Imagine a classroom where students are eager to come to class. In fact, they are so excited about learning that they start working on their checklist before the bell even rings. The students quickly find a learning studio around the room that best fits their current learning objective listed on their individual checklist. The teacher is at the front of the room working with a small group of students based on the data collected from online software programs, a formative assessment, or from yesterday's mini-lesson. The teacher is high fiving the students when they complete their work and is encouraging them to level up in their learning. Now look toward the back of the room, the students are standing while working through online learning content. Today's lesson is a video on EdPuzzle that the teacher created to align with the differentiated mini-lessons. The students can pause the video and take notes in their learning studio notebook. Turn to the right; you will notice a small group of students working collaboratively as they learn their vocabulary words. They are acting out the words through a game of charades. The laughter fills the air when one student acts out the word melting. Turn to the left; you and will see students working independently on an activity sheet that is differentiated based on the level up data provided to each student from the digital content. (We like to use Freckle to help give the individual activities that the students will need to complete on their own or with a partner). The students move from one learning studio to the next when they complete an activity. Forty-five minutes had gone by, and the bell rings. The students moan. They want to stay in class and finish the items on their checklist. Can you imagine a classroom that runs like this every day? Is it possible?
This is not a dream classroom. This is really happening
Yes, it is true, we see classrooms all around the country moving to this type of learning style. It all starts with designing a classroom that promotes student ownership. That is right before we can indeed change the classroom into a blended learning environment, we first have to start by exploring ways to design a classroom focuses on student ownership.
The Three R's to Student Ownership
"Humans are literally hard-wired with the desire to connect" T.Brown.
As a blended learning coach, one of the very first things I look for in a classroom is the relationship between the teacher and the students. If the teacher has designed a classroom where she is the CEO of the learning environment and takes time to listen to the needs and wants of the students, then the students will be more apt to build a working relationship with the teacher. According to Brown, this does not mean to be authoritarian but rather be firm with the rules and draw a line in the sand on what behaviors are acceptable.
Building classroom relationships with the students should not be overlooked. One of the tips that we point out to teachers is to meet in a small group with each student every day. A mini-lesson can be set up where the teacher pulls groups of students back to work through a math problem, a science experiment, a timeline, or critical aspects of a novel. Even if a group of students does not need small group instruction, we still find it very valuable to meet even for a couple of minutes to check-in with the students.
One of the teachers that I have recently worked with said to me "I can not believe how much more I know about my students now that I am delivery my content in a small group. I am looking forward to parent-teacher conferences this year due to that I have so much to share with the parents. Why didn't I do this years ago?" J. George
Mini-Lessons help build student relationships
First, the students will be in shock, then they move to denial, followed by surrendering to the thought of student ownership, then they build confidence, and then finally they start to see success in the new learning environment. Deploying student ownership is a journey, not a sprint. Therefore, along the way, the teacher should take a pulse on the classroom to find out what is working, what changes need to be made so that all students are successful.
If a teacher would like the student to take ownership, then he has to let go of control. Yes, I said it, "let go of control." How can a teacher transition the student ownership over to the students without complete chaos eruption? By deploying the Three Phases of Blended Learning. In Phase One, the teacher still has much control of the classroom while the students travel from one learning studio to the next in timed circuits. (This is also known as the Station Rotation method). After three or four times of deploying the Phase One circuits, it is time to move to Phase Two. Phase Two now allows the students to move through the content at their own pace, place, and they can pick their path. The teacher will provide each student with a paper checklist. The students will pick the different learning studios that he would like to work on first, second, and third. There is no whole group timer but rather individual timers that provide a signal to finish up the learning task and move to the next learning studio. Note, that in Phase two the students do not have to move in a whole group but rather when they complete the learning studio activity. Now in Phase Three, the students will start to have a differentiated checklist based on their learning targets. The students still move through their checklist at their own pace, place, and path but now everything is being driven by the data. The gradual release of ownership will help to make sure that the students can complete the learning targets within a given timeframe.
Learn More from Marcia Kish
Marcia Kish - Blended and Personalized Learning coach that designed the Three Phases of Blended Learning