Today’s Contributor: Elise Baughman
My name is Elise Baughman and I teach Physics and Forensic Science at McCallum High School. When I’m not teaching, I like to be outside with my dogs, do renovation projects with my husband, and work in my garden.
I have been part of the Transformative Technology Leadership Pathway for the past two years and have made adding more student choice to my classes the cornerstone of my learning. However, it has been important for me to remember that many of my students have not spent two years learning about and practicing having constant choice in their classes. Therefore, I have found myself adding scaffolds throughout the year to support my students as they learn how to operate in this new learning environment.
The first tool that I used that really increased my student buy-in to this whole process was Google Form surveys. At first these surveys were a way for me to receive feedback from students on how they thought a particular lesson or unit went, along with their suggestions for future improvement. These feedback surveys were incredibly insightful and helped me build better units and community with my students, but I was able to take this tool to the next level when I learned about “Learner Profiles” last fall in my Leadership Pathway and when reading the book The Blended Learning Blueprint for Elementary Teachers. Learner Profiles are a great tool that allowed me to better understand not just what my students wanted to learn, but how they wanted to learn it and how they preferred to demonstrate their knowledge. My students’ profiles really showed me they would not only benefit from, but also enjoy, many of the changes that would come with more personalized learning.
The second tool I use is a playlist. My current format went through a few iterations and is still being refined (based primarily on student feedback), but it helps me organize the choice my students have over activities and pacing/ordering content. It allows me to give students tons of information without making their Modules view in BLEND overwhelming.
The third tool I use is a “Star Chart” to help my students (and myself without endless scrolling through gradebooks) track their progress through each unit. When students complete an activity, they mark it off on their chart which is posted at the front of the room. This then turned into a friendly class competition where, at the end of each week, I find which class has the highest average amount of work done per student and that class wins candy the following week.
The final tool that I have found value in is daily journals for students. I give them paper packets with a calendar and exactly enough journal entry spaces for days until their test. This allows students to plan, set goals for each day, reflect on what they accomplished or may still need to do, and it allows me to give them feedback or respond to their concerns.
The combination of these tools has helped my students adjust to choice and grow to become more independent. I hope they can take some of the skills they have learned with them as they move on to college or their future careers.