Getting Personal with Personalized Learning


Today’s Contributor: Alex Hassett

I am a fourth grade math and science teacher at Baranoff Elementary, as well as the Campus Innovation Coach. When I am not teaching or learning about new blended learning strategies through the Leadership Pathways Transformative Technology cohort, I enjoy running, playing golf, cooking and reading thriller novels.


Personalized learning is a term that seems to be everywhere lately. The pedagogical approach stems from the idea that if we have strong relationships with our students and understand their learning needs, teachers will be able to construct learning opportunities that reflect the various learners in their classroom and allow for student self-differentiation. At our campus, more and more teachers are giving personalized learning a try and it’s amazing to see the different variations that this approach takes from classroom to classroom.

First grade has been using SeeSaw to create playlists that provide students the opportunity to practice concepts that were taught earlier in the week and use the video function to reflect on their learning each Friday. This not only gives the first grade team a quick formative assessment, but also empowers students to take ownership by reflecting on their learning and setting goals for the coming weeks.

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1st grade playlist via SeeSaw

Our third grade teachers have also been diving into this approach, but in two very different manners. One teacher decided to go completely low tech and have students put their choices in a mini-learner profile on the board using color coding, while another has created various learning opportunities based on the learning modalities of students in a choice board format. One is housed in BLEND, while the other lives on the whiteboard. Regardless of the approach, students are provided choice in how they obtain information (hands on, videos, skill practice, etc.), as well as highlight their constructed understanding (video reflections, creating structures, reflecting on sheet).  

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3rd Grade low tech playlist
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3rd grade playlist options for various approaches to obtaining information

The fourth grade team decided to use personalized learning via playlists to revamp their approach to science fair this year. Instead of doing a whole class experiment or research project, students were able to research independently, with a partner or in groups about the dynamic earth unit. Students made sketches of soil samples in small groups, created plays and songs about weathering, erosion and deposition, as well as videos to explain the various properties of soil that impact the ability for plants to grow. Instead of having one group write up what they learned for the board, the fourth grade team had students create QR codes so everyone had the opportunity to showcase the products they created to highlight their understanding.

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4th grade science fair poster with student created QR codes

Altogether I’ve observed that regardless of the personalized learning approach, students are empowered in their learning as they are able to exercise voice and choice and navigate learning at their own pace. With personalized learning, teachers are able to cater to the needs of their class and provide students with agency over their learning, all while creating a unique learning experience from classroom to classroom.

8 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this wide variety of approaches to persinalization. I plan to share this with my campus!

    1. Thanks Tanya! I’m glad to hear that you like the various approaches. I wanted to include a low tech version as well to show tech apprehensive teachers that they can do it too!

  2. I love the various options you have listed here. I think any teacher can look at these and find something to try that feels comfortable. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Thank you for showcases so many different ways to go about using playlists to personalize learning. Your photos and descriptive story telling really help to make sense of how this can work in our elementary classrooms – as well as any classroom!

  4. Hi Alex! Thank you so much for sharing. How do the students access the first grade playlist? As a first grade teacher who uses Seesaw daily I was wondering, is the playlist provided for the students in BLEND with links to Seesaw? Just trying to figure out the easiest way to do it.

  5. I have also started using Personal Learning Paths with my 5th graders. They were definitely intimated at first thinking it was more work than normal but they have grown to like how to pace themselves and have a choice in what they are doing. How do the teachers keep track of what the students have done/turned in by a certain time?

  6. I’m not sure if it’s because more stations are used in elementary schools and that model is more conducive to playlists, but I feel like some of the better playlist and choice exercises are in elementary schools. We could learn a lot at the high school level from y’all. Thank you for sharing.

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