Skip to main content

Get Up, Stand up

This week my students are doing marble roller coasters to study the law of conservation of energy. It is one of my favorite activities I do all year because student engagement reaches an all time high.  It makes me think of this iconic clip from Dead Poets Society.



A small change in environment can lead to a large increase in engagement. For a couple of days, the classroom looks so different as tubes hang from walls, tables, and the ceiling.  Students themselves are if different locations than usual.  The are on tables, under tables, standing on chairs, lying on the floor.  This is not a project which requires lots of technology. It really demonstrates the simplicity of a physics investigation.  














When getting students out of their seats or into unique environments, the challenge is trying to focus the energy into a learning opportunity.  Six Flags Great America allows for an authentic application of many physics topics studied in class with a marble roller coaster. When we've taken students to Great America, it is very easy to give assignments that are so basic they could be done without the experience or ones that are so complex that students aren't able to complete them.  Sometimes the discussions we have on the bus ride back after a day of feeling mechanics first hand are were deeper understanding occurs.

I could easily teach the content of the marble coaster project in a single class period, but it is the incorporation of the other skills that leads to the higher level of engagement.  I am willing to make that trade off in time if it means that students can gain experiential knowledge of the topic.  The concepts are no longer abstract.  Students have a tangible experience.  

So here's the issue I'm having this year, different groups are finishing at dramatically different times.  So, what do we do in these situations.  I understand assigning enrichment activities, but if students complete a problem solving task more quickly is it fair to require additional work? Or, is this where we allow for opportunities to distinguish between proficient and advanced? If students aren't fast enough in problem solving, is it fair to deny the opportunity to show advanced levels of mastery.

Perhaps this is where personalization and multiple pathways can come into play.  It is easy to scale back requirements for those groups who are struggling while still ensuring the opportunity to demonstrate advanced mastery of content standards. Perhaps those who finish early are ready to move on to the next activity or unit of institution.  

What do you do with students who reach mastery earlier than others without giving them "extra work"? Tell me, I'd love to hear your strategies.

Popular posts from this blog

Waves of Innovation in Elmbrook Part 1

As a part of a graduate project, I am looking at innovations in education within my school district, Elmbrook Schools. I am specifically focusing on those looking to provide learners with more ownership over their own learning (a.k.a. personalizing learning). I've completed 4 interviews so far.  I had no intention of sharing them via this blog.  But, I think the stories and insights of these educators really are important for all.  They were vulnerable in a way that shows their passion for what they are undertaking.  They want the best for all learners not simply students, but educators who may hear their words.  So, please take the time to listen to their stories.  


In this video, Jeff Ortman a teacher in his 22nd year, discusses implementing strategies to give students ownership of their learning in his high school English classroom.  He discusses why he wanted to change his learning environment, his first steps to bring change, how choice and feedback are key to his classroom, a…

Can I Believe These Numbers?

Our union put out the results of a recent district survey.  The number of those who responded to the survey was low in comparison to the total number of certified staff. But the number and comments related to personalized learning struck me as troubling.


Based on this data, over half of the district staff polled are not onboard with the district's vision for personalized learning.  I would argue that not knowing the district vision for personalized learning is synonymous with not understanding what personalized learning is. The mission of the Elmbrook School Districtto inspire every student to think, to learn and to succeed.  By personalizing learning, we hope to achieve that mission.
I begin to question have we put the phrase before the meaning?  Have we thrown out this word without intention?  Have we made it to much of another thing to do rather than a method to achieve our shared vision.
These numbers shake me to the core.  After the recent presidential election, I realized I was…

How to Personalize Learning Part 3: Knowing How a Classroom Learns

Now, it may seem contradictory to state that teachers should create a classroom learner toolkit.  All individuals in our class have their own profile. We can’t simply design on blanket profile for the class.  That is very true.  That’s why Bray and McClaskey take a different approach to what a classroom learning toolkit looks like.  It is a 3-step process Class Learning Snapshot Preferences and Needs Class Learning Toolkit

Class Learning Snapshot In this model of designing tools for a whole classroom, the authors first recommend the teacher identify 4 learners who are diverse.  The Class Learning Snapshot records the specific strengths, talents, interests, and challenges of those four learners. If a teacher could meet the needs of these diverse learners through UDL, the needs of the other students in the class would probably be met.

Student Strengths, Talents, and Interests Challenges 1 It's easier for me to understand content when I am taught by a teacher and then am able to get informati…