The beginning of the school year is upon us and I see you, hardworking educators. I see you planning lessons and preparing your classroom for new learners. You are collecting supplies, organizing textbooks, and thinking through the best way to get to know your students.
This year, consider this new, two-part challenge: Get to know your students as learners and then help students know themselves.
By helping students discover their learning preferences, strengths and growth areas, you give them a skillset that lasts far beyond this school year. If a student knows how to learn, they will be set up for success throughout life.
If you have 25-30 kids in your class, I know this may seem daunting. I’ve been there. But this isn’t about 25-30 unique lesson plans per day. It’s about giving students some voice, choice and engagement opportunities to access your content and lessons in the best way for them.
Here are some ideas to help your students discover their learning needs:
1. Offer flexibility with parameters
Set guidelines within which students can make choices. How are they best going to accomplish a specific task? This can work with students across all ages. I can talk to a five year old about reading time, and ask them, ‘Do you want to read to Miss K? Do you want to read aloud with a buddy? Do you want to read on your own?’ Still hesitant? Here’s proof that personalized learning is possible no matter what age.
2. Partner with your students to create a learner-centered classroom
What could your culture look like if you asked learners to take part in setting classroom rules? What types of flexible seating would students like? Build the best learner-centered classroom by bringing your students into the conversation.
3. Create personal learner profiles
This is my favorite tool for getting to know your learners. It helps identify how students learn best based on strengths, challenges, interests, aspirations, talents and passions. The best part? It’s not for you to fill out. Allow students to think about how they like to access information (through books, videos, a teacher?), what working style engages them most (through hands-on projects, working alone, working in groups, listening or talking?), and how they best express what they’ve learned (through a presentation, creative project, or report?). This activity gives learners the opportunity to self-reflect, and it also gives you insight into their learning needs.
Personal learner profiles – district approach to help learners know themselves #personalizedlearning @MarysvilleEVSD pic.twitter.com/bGOGH6l6xG
— Robin Kanaan (@RobinKanaan) August 11, 2017
I recently heard the story of an early college high school student who discovered her strength as an auditory learner. She talked with the teacher and they found space for her to read test questions aloud to herself. This small change focused on and recognized the student’s learning needs and strengths, and she immediately started passing all her tests with flying colors.