Skip to main content

Open House by Teachers for Teachers

I am part of our building's personalized learning leadership team.  One of our goals has been to support staff in the implementation of PL elements in their classroom.  To this end, we hope to go beyond explaining what they elements are and to delve into how they can be achieved in a classroom. Today, we had the opportunity to do just that.  

Our team approached several teacher who we knew were having success with PL elements in addition to those who grants for PL proposals they submitted in the spring.  We ended up with a wide range of options that spanned almost all content areas.  

Chris Demos
Standards Guided Learning, Assessment AS Learning, Progressions Towards Deeper Learning:
Learn how Chris has implemented a structure in which students are held accountable for demonstrating how they have met course standards by providing evidence and defending that evidence.
John Wilkinson
Personal Learning Goals, Progressions Towards Deeper Learning, Customized Learning Paths: Learn how John has been able to implement “Genius Hour/ 20% Time” into all his classes, even AP.
Pete Mejac
Standards Guided Learning, Assessment AS Learning:
I have reorganized the learning targets to be more student-friendly. Students then choose how they are going to demonstrate proficiency in each of the targets through writing, reading, and conversing.
Joel Nellis
(Physical Education)
Personal Learning Goals
Come see how PE is working with heart rate monitors to provide students real time feedback
Melissa Leister
Personalized Learning in Math - SMART Kapp White Boards

Come check out how I am implementing the SMART Kapp White Boards I received through a grant from my PLAP! These boards help me to personalize learning by giving rapid cycle feedback that is more frequent and timely to help all students. This technology is used as a tool to modify, enhance, and engage students in learning tasks.

Suzanne Riesen and Andi Espinosa
Algebra 1 has been completely redesigned from previous years! Come see how we structure our class, what visual tools we use to help students monitor their own progress and how we are using many of the Honeycomb Elements such as rapid cycle feedback, on-demand grouping, flexible learning environments, multiple delivery methods, proficiency-based progress, and anytime/anywhere learning.
Ryan Milbrath
(Special Education)
Though assistive technology has been routinely thought of as a supplementary aid for students in special education, current programs within the district can be accessed by all students. Join us for an informal, informative introduction to assistive technology in the district and its application in the regular education classroom. Emphasis will be on Google Read and Write (particularly reading Google Docs and PDFs); constructing voice notes; simplifying websites; and awareness of Book Share.
John Stroschein
(Project Lead the Way - Technical Education)
Come for a discussion of how activities & projects are structured so that students recognize problems or their lack of knowledge. They then seek out the course content needed to resolve these issues.  
Christine Capriolo, Sarah Scott and Rachel Broge
Personalized Learning Art Lab
Come see how our advanced level students have created their own working personal studio spaces and created their own expectations for working in a collaborative work space.
Megan Fisher & Dan Wandrey
Come interact with Megan and Dan to see how they use flexible pacing, flexible learning space, collaboration, technology supported and choice/voice. Here’s a video to preview some of what you’ll see!

We had an hour for our open house. Teachers were given free reign to visit whichever classrooms they desired.  To incentivize visiting multiple locations, teachers were given a playing card at each room they visited, up to 5 cards total.  At then end of the PD, staff turned in their hand of cards.  The staff members with the best poker hands received prizes. The staff hosting a room simply shared what they were doing informally with visitors. There was no need to prepare a formal presentation but I was so impressed with the pride with which the hosts shared their expertise and the preparations many went through to welcome us.

I had a chance to see many of the different classrooms which I had never been in before.

I had never spoken with math teacher Melissa Leister.  So it was fun to hear her enthusiasm for using technology to create spaces for students to practice collaboratively with others.  She's a pioneer with this new technology because she saw it as a tool to do something the current technology couldn't not simply as a cool thing to increase engagement.  It was about the learning.

Joel Nellis and Tricia Seibel are also technology pioneers with their heart rate monitors.

They allow the teachers to monitor effort in real time in large class sizes, which all physical education classes are.  They provide a way to monitor effort via readout on iPads in real time.

It allows students to monitor progress and set goals as well.  Again, the technology is a tool to provide more efficient assessment so learning can be adjusted and teachers can focus attention on those who need assistance on remediation on demand. 

I had always been wondering how Pete Mejac was structuring his standards and assessment practices. So, it was great to hear him walk through how standards are constructed and assessed with practical products.  The idea that these objectives are not just things that live in a vacuum.  They have a purpose in media products, so students demonstrate they objectives as a part of media products.

Another classroom with a strong focus on standards based instruction is Suzanne Riesen and Andelee Espinosa's Algebra 1 classroom.  They have their course built around Canvas LMS with instructional videos that allow students to move through the material at their own pace.  It was neat to see that they have set up course modules based on objectives not simply on units.  I hadn't seen this before and I thought it was a clear way to organize instruction for a self-paced classroom. In addition, they have targeted levels of instruction to challenge every learner. They also do an excellent job of tracking mastery of each objective graphically. 

Another great space I was able to see was the new art studio space.  This was created with the model of an artist's studio where students in AP Art Seminar would be able to create their own artist space.  It is a fabulous idea which allows students to truly live the life of an artist for a few hours a day.  Such an authentic space.  I loved this one the most.

The one major requirement for this is for host staff to be willing to be vulnerable about sharing their practice.  And for visiting staff to be open to find connections between a practice from different classroom or content area to their own. No teacher claimed to have the perfect model and it's very hard to be that open in front of your peers.  It really speaks to the respect we have for each other as a staff that in all of the groups that I visited there was nothing but graciousness and positive interactions.

I sent out a survey to staff about the PD.  It's very early in terms of responses. So far, the feedback has been positive. 

Here are some of the takeaways from staff:

BC has some seriously talented instructors. We needn't travel to be in-serviced.
There are a lot of really cool and innovative things going on within our building on a daily basis!
Assisted tech available for all students
Appreciation for what your colleagues are doing
lots of ideas to personalize
Great things happening at BC!
There are some really cool things going on in and out of the classroom at BCHS.
Incredible teaching and learning opportunities! Teachers focused on student learning and assessment via multiple modes, opportunity to show proficiency in different ways, strong student choice, clear learning targets/rubrics to guide instruction and learning
I was a presenter so I liked getting to share my ideas. Plus I got to hear feedback and get new ideas from them on how to expand on to what I'm already doing.
List of deliverables.
So many different ways to personalize learning- not a one size fits all model

In terms of what could be changed to make it a better experience included the idea of having set times and doing rotations. This matches a style we would follow at a parent open house where parents move to the next classroom based on bells.  Another suggestion was including content areas that were absent such as English and social studies.  One pieces of feedback that was great to hear was "do it maybe 2 times a year."  

As our staff digs deeper into their personalized learning plans this year, it will give other teachers the opportunity to open their doors for others (including those who hosted today) to see what great things are happening in other classrooms.  

One of the biggest takeaways for me was getting into other teachers' spaces.  Too often we have PD on neutral ground away from where the actual learning occurs. That's part of the idea of an open house.  I thank the host staff for opening their doors.

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…