My two colleagues and I teach Year 10 homeroom classes. Numeracy is one of our main areas where we are looking to really engage our students so they can excel. We are also on the verge of moving into our new modern learning environment, so between the three of us we have been experimenting with different modern learning practices so that our transition into this new environment is as successful as possible. One area where we believe we have really moved forward is in numeracy, as we have devised a way to create individual learning plans for each of our students. This goes hand in hand with a learning environment where we encourage self-directed learning and taking ownership of ones own learning. Below I will explain the process that we have used to create our individual learning plans.
Year 10 homeroom – we have our classes all day on Monday, Thursday, and Friday. On the other two days they have options. On our homeroom days we cover the areas of numeracy, literacy, inquiry learning, health, and PE. We are also digital classes, where we supply each of the students with a Chromebook for their homeroom days.
We are a decile one school (Tarawera High School), in Kawerau. The level (according to national standards) of our students varies drastically within our year group. Because of this we thought it was crucial to focus on the individual learning needs of each student.
Digital tools we used to set up our individualised learning plans:
What we have done:
Step 1: Before our Algebra unit, each student sits a pretest. This is a multi-level test, across levels 3, 4 and 5. The way that the test is works is that each question is based on a specific achievement objective, starting at level 3 and getting progressively harder. The key to the test is that as a teacher, I can clearly see what gaps there are in the students learning from each question that they get wrong.
Step 2: I create a google form. The first question that I need is 'Name', and this is where I will write the students name. The second question is 'Email', this is where I will put the students email. From there I only need to create one 'choose from a list' question, and this will get duplicated a number of times. The question is titled 'Focus 1', and the answers that can be chosen are all the possible focuses (achievement objectives) across level 3, 4 and 5 in the curriculum. When I duplicate the question, all I need to do is rename it 'Focus 2' and so on. This particular example has a maximum of 20 focuses - therefore 20 questions.
From question 21-30, these focuses were the areas that each student still needed to focus on from the previous unit, which in this case was 'Number'. I followed the same process as above, but using the achievement objectives from the Number unit. From the Number post-test, I could clearly see which areas each individual student still needed to work on.
Step 3: After I have marked the pretests, I am then ready to fill out the form for each of my students. As I know which questions relate to which achievement objectives, this process doesn't take too long. I go through the test, and for the first question that the student gets wrong, this will be their first 'focus', and so on. If there are only 8 areas that they need to work on, then I can leave the rest of the questions blank. I do the same from the number post-test, from question 21 onwards, and this will be what they still need to work on from the previous unit. To do this repeatedly for each student, I copy and paste the URL of my form (after I choose 'send form') and I open a tab using this. After I have finished the form for one student, I then choose 'submit another response' and follow the same process.
Step 4: The form that I have created automatically creates a spreadsheet of all the data. This is what I will use later when I use autoCrat to merge this data into individual learning documents for each of my students.
Step 5: I created a template using Google docs for the individual focuses that will be sent to each student. It is important to create 'merge tags' (<<like this>>) for the areas that you want to be merged from the spreadsheet that your form has created. For example, <<Name>>, <<Focus 1>>, <<Focus 2>>, and so on. To make it easy, make sure that these merge tags match up with the question of your forms (and subsequent column headings of your spreadsheet).
Step 6: Now I go back to my spreadsheet, and choose the add-on 'autoCrat'. This is a great tool that allows you to merge data from your spreadsheet into a document. (For a video on how it works, view my earlier post on using autoCrat to create certificates).
When I choose launch autoCrat, I am prompted to select a document I want to use to merge the data into, and this is where I choose my Google doc template. AutoCrat then checks on what you want to merge, and gives you various options. For this example, I choose the options that allow autoCrat to send the individual document to each student that they can edit (so the student can later highlight the focuses if they are struggling or if they have mastered the focus). When you are ready to run the merge, autoCrat only takes a few seconds to create each individual document and send it to that student.
You will then see on your spreadsheet that there are links to each individual form, and autoCrat will have also created a folder in your Google drive with each of the documents in it.
Now you will have a number of individualised learning plans for each of your students, and the student will also have received it via email.
Student reactions so far:
By creating these individual learning plans, we have seen an increase in the motivation levels of our students. Where previously we had attempted to differentiate the learning by putting students into groups (i.e Level 3), those same students are now seeing that they have level 5 focuses to eventually work on as well. As a result, the students seem more motivated to work towards these higher levels. Therefore, we have introduced 'gamification' into our program, as the students are actively trying to work through the levels to get to the end.
This process has worked in extremely well with they way we have been using digital technologies to encourage students to direct their own learning. In a future post, I will discuss how we have used Blogger, Google sites, Google forms (with Flubaroo) and a number of other sites to allow our students to direct their own learning so they can master their own individual focuses.