Ok, we’re off the PD train for a little bit and onto one of our favorite topics, the self paced classroom! We’ve been talking about the steps to building great curriculum and finding resources that make your curriculum engaging but today we talk about the ultimate way to differentiate that great and engaging curriculum: making your curriculum self paced. Not sure what I mean by that? Click here for more of our self paced blog entries!
Back to today though! How can you take that fabulous curriculum you worked so hard on and use it in a self paced classroom? Honestly, if you have done all of the ground work on finding resources, the rest gets a lot easier.
We suggest trying a self paced unit before fully committing to a self paced classroom. Testing out a unit will give you a good idea of whether or not it works for your students and for you. So right now, take a minute and think about a unit you teach that you would consider making self paced.
Do you have it? Alright, time to figure out how to make it hypothetically self paced!
Go back to the meat of your curriculum to start! Ask yourself these questions.
Now that you have the end goal in mind, what will you do with your resources to make this unit self paced?
For Becca, she found it useful to give a short version of each lesson about twice a week to the whole class. If students were already ahead of the material she was teaching, they just kept working on their own or assisted her in the lesson. Everyone else was given a short version of the notes but mainly a lot of examples. When she was finished, it was pretty easy for her to tell if students were completely lost or ready to work. She could then work with small groups to help those who were lost understand but all of the other students were still working on their own. With online lecture videos, fill in the blank notes, examples with answer keys, and links to immediate feedback math problems, all students were working on what they needed to and she was still able to help students understand parts that they were confused on. Students would decide when they were ready to take a 5 question quiz corresponding with the lesson they felt they had completed and get immediate feedback. Whether they passed it or not, they would show Becca their score which gave Becca the perfect time to check in on progress and either congratulate them on their success or help them see their mistakes. Students could tell whether they were "on track" or not by looking at the checklist of mastery quizzes. While having a true deadline is not completely self-paced, we all have a last day of school and students need to understand what they are expected to complete. Having suggested due dates let them know what they needed to do and helped them monitor their progress and understand the expectations.
For Danielle, it really comes down to working with small groups. The students go through self-guided material, but in addition to the self-guided material Danielle does small group instruction twice a week on average. The self-guided material is a variety of activities that she used to do as a whole class that are modified for self-paced and some new ones she has found or created. The students have access to videos, website, books, etc for the activities and many of them are not online activities. She still does hands-on activities as much as possible. For the small group activities, she picks particular skills that correlate to where students are in the curriculum and has mini lessons that she does with the students. This allows Danielle to have carved out time with each student and make sure that they are understanding the material.
Danielle also makes it clear that, if any student would like, they can schedule class time to work with Danielle in a small group or 1:1 and work on specific content. Danielle also uses formative assessment to create remediation small groups. Students have to complete 2-3 formative assessment activities per unit and they have to be reviewed with Danielle before they can move forward. This allows Danielle to check for understanding frequently and forces students to pause and make sure they understand material before the summative assessment.
Danielle also makes a point on certain days of the week to do what she calls 'rounds'. She goes around the room and talks to each student about their progress and goals for the content and class. This is when many students make appointments for small groups or she assigns students to specific small groups. It is a really great way to check in and have one on one conversations with students.
We've filled out this section of the template below to give you a snapshot version of what it looks like! These are the questions that lead you to the logistics of your self paced unit.
Now for the setup and what your classroom will look like during this unit:
How can we not advocate for this process when we see how much it has meant to our students? This is why we do it. This is why we love it!
Here is the plan for the communication of a self paced classroom at a glance! We have a lot of the items we use available on our TPT store!
In the end, you have to do what is best for you and your students. Feedback is so important not only to let you know how the student feel about the process but to get ideas for how to continue to improve your class and the positive feedback has lead us to continue and advocate for self paced classrooms. If it doesn't work for you and your class, abandon ship after one unit and do what you need to do!
If you are really interested in attempting the self-paced learning concept, we recommend starting with one unit or a specific project or skill that you could have students work on at their own pace throughout the year or semester. Check out the self-paced classroom section of our blog to see all of the pieces we went through to get our classes started. This is something that we are really passionate about and it has helped students learn in our classes. We are still trying to improve as well and we welcome any suggestions and ideas from other who have or plan to take the plunge into self-paced learning!