Playlists: A Path to Personalizing Learning

One reason I am such a big advocate for blended learning is that using the various models allow me to spend more time on the aspects of my job that I enjoy and feel are most valuable for students. I don’t want to waste precious class time talking at my students. I want to sit next to them and coach them as they develop skills and apply new information. I want to provide real-time feedback and conference with students about their progress. I want to engage in side-by-side assessments so students understand where they are excelling and where they need to spend time practicing to improve their skills. Using playlists is one strategy that allows me to accomplish all of these goals!

The playlist concept stems from the Individual Rotation Model in which each student works from an individual playlist of activities. I’ve used playlists for formal writing, grammar, and projects. The goal of the playlist model is to allow students some control over the pace and path of their learning.

When I design a playlist, I always start with a template. I include all of the activities that I believe MOST students will benefit from then I customize individual playlists to ensure that students who need additional scaffolding receive it and those who are ready for next challenge get it.

My playlists mix the following elements:

  • Screencasts
  • Offline activities
  • Video explanations and instruction
  • Online quizzes
  • Personalized skill practice with online resources
  • Pair practice
  • Peer-evaluation
  • Self-evaluation
  • Side-by-side assessments
  • Conferencing

Playlists pull together a mix of activities designed to build specific skills. Students control the pace of their learning and teachers can customize individual learning paths with the playlist model.

An entire class can work on a playlist simultaneously, or they can be the focus of one station in a station rotation lesson. As students work on a playlist, the teacher must be available at a “help desk” to work directly with students who hit a “stop sign.” These short conferencing sessions allow the teacher to partner with students to ensure each child is getting the support, scaffolding, instruction, and practice he/she needs to develop.

Click here to view my argumentative writing template. It will give you an idea of how I lay out the activities. You are welcome to make a copy and customize it to use with your students.

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9 Responses to Playlists: A Path to Personalizing Learning

  1. Dean Haakenson says:

    Catlin, Do all students complete all of the steps? And do they choose what to work on when?

    • Hi Dean,

      Yes, all students complete the steps though I customize the template for students who need additional steps and scaffolds (beyond the personalized focus sections that follow our help desk time). They work from beginning to the end sequentially. They do not jump around the playlist.


  2. Molleen Dupree-Dominguez says:

    Love this. Questions:
    1) Do students complete all of this work in class?

    2) What if you discover that a student is really not keeping pace – like hasn’t been to see you for the first stop sign within the first week of work time?

    • Hi Molleen,

      I try to create time in class to make progress on playlists, but I have students who choose to work outside of class. If we are fortunate enough to have the Chromebook cart, we can work synchronously on them during a Whole Group Rotation. If I plan a Station Rotation, the playlist is a great online station.

      I note their progress on a Google Spreadsheet to keep track of their movement through the playlist. If I don’t see students by a certain date, I call them to my help desk to figure out what they need from me.


  3. Tracy Enos says:

    Playlists have impacted my teaching and students so much! We are working on my argument writing playlist right now 😀

  4. Betsy Bucy says:

    Thank you for this awesome post on playlists. I’d heard colleagues refer to this process and frankly got them confused with choice boards. I love this idea and hope to try it!!!

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