Coatimundi and the Modern Classroom

Coatimundi and the Modern Classroom
Posted on 09/08/2021

Personalized learning could be considered the most recent buzz word in the academic community, but our district is taking it a little more seriously. Teaching staff on every campus have been encouraged to adopt the best practices of personalized learning and implement them in our pedagogical deliveries and assessments. To some this can feel like a foreign policy challenging the most tried-and-true methods of teaching. For others it’s a welcome challenge that breathes new life into old familiar ways.

One teacher here at Coatimundi Middle School, Wendy Noriega teaching seventh grade Math, has thoroughly embraced the challenge of remodeling her teaching style and technique to meet the expectations of personalized learning and the Model Classroom. She was swept into her role as a personalized learning liaison through her involvement with a 301 course. She began last year during the quarantine when smaller class sizes made the changes easier to manage. By the end of the year she was more convinced than ever that “if there was ever a time to do this, it’s now”.

She begins by breaking down each of her teaching standards down into five measurable goals. Each of these standardized goals then becomes the focus of a single lesson. Lessons are sequenced so that a student’s mastery of one lesson leads into an introduction to the next lesson. “Yes, it’s time consuming,” she says, “but once these lessons are created they can be used over and over.”

The student begins with introductory instruction, a video of Ms. Noriega presenting the lesson usually accompanied with a slide presentation. The follow up to this lesson is presented on a Choice Board where the student must choose one enrichment activity (manipulatives) and one practice (recorded problem solving) activity. The student then has the option to show mastery by completing an exit ticket, repeating this process as often as necessary working his or her way around the entire Choice Board.

Students have expressed positive feelings of being able to progress independently at their own pace. They are also motivated to complete a particular level by feelings of personal accomplishment and achievement. During class time, Noriega has time to offer one-on-one instruction to those most in need of her attention. When asked about student performance on high stakes testing, Noriega expressed confidence in the results. Students are not pressured beyond their capacity to be lifelong learners and the basic skills are “what they need in real life”.

A single draw back in this Modern Classroom approach to personalized learning is its dependency on access to the internet and computers. Noriega has now developed Math Struggle Mondays and Fraction Friday (fraction manipulatives) with designated off-computer tasks that draw students into even more independent practice.