The term “blended learning” is an umbrella that encompasses many different models that combine active, engaged learning online with active, engage learning offline. In my book, Blended Learning in Action, I included a chapter on the Whole Group Rotation, which is a modern spin on the Lab Rotation. Given that an increasing number of students have access to devices in their classrooms, thanks to 1:1 initiatives and mobile device carts, it is not necessary to send students to a lab, or separate space, for online learning. Instead, an entire class can rotation between online and offline activities together in a single space.

Unfortunately, many teachers are not explicitly trained on blended learning models and are unsure how to weave the online elements into their practice. I frequently enter classrooms where teachers divide time between direct instruction and time spent working online. Instead of dividing the class into two distinct parts–offline with the teacher and online work alone–I’d love to see teachers weaving together the online and offline moments more seamlessly so that students can appreciate the connections between the online and offline work.

There are several benefits to using the Whole Group Rotation. The offline elements allow teachers to provide instruction and allow students to engage with one another to develop key soft skills. The online elements can:

  • Be tailored to address the individual needs of the learners.
  • Allow students the opportunity to control both the pace and path of their learning.
  • Create time and space to work with individual students or small groups of students who need additional support, instruction, or scaffolding.
  • Provide opportunities to conference with students to review their work, discuss learning goals, and conduct side-by-side assessments.

When I work with teachers, they are excited about the potential benefits of using this model; however, most of the curriculum that school districts purchase is not presented in this way. So my job as a blended learning coach is to help teachers take what they have and create dynamic blended lessons that weave together online and offline elements.

I use StudySync with my students and want to model what this process looks like with a StudySync lesson. For teachers using StudySync, I hope this demo of my lesson planning process will provide some clarity about how to approach a Whole Group Rotation with a StudySync First Read Assignment.

Below are the resources mentioned in the video above. I’ve created short links that will prompt you to make a copy if they are resources you would enjoy using!

15 Responses

  1. As our district begins to use StudySync these resources will facilitate blended learning in our middle school classrooms. Thank you for your work Catlin.

  2. Thank you for this lesson. I am currently using Study Sync as well, and I am wondering how much time a first read lesson like this takes. I have 52 minute periods and I want to plan an adequate amount of time to do something similar.

    • Hi Julie,

      My plan is for a 90-minute lesson, but you can adjust this to fit in a 52 minute period. You could do the access prior knowledge activity the day before (or that’s a piece you could drop if you don’t love that activity or are short on time). You can play with the times for the various elements, like the SyncTV episode or the small group discussion. It’s totally flexible!


  3. LOVE this lesson idea. I am new to a middle school that uses StudySync and I am also the Title 1 teacher. I have a combo 5/6th grace class and then a period each of 7th and 8th graders. Any suggestions on how to adapt this idea to students who are below grade level? I am thinking the only part they will struggle on their own is the annotating part. I know I will have to do this with them for a couple months before they would be able to do it on their own. I am open to suggestions.

    • Hi Stacy,

      If you designate the students’ language proficiency level on your end, students will automatically receive the scaffolds and supports necessary to navigate the StudySync lessons. They can all work on the same lesson, but they will have individual supports. It makes differentiation simple! I would also suggest that you encourage lower-level readers to listen to the audio as they read and annotate. I also start by introducing a couple of annotation strategies at one time so they can practice using those before I introduce more. You can also pull a small group to do guided reading and annotating at your table while the other students read and annotate individually.

      I hope that helps!


  4. Hi!
    Thank you so much for the video and the template. Is there any chance you would be willing to share with me what your Monday through Friday looks like?, or even maybe your pacing guides? I am new at teaching 6th grade and have been struggling getting started with StudySync, and can use all the help I can get 🙂
    Thank you so much!!

    • Hi April,

      I wish I had a clear pacing guide to share. The high school where I taught for 15 years is a rotating A-B block schedule, so I would see my kids 2 days or 3 days a week depending on the week. I never followed a lock-step approach to StudySync in terms of pacing. I also didn’t try to cover everything as there is so much content. I pick and choose based on what students need at that moment. I also use blended learning models to mix online and offline tasks to give students more control in the lesson.

      I am planning to record a video series for StudySync to share strategies that I use to weave StudySync’s online offering with dynamic offline activities. I will make sure to blog about that when they are available. Hopefully, they will help you to maximize the program.


      • I can’t wait to see these videos. I am teaching 6th for the first time this year and using SS. I come from first grade so rotations were my go to 3-4 times a week. Littles can’t handle whole group instructions all the time either! I love all your ideas and I think you are coming to my district this year! Can’t wait.

  5. Hello,

    I am a first year 6th grade teacher in a self-contained classroom. This is also the first year that we are using study sync for our ELA curriculum. It feels like I am playing a pedestrian role with this program. A lot of my students are bored by the lessons. I’m not sure how to fully role out the lessons in a way that engages the students and best positions them to be instructed in the way the designers of the program designed.

    • Hi Robert,

      I think the students’ reaction to StudySync is dependent on how it is used. I’ve coached several teachers using StudySync who approach the program as something separate from their teaching practice. They do their thing in front of the class, then they ask students to complete a StudySync lesson on the computer. Instead, I would love to see teachers weaving together offline and online engagement using a mix of the dynamic resources in StudySync with engaging activities and strategies the teachers have used successfully in the past. StudySync lessons are a heavy cognitive lift for students, so it is critical that we are supporting them as they navigate the parts of the lesson using the scaffolds/Access handouts in StudySync and allowing them opportunities to collaborate during the parts of the lesson when peer support would be helpful.

      I recently led a course for coaches working with teachers using StudySync and created the videos below to model how I use a StudySync First Read Assignment to create a station rotation lesson and how I use a Skill Lesson to create a Whole Group Rotation. Even though the audience for these videos were the coaches I was training, they may give you an idea of how I blend the online and offline components of the lesson to create more time and space for kids to engage with each other.

      StudySync–Mother Jones–First Read–Planning a Station Rotation

      StudySync–Skill Lesson–Informational Text Structure–Whole Group Rotation

      If you have any questions after watching these, let me know!


  6. Do you have a video of how to do the close read assignments, the skill assignments, and the comprehension questions? I enjoyed the information on this page very much!
    My classes last about 100 minutes.

    • No, I don’t but I could definitely work on one! I plan to do a series of blogs about StudySync since I get a lot of questions about it, so I’ll make sure to prioritize this request.


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