What I learned about personalized learning from Ms. Roy’s kindergarten class

October 24, 2016

Watch this video to learn how a competency-based education approach is implemented in a kindergarten setting at Henry L. Cottrell Elementary School.What I learned about personalized learning from Ms. Roy’s kindergarten class

This spring, Grace Mills was pretty close to wrapping up her kindergarten year at Henry L. Cottrell Elementary School in Monmouth, Maine when a group from KnowledgeWorks came for a visit. With pigtails and runny noses, Grace and her classmates may appear to be part of a typical kindergarten classroom.  However, how they are learning is anything but typical.

We visited Maine to learn more about how students in Grace’s district, Regional School Unit 2 (RSU 2), are experiencing learning.

From kindergarten to 12th grade, the district has implemented a competency-based education approach. This means each student gets a clear set of learning targets and gets the support they need to master each topic before they move on to the next.

As a mom of a boy the same age as Grace, I was especially curious to find out what a personalized learning approach like competency education looks like in kindergarten. Here’s what I learned from Grace and her teacher, Marie Roy.

As early as kindergarten, kids know what they need to learn and how to work independently.

“Most of my kids know pretty much where they stand,” said Ms. Roy. “If you ask them what they are working on in literacy they can say, ‘I’m doing syllables right now,’ or ‘I don’t need to do my letters anymore because I know them already.’”

“So me and my friend Quinn are in this group and the ‘Ds’ are in this group,” Grace said as she pointed to different sides of a folder from a literacy station in her classroom. “And those are the papers that we are working on.”

The classroom environment facilitates independent and group learning focused on individual learning goals.

“We do a lot of stations. We do literacy stations and math stations,” Roy explained. “And in that they have a group with me, and those are fluid groups that I move around quite often. They have a target time where they work at their own individual learning targets. And then they have a practice time around the room where they do kind of spiral activities to keep old content fresh.”

“We have choices that we can pick out at target time. We have this really fun game like building your caterpillar. These are words and these are word families…” Grace explained as she dug around for work inside her personal target bucket in the classroom.

“They know exactly what to expect, and where they need to be, and where they need to get their materials from,” said Roy. “So they are able to grab onto it and move through their targets at a pretty independent pace.”

Kids get excited about their learning, move on to the next lesson only when they are ready, and no one feels bad about where they are.

“When I reach my target it makes me really happy,” said Grace.

“It’s just so much fun to see the kiddos get excited about their learning,” continues Roy. “And one kiddo might be excited because they finally learned the letter M, whereas you have another kid who’s excited because they wrote three sentences. And they can be excited at the same time in the same classroom and that’s just so neat to see. Because no one is waiting. But yet nobody also feels bad because they are behind.”

Watch our video to get to know Grace and Ms. Roy’s kindergarten classroom at Henry L. Cottrell Elementary School:

Learn more about KnowledgeWorks’ portfolio of innovative education approaches designed to help schools create environments that allow each student to thrive.

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