are known as self monitoring tools that help me to prioritize which students I need to assist first.
I frequently have my students play games as part of their learning sessions. Many students only want to play the games and do not think of creating a written records of the problems they are solving or notes on their learning. I ask my students to "split the difference" and go 50/50 on playing and note-taking. It's kind of a misnomer since there really is no "difference" to split, but the strategy makes it clear that my students should be splitting their time equally between playing a game and taking notes during that game.
During an Independent Learning Zone session, every student in my blended classroom is working independently on a different set of problems. It's impossible for me to be an answer key for 25 different students doing 25 different problem sets, so I print out their respective answer keys in advance and give each student his or her about 5-10 minutes into the period. This empowers them to monitor their own academic performance and self-correct as they are completing their assigned task.
My students crave independence, but they are sometimes unable to prioritize, monitor, and regulate their progress. My students are also often unable at the beginning of a school year to articulate how or where to start an assignment. This strategy is designed to give my students a model of how to manage their own workflow. Having a Workflow Guide is a good strategy to teach in Social Studies because it gives my students a step-by-step pathway to competency. This strategy is particularly well suited for middle grades because they need an increased sense of agency that allows them work independently as they prepare to transition to high school, college, and their careers.
Students use their dry erase markers and white boards to jot down notes and work though problems while they work online. This simple strategy supports students in actually working through problems that they may otherwise try to solve in their heads. It also helps students stay engaged on computers for longer periods of time.
To give students greater independence, there is an answer key for the practice problems of every lesson. I know what a lot of teachers are thinking at this point: what if the student just copy all their answers from the answer key? As an Algebra teacher told me when I asked them the same question before starting flipped mastery, they'll just fail the mastery quiz. It only takes a few correctional assignments for them to realize that the answer key is there to check answers, not copy them.