As readers of my blog know, I am incredibly passionate about pedagogically-sound personalized learning. Who wouldn’t be excited about implementing strategies that support ALL learners getting what they need when and where they need it to succeed? What is even more intriguing is that there is no one best way to personalize, something I wrote extensively about in Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms and this recent blog post. While technology is a powerful tool that can be leveraged, it is not a prerequisite. Don’t get sucked into the narrative that students have to be on a device for it to be personalized.
As a presenter and coach, I show the value of various strategies educators can implement. I always point out that what might work for one person or classroom might not necessarily be the best fit for others. The key is to know your students in terms of interests, strengths, and areas for growth. Once a solid foundation has been established through sound Tier 1 instruction, the next course of action is to determine what high-agency practice will be employed. Choice is often one of the most preferred means to personalize. Don’t think you need to create an elaborate board. A must-do/may-do menu is a great option that I see used more and more during my job-embedded coaching cycle.
Before implementing this personalized strategy, determine how the tasks will align with the standard(s) that are the focal point of the mini-lesson it will follow. Always remember the inherent value of tried-and-true instructional strategies where personalization can be integrated through student voice. The next step is to develop substantive tasks that all students must complete and choices they may engage in afterward.
Below are some general tips for creating a pedagogically sound list of activities that students must complete and then options to choose from, as well as effective implementation ideas.
- Develop a template and embed it in your learning management system (LMS) for easy access if digital tools are incorporated.
- Ensure alignment to the mini-lesson (content and concept specific) or areas of need (intervention).
- Shy away from all tech options.
- Include a challenging and relevant task(s).
- Try to avoid overloading with too many activities.
- Integrate an adaptive tool if available.
- Display a timer to aid in self-regulation and pacing.
- If possible, differentiate by having at least two variations.
- Use data to pull individuals for 1:1 support (Tier 3) when the entire class is working.
- Make time to monitor in between 1:1 support.
- End the lesson with a scaffolded closure task (i.e., exit ticket) for learner accountability and teacher feedback.
In the real world, individuals often have choices in how they approach tasks and projects. Must-do/may-do activities mirror this reality and prepare students for decision-making and time-management skills they will need later in life. Their value extends even further. In a diverse classroom, students have different strengths and weaknesses. Must-do/may-do activities provide flexibility for students to choose tasks that align with their abilities. This flexibility can reduce frustration for struggling students and prevent boredom for advanced ones.
As an option to personalize, must-do/may-do tasks are essential in the classroom because they create a more inclusive, engaging, and personalized learning environment. They support students at various competency levels, encourage autonomy, and prepare students for the complexities of the real world, all of which contribute to a more effective and enriching educational experience. Most of all, they can free up teacher time to support those learners who need it the most.