There is a dynamic vision of personalized learning that is student driven, creative, and laser-focused on specific learning targets. This vision of personalized learning teaches students to take ownership of their learning and to become life-long learners, as they will surely need to be in our rapidly changing economy. This post discusses bringing together the Baby Steps to Personalized Learning and taking the leap.

Over the past few months, we've been discussing Baby Steps to Personalized Learning. I genuinely believe that personalized learning is the direction that schools should be headed. Public education hasn't changed much since its inception during the Industrial Revolution. But times have changed, the economy has changed, and students' needs have changed.

I'm afraid that many of us visualize personalized learning as isolated students sitting in front of a computer screen, following a pre-packaged curriculum. That's not the scenario I or many other proponents of personalized learning envision.

There is a dynamic vision of personalized learning that is student driven, creative, and laser-focused on specific learning targets. This vision of personalized learning teaches students to take ownership of their learning and to become life-long learners, as they will surely need to be in our rapidly changing economy. Our students will not hold the same job for 30 years, or if they do, they will not go about their job the same way for 30 years. Technology is advancing too rapidly for that. They will need to know how to learn.

But we teach in public schools. There's a way things are done--a system. Everybody does the same thing in every classroom, and teachers are the purveyors of knowledge. Students expect it. Parents expect it. Many administrators expect it. Standardized testing almost marries teachers to it.

That's why in order to foment actual change, I believe that we as teachers must work within the system we already have. Minor changes can lead to major ones. We've been talking about taking baby steps. If we take those steps, one at a time, we and our students are better prepared to take a leap at some point. Each baby step we've taken is preparing us to go all in and take that leap. Each Baby Step is a component of Personalized Learning.

We began with student choice--adding one component to a unit that allows students to choose how they will learn a specific target. 

They choose whether they want to read, view, or research--limited options, but still options. They choose how they want to work with the content they are learning, and then they take a quiz to demonstrate their learning.

This is a baby step, but students are getting used to making more choices regarding their learning and teachers are getting used to giving up a level of control.

See Step 1.

Then we brought in a key component of Personalized Learning--re-assessment. 

The idea of not moving on until mastery is achieved is not new. Most students take the SAT multiple times. Highest score wins. I took the Driver's Test three times before I got it right (yup--I'm admitting it). The first two times didn't matter once I got my licence. Even if students fail a course, they are required to retake it (true--the original F still stands, but if they can demonstrate mastery, should it? That's a question for another time).

Personalized Learning offers students the opportunity to relearn and re-assess before they move on. By filling out a Unit Reflection Form, students develop a strategy for re-learning and select a method of re-assessment to demonstrate their knowledge of learning targets.

See Step 2.

The third step was to look at unit design--students need to know exactly what they are supposed to learn. 

In order to do that, each unit needs transparency. Students must understand the standards and learning targets they are aiming for.

We need a consistent and organized structure for delivering transparency. I offered a suggestion in Baby Step 3, but as long as students know what to expect, the specific structures and mediums of delivery don't matter.

See Step 3.

If we are truly personalizing learning, we need a plan for what to do if a student already knows the learning targets for a specific unit. 

This is where baby step four comes in. It involves providing students who pretest out of a unit with a project path so that they can discover more and flex their creativity.

Each part of the project should focus on a specific learning target and will replace specific grades. The student should drive the planning of the project and be responsible for its completion.

See Step 4.

The fifth step is imperative for encouraging student ownership of and reflection on learning--the student-teacher conference. 

These should be conducted regularly. I recommend at the beginning of the year to set goals and then once at the end of every unit. They can be conducted during class while students are working on other things.

I recommend students reflect on these conferences with a journal so that they can track their progress throughout the year and by filling out a Google Form after each conference so that the teacher can track data and growth.

See Step 5.

This last step is more of a leap. It's to find a structure to enable students to learn at their own pace and in their own way for an entire unit.

There is a dynamic vision of personalized learning that is student driven, creative, and laser-focused on specific learning targets. This vision of personalized learning teaches students to take ownership of their learning and to become life-long learners, as they will surely need to be in our rapidly changing economy. This post discusses bringing together the Baby Steps to Personalized Learning and taking the leap.There are several ways to design an entire unit like this, but I am a fan of simplifying things. Here's
what I'm doing:

1. Provide students with the learning targets and key concepts.

These can be digital or in a notebook, depending on your students. Mine are always in a traditional notebook, but when students start on their path, I link to them digitally, as well.

2. Administer a pretest. If they kill it, this is a good opportunity to bring in the project path. Otherwise, they'll be wasting their time. With the project, they're still focused on the learning targets, but they're digging deeper.

3. Give them options as to how they can learn the concepts and learning targets.

I like to keep it simple. Generally--do they like to read, view, or research--but there are many more options. Do they like to listen (podcasts?), move (scavenger hunts?), solve (escape rooms?). This is one thing that separates Personalized Learning from Differentiated Learning.

Though they are similar, Personalized Learning is proactive and Differentiated Learning is reactive. With Personalized Learning, we create templates and gather as many resources as possible. With Differentiated Learning, we scramble to tailor something to a specific student's need. In this way, Personalized Instruction is easier on the teacher.

4. Provide them with a specific study strategy each time, depending on the path they choose.

A huge issue with our students is that they do not know how to study. If we can provide them with an arsenal of strategies, this will benefit them as life-long learners. Some strategies include:

- Card Sorts
- Flash Card Review
- Summarizing Aloud or in Writing
- Picture Representation
- Categorizing
- Discussion
- Student-Created Assessments
- Students Teaching the Information
- Making Connections among Concepts
- Student-Created Mnemonic Devices

There are many tried and true study strategies, but if students experiment with several and find a couple that benefit them currently and in the future, that's invaluable.

5. Provide students with an engaging creative project to solidify and enrich the concepts they just learned.

Understand here that the students are who will make projects creative, well, by creating it. That's their job, not ours as teachers. But if they can become engrossed in a project that has clear learning targets, they are learning. Project ideas can include:

- Writing an Essay
- Designing a Website
- Creating a Museum Display
- Writing and Performing a Skit
- Creating an Ad Campaign
- Student Choice with Teacher Approval (my favorite--the more creative they are, the more engaged they will be)

6. Give a post test.

AutoMastery is a free Google Forms add-on that allows you to level scores in three ways--Mastery, Intermediate, and Beginning. Students will be emailed their next assignment on the road to mastery if they don't achieve it the first time. Here's a tutorial on how to use it.

7. Add opportunities for remediation and bonus opportunities.

Students should be given the opportunity to achieve mastery if at first they don't succeed. Some options for remediation include:

- Edpuzzle (a video with attached activities)
- Digital Puzzles (from sources such as Flippity and LearningApps)
- Readings and Self-Correcting Quizzes
- Trying and Documenting a New Study Strategy (recording evidence on a site such as FlipGrid)

Find a delivery method that works for you.

If you find a template that you can simply plug different options into for purely personalized units, keep using it. Here are some options:

1. LMS (Learning Management System) 
Some school systems subscribe to platforms such as Canvas and Schoology. There are options within these platforms for personalization through adaptive release and student choice.

2. Symbaloo 
Symbaloo is free. Use it to color-code different learning methods. Students can take different colored paths to achieve their learning goals. For example, students who want to learn the material verbally could select green squares, while students who want to learn it visually could select purple squares. You can hyperlink and color-code the squares. Demonstration in Tip 9.

3. Symbaloo Paths
Create a learning path for each type of learning, link to them on an LMS platform for your students, and allow them to decide which path to take. Here's a tutorial on how to create them.

4. Google Slides
I made a template in Google Slides that treats different learning paths like a game. Students select a path based on color and follow that path through to the test. It involves learning, studying, and creating to prepare for assessment.
There is a dynamic vision of personalized learning that is student driven, creative, and laser-focused on specific learning targets. This vision of personalized learning teaches students to take ownership of their learning and to become life-long learners, as they will surely need to be in our rapidly changing economy. This post discusses bringing together the Baby Steps to Personalized Learning and taking the leap.

I created a folder of template docs for adding content to and hyperlinking to the color spaces on the paths. I'm sending this to my email list on Tuesday evening. You can sign up now and get it then.

A Few Parting Tips for Personalizing Learning in Your Classroom

If you are personalizing the learning opportunities in your classroom, accumulation of resources is imperative.

- If somebody gives you something that you can't use now--file it away for later.
- Educate yourself about the resources your county has already purchased. Do you have access to sites with pre-made lessons such as Newsela or Nearpod? You may not use them for your whole class, but you may use them for a single student or as an option.
- If you find a lesson on the web that fits your curriculum but you can't use now--download it. A student may need it in the future.
- Purchase useful resources on sites such as TeachersPayTeachers with the idea that you won't necessarily use them for your entire class, but that you may add them to paths as an option.
- Use a bookmarking system, such as the Google Keep Extension, to mark websites and videos that explain concepts well.
- If you have lectures that your regularly deliver yourself, record yourself doing so with a tool such as Screencastify so that you can assign it to students as part of a path. But there's no need to reinvent the wheel. Always check Khan Academy and Ted Ed to see if they already have something similar. Or just search Youtube--there's a lot out there.

I hope you've gotten something out of this series on personalized learning--even if it's just a resource or an idea to file away for later! Feel free to email me or leave a comment below to let me know what you'd like to explore next--we grow better together. :)

And be sure to check out the entire series, Baby Steps to Personalized Learning.

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The student-teacher conference is vital to any personalized learning environment. The main benefit of personalized learning is student ownership. Click through to see one way to implement them!

This is the fifth part of my series, Baby Steps to Personalized Learning. I'm using this series to discuss small ways to bring personalized learning into our standardized classrooms. The first week, we discussed An Easy Way to Personalize Learning with Student Choice. Then we discussed Assessment and Personalized Learning in a Standardized Classroom. Week 3 was about unit design and Creating Transparent Goals for Personalized Learning. In Week 4, we discussed  Personalized Learning with a Project Path. This week, we're going to talk about the ever-important student conference.

The student-teacher conference is vital to any personalized learning environment.The main benefit of personalized learning is student ownership. Students achieve this ownership through reflection and goal-setting. A great way to do this is by sitting down with students individually and having a conference.

The Student-Teacher Conference Has Three Main Benefits:

1. It encourages student ownership of learning.
The student-teacher conference is vital to any personalized learning environment. The main benefit of personalized learning is student ownership. Click through to see one way to implement them!Students will let go of the notion that teachers "give" them a grade by examining the relationship
between their goals, the actions they take to achieve their goals, and the grade they are earning.

2. It enables goal-setting and progress monitoring.
Students mindfully set goals and take steps to achieve them. If a student is slipping, the conference provides the students with actionable steps to self-correct before it is too late.

3. It fosters a positive student-teacher relationship.
In having individual conferences, students lose that "invisible comfort zone," in which they are passive receptacles of information. These conversations build relationships.

A Practical Plan for Implementing the Student-Teacher Conference:

Materials you will need:
1. Each student should have a Conference Journal. To stay organized, I make mine digital.

The student-teacher conference is vital to any personalized learning environment. The main benefit of personalized learning is student ownership. Click through to see one way to implement them!

2. A Conference Reflection Form. Google Forms work great for this.

The student-teacher conference is vital to any personalized learning environment. The main benefit of personalized learning is student ownership. Click through to see one way to implement them!

My email list is getting the journal and form I'm using as an example this week, but it is simple to create one to suit your needs.

At the beginning of the course, sit down with each student and have them reflect on goals for the course. Guide them through devising a plan for achieving their goals. They should reflect on this in their journal.

The student-teacher conference is vital to any personalized learning environment. The main benefit of personalized learning is student ownership. Click through to see one way to implement them!

During the next conference, students will fill out a slide reflecting on their progress so far. I would have one conference at the end of each unit to provide reflection and motivation for improvement in the next unit. A student workday is an ideal time to do this. I generally either select a day when students are in stations or working on individual learning paths.

The student-teacher conference is vital to any personalized learning environment. The main benefit of personalized learning is student ownership. Click through to see one way to implement them!

After each conference, students should also fill out the form. The first time they fill it out, send the responses to a spreadsheet. You will use this spreadsheet to track student progress throughout the year.

The student-teacher conference is vital to any personalized learning environment. The main benefit of personalized learning is student ownership. Click through to see one way to implement them!

Alphabetize the "Last Name" category so that each of the students' responses throughout the year are grouped together.

The student-teacher conference is vital to any personalized learning environment. The main benefit of personalized learning is student ownership. Click through to see one way to implement them!

Hyperlink the students' journals to their first form response for easy access. If you assign the journals in Google Classroom, each student can automatically get a copy and you can grab each individual link from your Classroom Folder.

The student-teacher conference is vital to any personalized learning environment. The main benefit of personalized learning is student ownership. Click through to see one way to implement them!

At the end of the year, have one final conference in which students reflect on their performance and consider the next school year.

The student-teacher conference is vital to any personalized learning environment. The main benefit of personalized learning is student ownership. Click through to see one way to implement them!

Student-teacher conferences are vital for a personalized learning environment. They encourage student ownership and reflection. They also help build student-teacher relationships.

How do you conduct student-teacher conferences? Leave a comment and let me know. And don't forget to check back in next week for more Baby Steps to Personalized Learning.
And be sure to check out the entire series, Baby Steps to Personalized Learning.


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A best practice of personalized learning is pretesting. With pretesting, we can track progress and build on prior knowledge. When I pretest, one thing I generally learn is that most of my students need to learn the content I'm supposed to teach. But what about the students who don't? What if they already know the basic content of the unit? Click through to see what I do for them.

This is the fourth part of my series, Baby Steps to Personalized Learning. I'm using this series to discuss small ways to bring personalized learning into our standardized classrooms. The first week, we discussed An Easy Way to Personalize Learning with Student Choice. Then we discussed Assessment and Personalized Learning in a Standardized Classroom. Last week was about unit design and Creating Transparent Goals for Personalized Learning. This week, we're discussing alternate learning paths.

A best practice of personalized learning is pretesting. With pretesting, we can track progress and build on prior knowledge. When I pretest, one thing I generally learn is that most of my students need to learn the content I'm supposed to teach. But what about the students who don't? What if they already know the basic content of the unit? How do I personalize for them?

A best practice of personalized learning is pretesting. With pretesting, we can track progress and build on prior knowledge. When I pretest, one thing I generally learn is that most of my students need to learn the content I'm supposed to teach. But what about the students who don't? What if they already know the basic content of the unit? Click through to see what I do for them.
In these cases, I've borrowed from Project Based Learning to help students expand their knowledge while expressing their creativity and building research skills.

But there are some obstacles to overcome when implementing this:

1. How will I ensure that student work is standards-based? I need to be able to justify this choice to parents and administration.
2. How will I hold students accountable for independent research? I have a common grade book.
3. How will I keep this from being extra work on me? My plate is already overflowing.

I'll attempt to address each of these concerns.

Obstacle 1: The Standards Factor

The last "Baby Step" was about planning units for transparency. Students read and summarize the standards in order to create learning targets. It's no different on the project path--students will do the same thing. They will add to that a driving question that is standards based. This question should guide their research. 

A best practice of personalized learning is pretesting. With pretesting, we can track progress and build on prior knowledge. When I pretest, one thing I generally learn is that most of my students need to learn the content I'm supposed to teach. But what about the students who don't? What if they already know the basic content of the unit? Click through to see what I do for them.

Obstacle 2: The Accountability Factor

When my students do this, they typically spend a lot of time in the media center out of my view. This makes accountability imperative to ensure they are not wasting time. If they wait until the last minute, the project probably will not have as much value in terms of learning outcomes and quality. 

I find it helpful to confer with students to break the project into components. For example, one component may be research. Another may be an annotated bibliography. Those would address all standards and targets. If the student is creating a website, the final components may be content of various web pages. Have students identify the standards and targets each component will cover and devise a plan for addressing them.

A best practice of personalized learning is pretesting. With pretesting, we can track progress and build on prior knowledge. When I pretest, one thing I generally learn is that most of my students need to learn the content I'm supposed to teach. But what about the students who don't? What if they already know the basic content of the unit? Click through to see what I do for them.

Then with the help of the teacher, students should create a timeline for each component. Teachers should clarify which class assignments each component will replace. A basic rubric for each component makes the grading part of each component faster and easier to explain.

A best practice of personalized learning is pretesting. With pretesting, we can track progress and build on prior knowledge. When I pretest, one thing I generally learn is that most of my students need to learn the content I'm supposed to teach. But what about the students who don't? What if they already know the basic content of the unit? Click through to see what I do for them.

Finally, there should be a rubric for the product. This rubric should be more descriptive and provide a space for student reflection--a vital component of personalized learning.

A best practice of personalized learning is pretesting. With pretesting, we can track progress and build on prior knowledge. When I pretest, one thing I generally learn is that most of my students need to learn the content I'm supposed to teach. But what about the students who don't? What if they already know the basic content of the unit? Click through to see what I do for them.


Obstacle 3: The Practicality Factor

In order to be practical, this process must not add extra work for us. It helps to reflect on your goals ahead of time and to create templates that are general enough to be used again and again. The onus of understanding the standards, creating the learning targets and driving questions, and of completing all components of the project should be placed firmly on the students. I would also recommend keeping parents in the loop by providing a short explanation of what their student is doing and why. Be sure to have a space for parents to sign to ensure that they have looked at the project plan and due dates. 

I sent the templates I've made for this to my email list in editable format:

A best practice of personalized learning is pretesting. With pretesting, we can track progress and build on prior knowledge. When I pretest, one thing I generally learn is that most of my students need to learn the content I'm supposed to teach. But what about the students who don't? What if they already know the basic content of the unit? Click through to see what I do for them.

How do you handle alternate paths in your classroom? Leave a comment and let me know. And be sure to come back in the new year--I'll have more Baby Steps to Personalized Learning in 2020!


And be sure to check out the entire series, Baby Steps to Personalized Learning.

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Technology has made information readily available and has also transformed our economy. Knowing how to learn has replaced what to learn as the priority. Part of guiding students through this process is making our learning targets completely transparent. Click through to see how I do it.

This is the third part of my series, Baby Steps to Personalized Learning. I'm using this series to discuss small ways to bring personalized learning into our standardized classrooms. The first week, we discussed An Easy Way to Personalize Learning with Student Choice. Then we discussed Assessment and Personalized Learning in a Standardized Classroom. This week is about creating transparent goals.

Technology has made information readily available and has also transformed our economy. Knowing how to learn has replaced what to learn (this will constantly change for our students in the marketplace) as the priority.

The most beneficial way to bring personalized learning to our standardized classrooms is by completely removing the mystery from our content. If our students are unclear about what they are supposed to learn and what they are supposed to do with it, then they cannot set goals and take ownership of their learning. They cannot reflect on methods that work and don't work for them. A hallmark of personalized learning is transparency--learning targets should be clear and students should use them to set clear goals.

I began using a Unit Organizer to plan my units and help students (and myself) stay focused and know what to expect a long time ago. They have evolved over the years and will probably continue to do so, but they have always included the same basic components:

1. Standards Addressed
2. Essential Questions/ Learning Targets/ Topics Covered
3. Unit Vocabulary/ Terms to Know

Here's the evolution:

1. I began as an English teacher but no longer have any of my ELA Unit Organizers (sad day--I went looking for them, but during all the computer changes over the years, I apparently didn't think they were worth saving, so I'm using world history for this one. They were designed the same way).

Technology has made information readily available and has also transformed our economy. Knowing how to learn has replaced what to learn as the priority. Part of guiding students through this process is making our learning targets completely transparent. Click through to see how I do it.

There's nothing wrong with this organizer, and I like using the essential questions as formative assessment at the end of each lesson, but I wanted to incorporate some type of student interaction with the standards. So a colleague and I came up with this:

Technology has made information readily available and has also transformed our economy. Knowing how to learn has replaced what to learn as the priority. Part of guiding students through this process is making our learning targets completely transparent. Click through to see how I do it.

I think this is better because students are summarizing the standards, but they summarized and then did nothing else with them. So I'm moving to this:

Technology has made information readily available and has also transformed our economy. Knowing how to learn has replaced what to learn as the priority. Part of guiding students through this process is making our learning targets completely transparent. Click through to see how I do it.

With this format, students summarize the standards and then use them to create learning targets. They use the verbs in the standards to understand the action they need to take with each standard. Do they need to explore, explain, evaluate, or describe? For example, if they have to compare and contrast, we talk about what that means and formulate learning targets around that. Students are basically unpacking the standards.

This is the rubric they use to rate their progress on each Learning Target:

Technology has made information readily available and has also transformed our economy. Knowing how to learn has replaced what to learn as the priority. Part of guiding students through this process is making our learning targets completely transparent. Click through to see how I do it.

Finally, students should know where to locate all information for a unit, the purpose behind each assignment (learning targets addressed), and to check off assignments completed or to reflect on why they did not complete a particular assignment.

Technology has made information readily available and has also transformed our economy. Knowing how to learn has replaced what to learn as the priority. Part of guiding students through this process is making our learning targets completely transparent. Click through to see how I do it.

A note on completing assignments: Sometimes students don't do something because they already know it. If they can prove that through assessment, I don't see a reason to penalize their grade for lack of activity (I have to admit, I clenched my teeth when I typed that). In a personalized learning environment, we are grading for knowledge, not activity. But if students haven't fully bought in (and, realistically, not everyone will), this can create a classroom management nightmare. Students think they understand a concept and elect not to do the work. There are other ways to hold them accountable.
Technology has made information readily available and has also transformed our economy. Knowing how to learn has replaced what to learn as the priority. Part of guiding students through this process is making our learning targets completely transparent. Click through to see how I do it.

1. If your school doesn't have a work ethic grade, then gamification is a good option. My students earn XP (experience points) and move up levels for some of the work ethic behaviors that I shouldn't apply to their grades.

2. Alternate demonstrations of knowledge, such as a bonus quiz. My colleague and I offer them weekly. We each have 140 plus students and at the end of the day, not having strict deadlines is unfair to us. Chasing down late work and grading it takes time that we don't have. Boundaries are vital. So we offer a weekly bonus quiz. Students can prove that they know the previous week's content and earn back points. Read about it here.

3. Having students tie each assignment to a learning target and requiring students to check off completion and to reflect on why they didn't do something is a powerful tool. When students reflect on a unit, if they perform poorly on a particular learning target, going back and seeing that they did not complete assignments attached to that target takes the mystery out of assessment and studying for them.

The goal of personalized learning is ultimately to make students responsible for their own learning. In order to do this, transparency is vital. I do this by carefully shaping how I structure each unit and making students a part of the process.

How do you increase transparency in your classroom? Leave a comment and let me know. And be sure to come back next week for more Baby Steps to Personalized Learning.

With each post, I'm sending my email list a resource for their toolbox to help in the journey. Here's what they received this week:

Technology has made information readily available and has also transformed our economy. Knowing how to learn has replaced what to learn as the priority. Part of guiding students through this process is making our learning targets completely transparent. Click through to see how I do it.

You can sign up for my Notes HERE.

And be sure to check out the entire series, Baby Steps to Personalized Learning.

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This is the second part of my series, Baby Steps to Personalized Learning. I'm using this series to discuss small ways to bring personalized learning into our standardized classrooms. This week is all about assessment.

This is the second part of my series, Baby Steps to Personalized Learning. I'm using this series to discuss small ways to bring personalized learning into our standardized classrooms. Last week, we discussed An Easy Way to Personalize Learning with Student Choice. This week is all about assessment.

And that's a bit more tricky.

Assessment in public schools has become increasingly standardized. My ideal classroom would be completely personalized--from learning to assessment. But as a public school teacher, I am obligated to prepare my students for standardized end of course tests. However, one necessity of personalized learning is that students should be reflective and take ownership of their own learning. This method requires them to do that.

Steps to Assessment and Personalized Learning in a Standardized Classroom:

1. The students take the test as they normally would.

2. Then they fill out a unit reflection sheet that asks them to:
-Summarize the Unit
-Describe the effectiveness of their notes and explain how they used them to study.
-Reflect on the assessment by
         -noting their score
         -explaining whether or not it's an accurate reflection of their learning.
         -stating whether or not they need a retest.

3. If they need a retest, they go to the next slide and list the topics they missed.

4. Then they visit a linked site that lists study methods and select two methods they will use to study further.

5. They then select a method for retesting from a list of choices. Choices include a traditional test, an essay, a project, a DBQ (document based question), an interview with the teacher, or their suggestion (with teacher approval).

6. Each student must select a target date for the retest. The onus is on them to arrange it with the teacher.

Tips for Implementing:

1. Keep it as simple as possible. Make it a part of your classroom routine. I have topic in Google Classroom called "Unit Reflections." The reflections go here at the end of each unit and require students to fill out the first slide after every unit whether they need to retest or not. This encourages reflection over and ownership of their learning. It also gives me a digital record of their thought
This is the second part of my series, Baby Steps to Personalized Learning. I'm using this series to discuss small ways to bring personalized learning into our standardized classrooms. This week is all about assessment.
process and how often students are taking the retest option.

2. Provide options for retesting, but only list retest options that won't be difficult for you as the teacher. If you have access to a test bank, make the retest different, or at least scramble everything up so that it's a bit different. If you suspect students are using the initial test to fail intentionally so that they can see what's on it for the retest, take the traditional test off the table. I find that students generally choose a different method, anyway.

I put the DBQ on there because my school subscribes to DBQ online, so I already have one for most units. For projects, I have a choice board that I use. I alter the rubric so that instead of having a category for using class time productively, it includes a category that rates their exploration of standards they didn't test well on.

3. Teach students to avoid magical thinking by stressing the importance of the reflection and purposeful study. Many of my students begin this process by hoping they will magically do better if they take the test again without studying. This is because they generally don't know how to study. This method gives students tools for studying.

At mid year, your students may be ready to use this reflection before their summative assessment and then choose the assessment on the first go-around. If you use test prep questions with formative assessments, students will be getting enough practice with those. They'll also need a rough timeline of when they should complete each unit.

How do you personalize assessment in your classroom? Leave a comment to let me know.

This is the second post in my series Baby Steps to Personalized Learning. I'm not talking about the completely automated methods that research has shown are not effective, but a blend of teacher, learner, and auto-driven personalization. My goal is for us to feel empowered as classroom teachers to engage in best practices despite a system that treats us like cogs in a machine. By doing this, I believe we can empower our students to reach their full potential.

With each post, I'm sending my email list a resource for their toolbox to help in the journey. Here's what they received this week:

This is the second part of my series, Baby Steps to Personalized Learning. I'm using this series to discuss small ways to bring personalized learning into our standardized classrooms. This week is all about assessment.


You can sign up for my Notes HERE.

And be sure to check out the entire series, Baby Steps to Personalized Learning.

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Do you struggle to implement personalized learning in your "standardized" classroom? I know I do. That's why I've started a new series on my blog, "Baby Steps to Personalized Learning." In the first post, I discuss what personalized learning is and how we can SLOWLY implement it using finite student choice.

Personalized Learning is the phrase of the day in education. And for a good reason. ISTE defines personalized learning as pedagogy that "tailors instruction, expression of learning and assessment to each student’s unique needs and preferences."

That's amazing--and exactly what we as teachers want to offer for our students. But it's also daunting. We live in a society entangled in the paradox of innovation and cultural lag. We have the technology for electric vehicles, but we still cruise the interstates in gas guzzlers. We have the technology to implement green energy, but we still burn coal. Robotics can make surgery more efficient and lessen recovery time, but we still go in for traditional surgery.

And that leads us to this--we have the understanding that students learn at different rates and in different ways, but we still teach in systems that implement high-stakes testing, which lends itself to a one-size-fits-all instruction model.

The research tells us to personalize and the policy tells us to industrialize--to make our students cogs in a mechanism that works from August to May, from bell to bell. Everyone is supposed to learn everything at the same pace.
Do you struggle to implement personalized learning in your "standardized" classroom? I know I do. That's why I've started a new series on my blog, "Baby Steps to Personalized Learning." In the first post, I discuss what personalized learning is and how we can SLOWLY implement it using finite student choice.

That worked in the 20th century, but our economy has evolved. Innovation, creativity, collaboration, flexibility, and problem-solving have replaced memorization, formatting, repetitiveness, maintenance, and maintaining as desired marketplace skills.

But as public school teachers, we are suffering from cultural lag. We are current on the research. We understand that personalized learning that's NOT completely automated will better prepare our students to succeed in the current and emerging economy. But there are a few obstacles preventing us from implementing it:

1. Time. Secondary teachers can have upwards of 150 students at a time. Personalizing learning for each of them is not realistic for a single teacher.

2. High-stakes testing. While the research says we should personalize, our states mandate that we standardize. Everyone needs to be ready to take a test that WE will be evaluated on at the same time.

3. Our communities. When we step outside of what the parents of our students experienced in school, we become more vulnerable to their criticism. The reason that parents, politicians, and community members believe they know better than educators is that they all went to school. From that, they developed ideas of how school should work. (This is an understandable phenomenon--all of us have spent a large portion of our lives in the classroom. Effective teachers make everything look effortless, and ineffective teachers make what is lacking superficially apparent.)

In spite of this, I am optimistic that we can bring personalized learning to our classrooms in two ways:

By Keeping it Simple

As far as personalized learning goes, for my own sanity (I admit), I look at my classroom as a restaurant. A family can go there, and there's something for everyone, but the choices are not infinite. That's where what I like to call "mini-modules" come in.

I had a student who told me that he knew more about World War II than I ever could when we were starting a WWII unit in my world history class. I told him, "great." And invited him to take the test in the morning. He made a 98. During class that day (while the students were doing an assignment) he and I sat down and mapped out an extension research project for him. He's listed in my standardized grade book, so we decided on checking points along the way that would replace the assignments I intended to count. I now open this option up to everybody. I will write about how I do that in a later post during this series.

But what of the less precocious? Or (gasp!) those who just aren't that interested?

Maybe personalization is still the answer. But still within the confines of a menu. Unlimited choices are a burden to us and disservice to our students. We would spend all of our time searching for things for them to do and they would spend all of their time trying to decide what to do.

So I'm using a three part menu that allows for choice in how they learn and practice and then offers formative assessment followed by remediation or enrichment. The first part is not a menu and is the same for everyone. Since students are working from a menu, assignments are clear, already available ahead of time, and so chances for chaos and misbehavior are no more likely than if everyone were listening to a lecture or doing book work.

Do you struggle to implement personalized learning in your "standardized" classroom? I know I do. That's why I've started a new series on my blog, "Baby Steps to Personalized Learning." In the first post, I discuss what personalized learning is and how we can SLOWLY implement it using finite student choice.


Here's How It Works:

1. They Read The Learning Target.
So that students are clear about what they are to be learning, begin with the learning target clearly stated. They then use the target to fill out the first two columns of a KWL chart.

Do you struggle to implement personalized learning in your "standardized" classroom? I know I do. That's why I've started a new series on my blog, "Baby Steps to Personalized Learning." In the first post, I discuss what personalized learning is and how we can SLOWLY implement it using finite student choice.


2. They Select How They Will Learn The Topic.
The three choices I give them are read, research, or watch. It's finite, but it gives them an option for the content delivery. On a Google Slides template, I link to a reading, a curated research document, and a film. Students choose one of these methods for learning the topic.

For each of these, I think it's best to think smarter. Don't try to create everything yourself--there's so much available out there.

-The Reading--Link to:
* A free online textbook.
* Your own textbook (if you have it digitally).
* Scan (or take pictures of) a PDF you already have to post digitally (for your students only, of course).

-The Research--Link to:
* A search over the topic in a database your school already subscribes to.
* A list of links you've curated. I either use a doc or Symbaloo.
* A webquest you've already created or purchased.

-The Film--Link to:
* A Youtube film, such as Khan Academy, Crash Course, or any number of films available for your content.
* A screencast of you presenting the topic (I love screencastify for this).
* A film clip inside Edpuzzle.

3. They Select a Practice Activity from a Choice Menu.
I have a bunch of templates for various, short activities. I use the same choice menu and links every time. It take some time on the front end to create these, but then you have them. Also, think in terms of what you already have. If you have worksheets that would work, scan them to PDFs and have students use DocHub or Kami to complete them.

Do you struggle to implement personalized learning in your "standardized" classroom? I know I do. That's why I've started a new series on my blog, "Baby Steps to Personalized Learning." In the first post, I discuss what personalized learning is and how we can SLOWLY implement it using finite student choice.

I sent the examples I've shown you to my email list (I call my email list "My Notes") this week so that they can use them if they'd like.

4. They Take a Formative Assessment.
I link to a Google Form for this. They are quick and easy to create, but if your school uses USA Test Prep, you can link to an assessment there. They offer automated remediation.

Here are the ways I use Forms to automate this:
-Create a self-grading quiz and use the free automastery add-on to automate remediation/extension. Note that remediation can be as simple as sending the menu back out and requiring them to learn it a different way (If they used the film, try the reading....), doing a different practice activity, and retaking the assessment). Extension can be a short project from a choice board you already have. I created this one that I use all the time--I change one project from each row to one project total. If you're pushed for time, skip the extension and just have them move on to the next topic. But never skip the remediation.
-Create an adaptive Google Form. Students go to a specific section on the form based on their answer. If they get the answer wrong, they go to a section for immediate remediation. If they get it right, they go to a section that has the next question. Here's how to make an adaptive form.

By Doing What We Can within the Current Standardized Guidelines

The reality for most of us is that all of our students are assessed at the same time in the same way. We are powerless to change this--fair or not, teachers' voices are the most quickly to be dismissed concerning educational policy. Under standing this, we have two options: we can throw our hands in the air and keep doing things the way we've always done them, or we can work on the fringes of the box we've been put into.

Here's How We Can Work from the Fringes:

1. Unpack the standards and develop learning targets. See if your state department of education or colleagues have already done this. If you have a good department or team, try to divide and conquer.

2. Accumulate as many resources as we can without marrying ourselves to any one of them.
-See something useful online? Save it in Google Keep or Evernote and organize into topics.
-Have old worksheets? Scan and digitize them.
-Create YouTube channels for your topics.
-See something on TeachersPayTeachers you can put in your toolbox? Grab it if you can.
-Curate your test questions into learning targets and always be on the look out for new questions (from released milestones, from other teachers...).
-Follow teachers who teach your content on social media. Take advantage of what they offer, even if you don't need it right now, put it in your toolbox.

There's a lot of junk out there, but there's also a lot of really useful information--have it on hand.

3. Have organized and flexible ways to present the content.
-Find or create templates you can use and reuse.
-Use Symbaloo Boards and Paths.
-If your school has an LMS (Learning Management System), such as Schoology, Canvas, or Blackboard, create learning modules within them that you can use again and again.

This is the first post in my series Baby Steps to Personalized Learning. I'm not talking about the completely automated methods that research has shown are not effective, but a blend of teacher, learner, and auto-driven personalization. My goal is for us to feel empowered as classroom teachers to engage in best practices despite a system that treats us like cogs in a machine. By doing this, I believe we can empower our students to reach their full potential.

With each post, I'm sending my email list a resource for their toolbox to help in the journey. Here's what they received this week:



You can sign up for my Notes HERE.

How do you personalize learning in your classroom? Leave a comment and let me know.
And be sure to check out the entire series, Baby Steps to Personalized Learning.


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