Breaking Down School Walls

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~We all have a unique fingerprint. It is time that we make school unique for each learner~ 









As we enter week 5 of school, we step back and reflect on where we have been and where we are going. This year we have set out to do school differently at Freedom Elementary. Last spring we spent a lot of time preparing and planning for this year. You can read what we envisioned to do this year with our learners from an Edsurge article. (Article Edsurge)

The first ten days of school we spent a lot of time developing SOPs (standard operating procedures), building relationships, and working on Habits of Mind. These ten days were vital to our program’s success because it is the foundation that we work on each day. You can see what videos and lessons we used with these activities.

Habits of Mind Videos 

Habits of Mind Lessons

We will continually visit SOP’s and Habits of Mind all year long. It has started to stick with our learners. You will now hear them talking about the Habits with each other when working on assignments. One of the best ones was a group of learners were out in our personal flex area, and they were getting frustrated with the technology. One learner came over and said are you “thinking flexibly” right now. Boom that is a learner helping another learner through a problem by applying the habits of mind.

The true strength in our classroom lies in the collaboration of our learners, not in the knowledge of one expert! 

csugbtuwiaa0zpwOur program is focused around a lot of voice and choice for our learners. With this comes a need for an LMS that can help our learners stay organized. We are currently using Buzz to help our learners stay organized. With any LMS there are hurdles we must overcome, and we are working through those, but overall this platform is allowing us to make playlists for our learners. These playlists are set up in the following order:

1.) Must Do’s
2.) Resources
3.) Artifacts

Must Do’s
These are the items learners must do for the learning target. To start the year learners must attend a seminar. This is a whole group instruction where the learning facilitator is sharing the concept in the large group. They must also attend one or two coaching workshops depending on the week and what they need. After that our learning facilitators have taken a little Daily 5 spin on the other must do’s for the week.

The resource folder has videos and other items for our learners that will support them when they are working on creating their artifact to prove mastery of this standard they are working on.

Here are a few examples of our learners sharing what they know about Decimals and story structure. Benjamin Franklin said “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” This is important to our program is having our learners decide what is the best way to show their learning. Some of our learners choose to take a test. Some of our learners want to make a video or a poster. The choice is up to them they just have to make sure they prove their understanding to the standard of learning.

This is the structure and how we set things up. Now let us tackle how we are going to break down the grade level walls. It all started with the NWEA as a baseline assessment. This assessment allowed us to group learners based on what they need for each instructional focus area. For example, some learners are excellent at Geometry and are ready for more advanced concepts. That same learner is in need of help with number sense. We can support this learner by moving studios and giving them what they need right now. We are using a software scheduling system to communicate with our learners what studio they will need to be in for the next few weeks. In time we hope our learners will be able to start to schedule different choices that fit their need. For example, our technology integrationist is coming down 3-4 times per week to teach and support our learners with the iPad. Our learners can schedule a 30-minute time slot with him to learn about the new creation app they can use to show their learning. By using the software, we can set room limits and know where learners are going. This has been another huge tool to help us stay organized throughout the day.

Personalized learning provides critical preparation for students and keeps them engaged and excited about learning. ~ Jenni T

cr31hrpukaaavohWe are learning every day about what we can do better the next week for our learners. One of our facilitators said it best “This kind of shift has been so overdue, and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of the team that is putting the KIDS first and not the teachers or testing.” We look to grow and learn more with our learners this year.

I would be totally mistaken if I did not take a little time and talk about our amazing learning facilitators. These educators have taken on the challenge to change the school structure. Whenever you decide to change such a old system it is hard, but these four educators are dedicated to making a difference for our learners. They spent the summer writing curriculum to only throw most of that out in the last two weeks because what we thought would work is not working. Instead of being negative and upset about the time they spent on the old stuff they took on the new stuff. We have revised our practices and always make sure we are viewing this from a learner lens and not a teacher lens. I am so honored to be able to support, coach, and help them through this process. This is not an easy process, but you could not tell that from the attitudes and positivity that these learning facilitators give off. If you can connect with them please do! They are incredible educators and will add value to all PLN’s.

You can follow our Learning Facilitators at @Mr_Muth, @MsGottsleben, @Mrs_wagers, @mrshansen84

We don’t plan to schedule any visits until after the first of the year. This will give us time to get a good foundation set so that we can help as many schools that want to go down this path.

You can follow us at #epiclearners
You can follow me at @travislape

If you are interested in having me speak to your district about personalized learning, please reach out to for schedule details and dates.

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