In our first post, we boiled down the various degrees and jargon that fall on the spectrum moving toward and within personalizing learning for our students. As we look around at practices in classrooms, it is evident that this work truly falls within a spectrum and is a practice we can explore by opening our doors and learning from one another (“How Pineapple Charts Revolutionize Professional Development” by Jennifer Gonzalez, Cult of Pedagogy). While education cycles produce new practices and models, one thing that remains the same is what good teaching and learning looks like. You can hear it, see it, feel it when you walk into a classroom. Best practices are evident without having to look at a checklist on a rubric and student engagement is measured by the smiles on their faces and willingness to put their best foot forward.
One open door that Amanda walked through this year was Liz Sanfillipo’s resource room. The timing fell just as Mrs. Sanfillipo began the class with the day’s agenda, projected on the whiteboard. The agenda presented students with the options they needed for the day. It was also clear that Liz’s students were aware of the Blended Learning practice of station rotation.
For many teachers starting out with blended learning, the traditional station rotation has three zones; a small teacher instruction station, a tech station for content delivery/assessment, and a small group collaboration station or independent work station. Students move in carefully created groups through each station within one class period to receive the content, reinforcement of skills with the teacher, and an opportunity for collaboration with classmates on extended projects or application of skills through games.
Because of the small group in Mrs. Sanfillipo’s resource room, she has adapted this model to meet the needs of each individual student. Mrs. Sanfillipo says that reflection is a big part of her daily routine. She has students struggling with emotional issues, academic concerns, and organizational needs. She said stations provide room to be productive so that students are not overwhelmed. Because of this reflection, stations look a little different but follow the same premise; students self-select their stations and move through each within a class period to complete tasks and assess skills. Some tasks are focused on work from core classes, others are designed to work on student’s executive functioning skills, build communication and collaboration, and allow them an opportunity to take ownership of their own learning.
All students complete the MMS Rubric/Reflection, then move onto the Station 1 together. This takes about 15 minutes. Mrs. Sanfillipo also builds in an activator at the start of each class. This is a quick, hands on project to get blood flowing, build communication and problem solving skills, and challenge students to engage in higher order thinking skills. (For more information on using activators in the classroom, see Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything) Once complete, students select 2 out of the 3 remaining stations to work through and complete, with about 15 minutes at each. Mrs. Sanfillipo describes the stations as “loose…students choose where they want to be and what they want to be doing.”
The big question: Does this practice improve student learning? Formal research is still being conducted on the impact of blended learning practices in classrooms, however, some feedback from Mrs. Sanfillipo’s students might provide a glimpse. When asked about their experience this year, one student commented, “I like how Mrs. S does resource because you get to work together, but you also know what is expected of you. It’s helped me stay organized for other classes.” Another student was equally as positive. He stated, “Last year resource was just straight work but this year we do different activities that keep us up on current events and get us hands on. The stations help break up the work and are unique to each student, so that helps too.”
While we can’t pinpoint one concrete answer to improve student engagement and work production, blended and personalized practices provide options. But what this all boils down to is carefully and thoughtfully reflecting on student needs and interests to provide them the best means of instruction. Although technology is infused in Mrs. Sanfillipo’s classroom, good practices that can be done in every classroom with or without tech are evident. Student choice, high expectations, and a shift of activity every 15-20 minutes kept the students focused and the room energized. These practices are alive and well throughout WHS, and by opening our doors we can learn from one another, reflect on our own practices, and grow alongside our students. Figuring out ways to blend a little technology into the mix makes Mrs. Sanfillipo’s classroom one to pop into if the door is open!
We would like to thank Mrs. Sanfillipo and her students for opening the door and allowing us to come in, observe and ask questions! If you would like to share a practice you’re using in your classroom to shift toward personalizing for students or would like to share student work as models of personalization, please email Amanda firstname.lastname@example.org or Erica email@example.com