Playlist Based Instruction

featured image - playlist icon

Today’s contributor: James Young
My name is James Young and I am a 4th grade ESL teacher at Doss Elementary.  I have taught 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grades before, and this is my first year to teach 4th grade.

Are you looking for a way to help differentiate your classroom instruction to better meet the needs of your kids?  I think playlist based instruction is a great tool to help with this.

This summer I went to the AISD Google in the Classroom training and attended a session called “Playlists: Self-paced and Personalized” presented by Melissa Summerford. She showed us how she uses playlists and Google Classroom to help her differentiate instruction for her classroom.  

Melissa creates 3 separate playlists for her class.  She has one playlist for her students who need extra time and/or support to master the subject, one playlist for typical support, and one playlist to extend the subject for higher performing students.

Each of the 3 seperate playlists playlist contains a list of tasks that the student needs to do plus a list of tasks the student can choose from that they may want to do.  The need to list represents the work you need the student to accomplish. The want to do list includes the optional learning tasks that the student would enjoy doing. The list should be designed so each student can complete their list in the same amount of time.

This school year, I have started using playlists.  I use a playlist that includes all the Reading, Writing,and Social Studies activities for the week.  Then I use another playlist for all the Math and Science activities for the week. I differentiate both these lists to support my high, medium, and low performing students.  We review all the tasks at the beginning of the week and I have individual conferences at the end of the week to assess how well they manage all their tasks.  

The tasks on my playlists are like the centers that I used with my class in the past.  The big difference to me is that there is not a set amount of time students need to spend in a center or in what order the centers are arranged.  The playlists make the students more responsible for their learning because they have to manage their work by choosing the centers that are needed to meet their wants and needs.

Our school does not have a computer for every student, so I can’t just put the playlists in BLEND.  Instead, I have to print out the playlists for each student to follow. However, we do have centers in the class where students can use Chromebooks to use and create digital content.

I like the playlist approach because it allows me to provide more personalized instruction while also enhancing student engagement.  The playlists also allow me flexibility to spend more time with small group instruction for my students who need the extra support while keeping the rest of the class on task.

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