My Journey continues with the Flavor of the Month…Personalized Learning and the impact of environmental factors.
This journey into personalized learning is no different than any other journey one may take in their lives. There are road blocks, detours, new discoveries and surprises around every corner and that is what is so exciting about any journey.
Every journey begins with an idea and a map. This idea just so happens to be a district lead initiative and they have given me a map called The Essentials of Personalized Learning. My journey began last month as I looked at the instructional factors in my classroom to improve student engagement. However, equally important to student engagement is the environmental factors.
New Discovery: Instructional Factors vs. Environmental Factors
Instructional factors are what teachers do intentionally while teaching to increase student engagement, such as, the book I choose for a read aloud or the example I use to help teach a concept. While environmental factors are the physical world that the students learn in, such as, lighting, seating arrangements, and access to learning tools.
With this discovery, I was able to look at our classroom learning environment with a critical eye. Does the seating arrangement work? Are students engaged in the tasks with the way the tables are physically arranged? What technology can I use to help with student engagement? Where should this technology live in the classroom?
Detour: The classroom layout
My journey into personalized learning took a detour from instructional factors to environmental factors. Armed with these questions, I detoured into student engagement by examining my seating arrangement. The seating arrangement that I have used for years was no longer working. I needed to change the way my tables were arranged to create space for a flexible learning environment. Within a day, I had re-arranged my tables from two tables pushed together that seats four students to a group of four tables made into a square that was open in the middle. With this style, I was able to seat 8-10 students at each table group. This opened more space for students to use as a work space. In addition to different work spaces for students, I was able to create a recording station for using the SeeSaw app on the ipad.
Road block: Access to technology
Access to technology is always a road block. Technology breaks, shuts down, malfunctions or you just don’t have access to what you need at that moment. I have four ipads for twenty students. Three of those ipads are being used for reading interventions throughout the day. That leaves me one ipad to use to help with student engagement. I removed that road block by creating a recording station for students to record their writing in a couple of different ways using the SeeSaw app. Students can draw a picture and record themselves telling the story or, they can take a picture of their story that they have written and record themselves reading the story.
Surprises: Students are flexible learners
I was a little concerned about making so many changes to the learning environment in such a short amount of time. As a kindergarten/first grade teacher, I like to have things in place and routines set as we begin the year. However, my concerns quickly faded when my students started moving around the room during their independent time. Students were engaged in partner reading as they sat in the library on my big bear, they were engaged in writing stories using the Seesaw app, and they were standing at the counter using a slant board for writing. Ultimately, I was surprised how flexible my first graders were and how engaged they became in the lessons when they were able to choose a spot that was comfortable for them. The true meaning of personalized learning!
Please send me any questions about my journey into personalized learning.
I believe that the foundation of all learning begins in the home and all students are "OUR" students.Not yours, not mine but OURS.