Poppy is a curious, imaginative, and playful kindergartener who loves language, puns, play-based activities, and collaborating with friends. Her favorite subject is reading and she gravitates toward fiction books with imaginative storylines. In reading workshop, Poppy and her classmates choose what they read, picking books they’re interested in that are “just right” for their reading level. Poppy is currently reading ahead of her grade level, so having the autonomy to choose her own books makes reading a much more enjoyable experience. During a class-wide ocean biome project, Poppy and a classmate partnered on a design thinking challenge where they were tasked with creating a device that would help clean and protect ocean animals affected by an oil spill. With her passion for animals, this project was very exciting for Poppy, and her empathy for the animals informed the design that she and her partner devised.
Whether spelling a word or drawing a picture, Poppy likes to get things right the first time. This term, she’s made significant progress in reframing non-perfection as an opportunity for learning and improvement. She is also increasing her independence and becoming more resourceful by utilizing the resources at her disposal to make progress toward her goals.
Zen is an active first-grader with a mind for patterns and numbers. He loves math, reading, and sports. His other interests include art projects like painting and papier mache. Zen’s class recently completed a project-based learning unit on Oceanography, in which each student researched an ocean-dwelling animal, building core skills in science, art, and literacy. Zen was excited to discover that anglerfish emit light to attract prey, and he built this papier mache model of an anglerfish as a representation of what he learned during this unit.
Project-based learning offers ample opportunity for personalized feedback, helping each student gain self-awareness while working toward individual strengths and addressing weaknesses. In this unit, Zen practiced patience, flexible thinking, planning ahead, and persisting through challenge.
Fifth-grader Kaue is passionate about history and sports, so a class-wide study on Ancient Greece that combined mythology and the Olympics (in part, inspired by his love of Greece) was a perfect fit for him. To relate their studies to modern life, the class worked with a professional game designer to create their own games, a process that required patience and compromise as students navigated multiple iterations before arriving at their final artifacts. Kaue’s model featured a mashup of modern pinball and the ancient sport of archery.
Next, students examined the bidding process that modern-day cities go through to host the Olympics. After researching population, government, transportation, and the geographical layout of their cities, students consulted an expert in design and building and created scale models of their own Olympic stadiums. As the unit bridged History and English Language Arts, Kaue’s expertise in Greece was especially helpful as he suggested a few specific myths that the class then studied in depth.
Viktoria is a playful, reflective, high-energy sixth-grader with broad interests ranging from photography to rock climbing. She recently completed a whole-class election project that incorporated language arts, computer science, mathematics, and social studies. In her role as campaign manager, she helped her candidate prep for debates, write speeches, and create a tax plan that addressed city and national issues.
In Viktoria’s mixed-age class, selecting partners to analyze math problems in small groups fosters student agency while helping students learn to collaborate and practice taking on flexible roles within team environments. Students use the classroom space in ways that best suit their individual learning preferences. Viktoria has adopted one of the whiteboards and enjoys seeing her work unfold in front of her while working on math problems.
During this phase, educators motivate students with provocations and essential questions. Seeking answers gives students a purpose, instills a desire for learning, and imbues them with an awareness of the skills and interests they will need to develop to accomplish their goals.
In this phase, students focus on the process of learning, investigating topics through inquiry-driven research, building knowledge of a subject area, developing thinking strategies toward challenges, and practicing key learning habits. As part of this process, students create artifacts such as a piece of writing, artwork, or performance that help them construct knowledge by practicing their skills and habits.
Each student’s individual path to excellence begins with personalization. When learning is personalized, students become active and engaged learners.