Student Agency: What Do Students Want to Create to Demonstrate Their Learning?

In my blog post titled “3 Ways to Build Student Agency into Your Lessons,” I encouraged teachers to design lessons that allow students to make key decisions about their learning. Student agency is one of the easiest ways that teachers can begin to personalize learning. If students are invited to make decisions about the subject or topic they focus on, how they complete a task, or what they produce to demonstrate their learning, the learning path and products will be different for individual students.

In addition to personalizing learning, giving students agency is a powerful motivator. When students are given opportunities to select the lens they look through or decide how they want to approach a task, they are more likely to be interested and engaged in the learning.

A simple strategy for increasing student agency in your classroom is to provide students with a choice board of options they can choose from to demonstrate their learning at the end of an investigation, unit, or project.

In addition to offering a range of options, teachers can build supports and scaffolds into the choice board by hyperlinking to support documents. For example, if students decide to create a TED Talk to inspire others to act on an issue, they simply click the link to access a storyboard that will support them as they plan their talks.

Alternatively, if a student wants to build a model, the link will take them to a planning document that prompts them to think through the steps needed to create their model, create a list of the materials, and write an explanation of what their model is designed to do.

When students are told exactly what to do and how to do it, they remain passive participants in the classroom. They may not have to think critically or creatively about their learning. By contrast, when they are challenged to make key decisions about what they do and how they do it, they must actively engage in the learning process.

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Planning a Station Rotation Lesson for Your Math Classroom

Last week in Palm Springs, I had the pleasure of coaching a 9th-grade math teacher. It was exciting to work with a math teacher who was eager to try using the station rotation model in her math classroom.

Math instruction tends to be linear with each lesson building on the one before. This can make it challenging for teachers, who are used to using whole group teacher-led lessons, to transition to blended learning models. The station rotation model poses additional challenges since teachers have a hard time conceptualizing what will happen at the stations that are not the teacher-led station. I hope this blog post will help to provide clarity about how to think about and plan a math station rotation.

When I coach math teachers using the station rotation model, I suggest that they think about the whole week instead of focusing myopically on a single lesson. Taking a week’s view of lesson planning can make planning the various stations more manageable.

It also helps to think about the stations as playing a particular role in the lesson.

  • The teacher-led station can build linearly over the course of the week allowing the teacher to progress through the curriculum.
  • The online station can be used to engage students in creative application or personalized practice.
    • The creative application of mathematical concepts using online tools can give students a degree of agency in the lesson.
    • Personalized practice can allow students who are struggling to review concepts while providing students who are ready for the next challenge to move ahead.
  • The offline station can then be used to spiral back to review. It is ideal if this spiral review engages students in collaborative problem-solving. This way, students can use each other as resources.

Below are some of the strategies, technology tools, and math resources I use when I am designing a station rotation lesson.

If you have another strategy, technology tool, or math resource you enjoy using, please post a comment and share it!

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Google Sites Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite strategies for encouraging students to explore, be curious, and think critically. I use scavenger hunts at the start of the year to foster community building, and I use them to keep students engaged during field trips (actual and virtual).

In the past, I have shared my Google Documents and Google Slides scavenger hunts. I created these scavenger hunts to help my students learn how to use the features and functionality in documents and slides.

Several teachers have requested a scavenger hunt for Google Sites. Below is the scavenger hunt I designed to help students create their own Google Sites. The goal of this scavenger hunt is to support students in setting up a website with a portfolio page to display their best work, a digital notebook page to organize their class notes, and a learning blog page to reflect on their goals, progress, and skill development.

Teachers are welcome to make a copy of this Google Site Scavenger Hunt and use it with their students!

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