Playing with Playlists

Today’s Contributor: Julie Hildebrand

Julie is a first grade teacher at Patton Elementary in Austin, Texas.  Julie’s primary goals have been to increase student achievement in literacy and technology skills in and out of her classroom.  In addition to being a Heart of Texas Writing Project Teacher Consultant, Julie is also a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) Digital Innovator All-Star, and has a small business, busy bebes, which focuses on developing early childhood skills.

This year, I decided to give the Playlist model a try in my first grade math class.  I have always done traditional stations in reading and math, so it was quite a shift in ownership to move over to playlists for me.

My classroom runs on clear routines and expectations.  Giving up “power” and allowing students to choose their own paths meant letting go of that power.  It also meant letting go of the quiet environment that is my norm.

I was immediately hooked after our first day of playlists!  My students LOVED having student choice and took ownership of their learning right off the bat.  They were so excited to get to choose how they worked, with whom they worked, and what they worked on.  It was so neat to see what they gravitated towards and what their preferences were. It told me so much about who they were as a learner and helps direct my instruction.  I can’t imagine going back to traditional station rotations after seeing their joy and how well it worked (on day one!).

There are some items I am still learning to let go of, like noise level.  It’s much noisier than before because students are collaborating. But that’s a good thing!  Students are working together and learning from each other. I’m also still learning to embrace what *looks* like chaos when we move into playlists.  Students are moving all around the room and in lots of directions to get to where they need to be. It’s also a lot more planning up front, but I am saving all of my playlists, which hopefully will help planning go more quickly next year.

With each playlist, things get a little more smoother.  My goals going forward are to begin to incorporate student-led data assessment so that students can easily identify what areas they should work on in their playlists. I also want to arrange my classroom so that each area has a specific noise level expectation.  This will allow for students to find a “just right” working space depending on type of task they are accomplishing.  

I am really happy with how well it’s working and look forward to continuing my learning on how to create effective and engaging playlists!

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