Make It Personal

My senior writing class sticks in my memory as one of my favorite classes.  I learned much about research and writing because the learning was personalized.  I was able to research whatever I wanted, and I chose to study the performance and compositional life of the Italian violin virtuoso Niccolo Paganini.  I remember being excited about going to class, reading tomes of musicology books, examining composition scores, and listening to tremendous performances.  That high school writing class actually made my master’s thesis a little easier, because my final project in that high school class became chapter one of my thesis!  

Every student can have such enthusiasm for learning when there is personalization in the classroom.  In the book Turning High-Poverty Schools Into High-Performing Schools authors William Parrett and Kathleen Budge recommend the following to personalize instruction for students (p. 143): 

  1. Employ a variety of mediation and scaffolding techniques to enhance experiences.  Every student has unique learning needs.  Teachers should implement a variety of activities and supports, such as think-alouds, reciprocal teaching, visual organizers, models, guided practice, and sheltered instruction, in order to meet learner needs.  
  2. Differentiate instruction.  Each student responds differently to instruction.  In order to maximize learning opportunities, teachers should introduce content and concepts in a variety of ways to ensure that every student can learn in a meaningful way.  Learning content, process, product, and learning environment can all be tailored to the needs of students. 
  3. Include multiple intelligences.  Psychologist Howard Gardner noted that within each individual there are multiple areas of intelligence: musical, bodily-kinesthetic, logical-mathematical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, spatial, and naturalistic.  Each student will likely have a strength in one or more of these areas.  When you include them in your instruction, students have the opportunity to shine. 
  4. Provide choices.  If our desire is to create independent motivated learners, we have to give students choices along their learning paths.  Students can easily navigate choices related to process, product, and learning environment, and they gain a sense of empowerment. 
  5. Connect learning to student aspirations.  Students of all ages bring aspirations to the classroom.  Just ask a student what she or he wants to do when they grow up, and you’ll learn much about their vision and hopes.  Use that information to engage students in learning.
  6. Integrate the arts.  Music, visual arts, drama, writing, and dance are all powerful mediums for expression and learning.  Create opportunities for students to engage in the arts in a variety of content areas.

As you prepare for next week, think of ways that you can personalize learning for your students.  You and they will be glad you did!

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