Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Personalized Learning: Before you Begin

As a science teacher, I implemented various pieces of personalized learning. My students worked on self-paced activities using blendspace, they participated in Genius Hour and were provided with a variety of choices in their learning.  As a coach, I have recently taken a huge interest in creating a culture of personalized learning. The more research I do, the more definitions I find and variety of ways it is done and at multiple levels of personalization. 

As this begins to spread across my district, I wanted to share a few things I have learned.

Before dipping a toe into personalized learning, remember these three things.
  1. There is not one right way to personalize learning for your students. 
  2. You need to have an open mindset. Whether you call it growth mindset, innovators mindset, etc, you have to be open to the students taking control of their own learning. 
  3. There will be levels of failure from you and from the students. How you respond to these failures will determine the success. 

The School Improvement Network has a great video called "The Four Key Elements to Personalized Learning."  

Key elements:

1. Flexibility- Give the students the time, space, and resources to be successful. Some students may need to sit on the floor or spread across several tables. Some students may finish three lessons in one class while others make take three days. Based on the learning objective, give them as many resources as possible. Allow group collaboration, individual work, or working with the teacher.   

2. Student-centered approach- The students should be given voice and choice. Teachers have objectives that need to be hit, but students can learn them in a variety of ways.  Give them many options and allow them to choose their learning path. The path and outcome will look different for each student. Be careful not to overprescribe and micromanage what students do and how they do it.  In the end, allow them to show their learning in a unique creation. Meet them where they are and get them to mastery in the best way for them.

3. Mastery- The objective is to master the standard at least at a proficient level. Again, this will look different for each student and take varying amounts of time. 

4. Effective teaching- The teacher is now able to support the individual needs of all students. This is the time to pull small groups, sit down with students one-on-one and rotate through the class to support different students. 

The Teachers Role

You become the facilitator, which can be uncomfortable for some teachers. Some teachers wonder  “What am I supposed to do?” Now you have time to have individual and small group conversations. Sit down with students and review their work as they are working. Listen to student conversations. 

Here are few questions to use as prompt.
1. What goal are you working on?
2. What activities do you plan to do to reach that goal?
2. How is this activity helping you reach that goal?
3. Where are you at in the process of reaching that goal?

Check out my other posts on personalized learning: Personalized Learning in Action & Tools to Personalize Learning.

Monday, February 15, 2016

#D100BloggerPD "Move Your Bus" Reflection- Ch. 15-17

Happy Monday, everyone! Hopefully, you are enjoying some time in your personal life on this President's Day.

Welcome to the next installment of #D100Blogger PD for "Move Your Bus," by Ron Clark. If you have missed the previous posts from my wonderful D100 colleagues, check out #D100bloggerpd on twitter or find the list of posts on Literacy Loving Gals blog here.

I have really enjoyed this book since it caused me to do so much reflection about myself and my district. So here it goes with some of my thoughts from Ch. 15 Stay in your lane, Ch. 16 Change the conversation to change the culture, and Ch. 17 Allow the runners to reap the rewards.


I think most runners and even joggers could relate to this chapter. Ron makes the point that runners often start to meddle with others jobs, or spend too much time helping others along to point that it is a detriment to themselves. Not only will this stop the runner, but it can slow the whole bus. He just wants to shout, "Stay in your lane!" 

There are times, when I remember thinking, "Man, I just want to teach and not worry about all these other things!" Now, I think back and in some cases, I really didn't need to be worried about some of those other things. Teachers never have enough time, so it is important to guard your time to focus on your responsibilities. It takes focus, focus, focus. He also reminds us that it takes loyalty, patience, and faith as well. 

Some runners even fall into the trap of doing the work for others to keep the bus moving. This will only cause more work for you and the others will get the benefits. One thing I have to keep in mind is that something may not be done the way I would have done it, or would like it done, but that is ok and I need to keep MY focus.

Now don't confuse mentoring and helping others with doing the work for them. Especially in education, mentoring and sharing is a huge part of our responsibility, but don't drag the unwilling by the hand to catch up with the bus.    

Remember to stay in that straight line from point A to point B with your eyes on the road ahead. Focus on your job and do it well!


We have all been sucked into negative conversations or maybe even started them. I can admit that of course I have, too. It is human nature. Ron offers a simple solution to participating in negative conversation....JUST STOP. When we participate in negative conversations, it just causes us to "one-up" each other and the negativity spreads. In the best schools with the best teachers and the best students there is always going to be something to complain about, so just stop.

He refers to negativity as digging potholes. Instead of being a sponge and allowing others to carry on negative conversations with you, he offers three suggestions: ask a question, tell a positive story, or just walk away. Ron suggests saying, "How can we make this better?" or "Can I tell you something positive about my day?" The person that is being negative will definitely get the hint.  At the very least, they will stop talking negatively to you and who knows, maybe they will even start to look at the positive side and turn others around.

I have been fortunate to have several excellent leaders in my career. One of the reasons they are so great is that they are able to stay positive and impact the culture amidst negative energy.When a teacher thinks it just can't get any worse, I have seen them bring everything into perspective and keep the bus moving along without opening the emergency exit. I realize that these positive reactions are one of the reasons why they are in a leadership position.


This chapter was brief and to the point, a good point. If you are not the one working the hardest, don't take the rewards from the ones that are. What is fair isn't equal to everyone. The people that are working the hardest should be rewarded for that. He reminds leaders to recognize those runners. There is no faster way to take the wind out of a runners sail, then to reward someone who is not working as hard. If you want the rewards, work hard for it. Step up your game and you efforts will be noticed. I have seen people act out of jealousy and start negative conversations instead of being happy for those that are working the hardest. Those negative conversations are only slowing the bus. You want everyone around you working at their best, so be happy when they are recognized for it.

These chapters really hit on some deep issues within any organization. I am walking away with some goals for myself. I plan to stay more focused on my goals, turn around negative conversations, and be motivated to work harder if others receive the rewards I want. If everyone did this, think of the awesome possibilities for the bus as a whole!  

Join the wonderful Leah O'Donnell at Responsive Literacy on Wednesday the 17th as she reviews Ch. 18 Exude a sense of urgency and Ch. 19 Find solutions. Also don't forget to check out #D100bloggerPD for all the "Move Your Bus" reflections and so many other books, too!  

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The February Funk

Welcome February! I don't know about you, but this seems to the month I run out of steam. We are fully back in the swing of things from winter break and spring break is still too far ahead.


Well, instead of just wishing for a snow day...and regretting it in June...try one of these tricks for that extra motivation!

Request the help of a coach
That is why we are here! You can come as a blank slate with an open mind or with a project in mind. Maybe there is a project that you always thought would be great someday, but who has the time. A coach can help pull you and your students out of boredom.  

Take a break 
Break up class with a brain break. GoNoodle is great site for all ages and all you have to do is click and play!  It may just be the simple silly solution to bring you up. 

Try a new app or website with your class
Stick around is an app for all ages and subjects from the wonderful Tony Vincent. Teachers and students can make puzzles based on content to share with each other. Don't have iPads, try Power my Learning. This site supports personalized learning with playlists of games and activities for many different content areas. 


Make a new connection
My PLN motivates me everyday! Connect with amazing educators on Twitter, Instragram or Facebook. Try a new twitter chat or find a new blog. There are also many awesome blogs listed on the home page of this blog. 

Try a new project with your students
May I suggest Genius Hour! Research shows productivity goes up when people are given time to explore their own passion. Give this opportunity to your students and see where it takes them! 

I hope one of these tips spark that extra motivation in you! 
Now go get 'em!