I have long believed in putting the “person” back in personalized learning. In creating engaging classroom experiences with our students as we try to help them discover how they learn best and what they still need to grow in. However working in the public school system in a state that has mandates and tests to take, means that we sometimes cannot just do whatever we want as we explore 7th grade English. Means that I am not always able to tell my students to create whatever they want and make it work within our standards. Means that sometimes we all do the same lesson or produce a similar outcome. Even if I work in a district that is focused on doing what is best for each child and puts immense trust in its teachers. Even if at my core I believe that children need to feel like they have control in their learning experience so that they will invest themselves. And I think this is the reality for many teachers that are trying to do their best in engaging all of their learners. So how do we truly create experiences where students feel empowered and engaged and have choice, even when it is not free rein at all times?
One of the foundations in our classroom is the five tenets of choice. These ideas by themselves are the foundation for many successful educational experiences, these ideas have been around for a long time, and these ideas, when coupled together, mean that my students always have choice in something, even if it is not apparent at a quick glance. While the optimal experience would be for them to have all of these choices at any time, sometimes this is not possible within the system I work. So, instead, I strive for at least two of these, but preferably more, at any given time.
This tiny excerpt from my forthcoming book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Engaging and Reaching Every Child, details the five tenets of choice, hopefully they will be of help to others as well.
Choice in engagement, meaning how they access the learning; do they need small group instruction, one-on-one conferring, are they independent or want to work with a peer? I have students do a pre-assessment of how they would like to work through a project and then plan my classes according to their needs. To see a sample pre-assessment survey, please see the appendix.
Choice in product, meaning what would they like to create to show their understanding and exploration of a concept. Sometimes this means full control of the product depending on the standards we are working with, while other times it only means minimal choice such as the format of their written work.
Choice in setting, meaning how and where would they like to learn. As discussed previously, students need to be afforded opportunities to manipulate the learning community environment to suit their needs. This is part of their learning journey and so students can choose where they sit, how they sit, whether they work in the learning community or in other designated areas, as well as how they use the environment they are working in.
Choice in timeline, meaning when they are ready to be assessed. While this one is harder to do at times, I do try to provide flexible timelines for students, as well as stay in tuned with what else is happening in other classes. This may mean that for a longer project I will tell students what the final day is for them to turn something in but that they can turn it in any time they are ready before then.
Choice in assessment, meaning how and what I assess as far as their mastery of concepts. Inspired by Kelly Gallagher I will often ask students to turn in the piece that they think showcase their depth of understanding the best and then assess and confer with them regarding this one piece of work. This allows students more flexibility and control over how they are assessed, as well as gives them the opportunity to reflect on what mastery really means. This tenet also means that once students have shown mastery for a quarter, they do not have to prove it to me again but can instead move on to more challenging work. This is a way for me to ensure that students are provided with learning that matches their needs better and also allows them for more self-directed learning.
If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released. If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge. I also have a new book coming out December, 2017 . Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.