Strategies for independent learning that will blow your mind.
A common woe among teachers is this business of finding strategies for independent learning. You want your students to direct their learning, but how can you encourage it while collecting accurate data? How can you be expected to teach students effectively and take data, while keeping the learning environment in the classroom fun?
We outlined a three-step process to effective learning a few months ago in our post 3 Steps to Easy Comprehension for ALL Learners. The key is to create independent learners in your classroom.
Elementary Data Structures Step 1: You Teach
Your role here is minimal. You may call students to the carpet or simply address them in their seats. Explain the concept using the Teach-OK method from Whole Brain Teaching. I don’t personally endorse the call-and-response “chant” nature, but the simple, engaging approach is solid. This is from their site:
“Teach-Okay is WBT’s version of Collaborative Learning. Simple as pie … speak briefly, not much more than about a minute, teaching one new idea. Now, clap twice and exclaim “Teach!” Your kids clap twice and exclaim, “Okay!”
Students turn to their neighbors, use big gestures, and paraphrase what you said. Paraphrasing, of course, is a key intellectual skill. Kids don’t truly understand lessons until they can translate what they’ve heard into their own words.
The Teacher in a student pair summarizes your lesson and makes explanatory gestures. The Student mirrors the Teacher’s gestures. Thus, it is easy to spot off-task kids … they aren’t moving!! Simply stand beside them, whisper, “Big gestures, please!”
Make it relatable: Find a way to apply what your teaching to the students. Ask them to share from personal experience or explain what they’ve learned in their own words
Model it: To the best of your ability, give a visual representation of what you’re trying to convey.
Use this whole group setting as an opportunity to collect data for material you have already presented. Create a spreadsheet with students’ names on the left and objectives across the top. As you’re reviewing, when a student demonstrates knowledge of an objective, make a note in your binder. Prefer something premade?
CLICK HERE to download a FREE editable worksheet!
This part of the assessment is the Introduction part. You want a student to demonstrate his or her understanding of the material at least three times before moving to the next proficiency level.
Elementary Data Structures Step 2: Students Teach Themselves
This is where independent learners are born. The most important guidance you can provide is helping students find the best way to internalize the information. You may encourage a student by asking them whether they learn better from hearing something, seeing something, or doing something. Once your student has their answer, encourage them to work through it in a way that makes sense. The key shift here, is that you are floating rather than positioning yourself.
As you float, you make notes in your binder. If a student demonstrates knowledge independently, without help from you or another student, make a check, plus, or whatever you like next to the objective. This is where students will demonstrate that they are Proficient in an academic area. Three checks for Introduction and three checks for Proficient lead to the final step: Mastery.
Elementary Data Structures Step 3: Assessment
There are some different ways you can officially sign off that a student has mastered a skill. Again the student must demonstrate mastery three times before you can assert that they have learned the skill:
The student becomes the teacher: Have a student teach the mastered skill to either another student who is struggling, or even a younger student. If you choose this method, make sure you space the demonstrations out. A student teaching the same thing three times in a row on the same day isn’t going to show you whether he or she understands the material.
Fun and games: Use games to assess your students. Scoot is a fun game for kids and an excellent way to assess. Your students demonstrate their knowledge of the material without the pressure of a formal test, and you still have written documentation for your records.
Check out some of our popular Scoot games for elementary data!
Elementary Data with BINGO
Also, you can use BINGO and have the assessment during center time. Start on Monday. Give your students BINGO cards and have them put up “testing tents.” Ask something like: “Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?” Students would put a marker on “Thomas Jefferson.” As you ask questions, float around the table and look at your students’ answers. If a student has an incorrect answer, make an x next to his or her name. The number of x’s determines each student’s grade. If your student is struggling, give them the chance to study and play again on Friday.
Elementary Data with Jeopardy
Another game you can play is Jeopardy with a twist. Students still compete in groups, but they have to take turns answering questions independently. This means when it’s Sally’s turn to answer a question, she can’t ask her team for help. Base grades on how many questions the students answer. If you want, you can assign more points to the more difficult questions. This way, if Gerry misses 3 100 point questions, he can redeem himself with a 500 point question. Final Jeopardy would be an opportunity for a bonus question that makes up for missed points.
Elementary Data with Class presentations
What better way to demonstrate knowledge of a subject than to get up in front of the class and present on it? You can choose large projects for your students, or just simple opportunities to stand in front of the class and explain something. Maybe you can create a list of requirements for the presentation and grade accordingly.
What about grading?
I’m sure you may be thinking where is grading in all this? I mean fun and games are great, and helping each individual student is wonderful in theory, but I still have to give my kids grades. This approach still provides opportunity for grading.
As I mentioned earlier in the post, there are ways you can grade through games, you can create a checklist for your student as they are demonstrating their knowledge, and as far as overall grading, here’s how to make it simple:
- Divide the number of mastered objectives for the quarter, by the total number of objectives for the quarter.
- That percentage is the assessment grade for the quarter. If you want to add in classwork and homework as a separate grade, and weight projects more heavily, that is still an option. You can even use formal tests as one of your three mastery checkmarks.
What we are trying to do is get you to think outside the box and really focus on what will help these students learn. Stressing about tests isn’t healthy and it isn’t life. In life, your students will have to make connections, use knowledge to solve problems, or to teach others. It is important that students become independent learners because only they understand themselves completely. The more customized their learning experience, the greater the chances they will retain the information.
That’s all for now!
Have an awesome week!