The First 20 Days of Personalized Learning: Laying the Foundation
The back to school season is upon us. While teachers are busy setting up, and students are anxiously awaiting the news of teacher assignments and class schedules and being welcomed into classrooms, Design Principals at Educations Elements are gearing up to support over 140 districts in the 2019-2020 school year with the rollout or continued implementation of Personalized Learning. We are eager to get back into schools and see the innovative ways that teachers are personalizing learning for their new students.
Last year we published the First 20 Days of Personalized Learning, an infographic accompanied by a blog post with tips and tricks for implementation week by week within various instructional models. We had many teachers share with us throughout the first twenty days how they used the tool and the impact that it had on instruction and learning all year round.
One teacher who used the tool and had great success was Amy Steger, a 5th grade, National Board Certified Teacher in western New York. Amy shared with us the value of using this tool and some lessons learned in the first four weeks along with her co-teacher. Amy credits the use of the First 20 Days of Personalized Learning in setting the stage for successful personalized learning implementation which allowed her to create an equitable learning experience for each student that walked through her classroom door. Her classroom felt like a community and students felt like they were part of a classroom family. Students saw strengths in their peers and made deep connections with each other even when they were at different stages academically. Amy also felt like she knew her students better than she had in years past.
Deeper Dive: Explore more personalized learning resources? Check out our comprehensive Personalized Learning Guide to answer any question you could possibly have about PL!
Bolded below you will see the resources Amy used from the First 20 Days of Personalized Learning week by week.
Week 1 is about building a strong classroom climate and community. It’s important to invest time in the first days to create this welcoming environment using a few non-academic tasks. These types of team-building activities should engage students in problem solving and allow students to collaborate and learn to work as a team. Students in Amy’s class were able to see the strengths and interests of each other rather than “this student can’t read” or “this student is not good at math.” This helped foster relationships between students early on. Students were exposed to a station rotation during the first week as they rotated through activities, allowing Amy to begin pulling small groups where she got to know her students and was able to start collecting academic/non-academic data. Students began journaling in the first week as a closing reflection on their experiences during the first week of school. Students also completed Google Forms on their personal interests and academic preferences. After week 1 there was a good foundation in place to allow for successful personalized learning implementation and students realized that they were part of a student centered classroom where their teachers truly cared about each person as an individual.
Amy started to introduce flexible seating during the first week but gave students time during the second week to “shop around” and determine their preferences for where they could engage in their best learning. Students started to learn that certain areas of the room were more distracting and that it is important to be honest with themselves as they began to self-evaluate. Students were introduced to their “I Can” binders which was a foundation for goal-setting. Amy introduced her students to the motto of “fair is not equal” as she continued engaging students in conversation about how learning does not always look the same for everyone
In the third week, when academics were in full swing, Amy shared her Blended Learning Expectations with students. This was essential as students were engaging in their first flipped lesson. Amy felt as if a station rotation with flipped lessons built in was a model her students needed to experience more before trying to implement a playlist, however she found ways to still embed student choice.
By week 4, Amy had collected numerous sources of data to use to target instruction and to begin to use with students as a data tracking tool with their “I Can” binders. As she worked with students 1:1 she was able to help them make choices such as what activities or digital content they needed to work on based on standards mastery. Looking back, Amy would have had all students set more individualized goals to inform these choices. Students with IEPs (individualized education programs) were made aware of their IEP goals, but the general education students did not have the opportunity at this point to set individual goals.
As you embark on this new school year personalizing learning for all students, remember:
- Start small, but start: Try at least one to two new things during the first few weeks. Like Amy, feel free to move things around and see what works best for your students.
- Be willing to get messy! Things rarely go perfectly the first time around, but learn from these bumps in the road.
- Find your people! Plan and reflect on the first 20 days with your team using this companion tool. Share your experiences with teachers beyond your school.
- CHALLENGE: Like Amy, we would love to hear about your experiences during the first 20 days. Tweet @EdElements using the hashtag #First20DaysOfPL to be entered to win prizes throughout your first month of school! Follow along with other educators, like Amy (@mrsasteger) who is taking on a new role as an assistant principal this year!
From all of us at Education Elements, thank you teachers for all of the hard work you put in each and every day for your students! May the 2019-2020 school year be your best year yet.
About Megan Huneck D'Ambrosio
Megan Huneck is a Senior Design Principal on the Design & Implementation team, collaborating with district and school leaders to develop and implement personalized learning initiatives. Prior to joining the Education Elements team, Megan taught for six years in Arlington Virginia Public Schools (VA). While teaching, Megan was chosen to be a member of the LearnZillion DreamTeam where she facilitated engaging blended professional learning experiences for Syracuse City School District (NY) instructional leaders and teacher leaders.