To use field trips and increased opportunities for voice and choice to build students' confidence and communication skills
“My students come here for 45 minutes a day, so initially [incorporating personalized learning] was daunting. [...] I had to figure out how I was I going to find the time to do that with the curriculum I need to get through and that’s a call on my end to say no this is important to them and it’s important to me and we’ll make the time.”
Rebecca Tanner began teaching at Asbury Elementary as a 3rd grade teacher. During her time in general education, she began implementing personalizing learning (PL) with her students. This year is Rebecca's first year as an English Language Development (ELD) teacher and she's continued to prioritize PL in her work despite the new challenges that an ELD classroom presents. Rebecca sees each section of her class for 45 minutes a day, making it difficult to stray from the curriculum and pilot new practices. However, PL is important to Rebecca and she continues to strive to implement PL practices alongside the EL Achieve curriculum.
One of the major ways that Rebecca infuses PL into her class is through her speaking and listening units. She takes her students on field trips, sometimes to locations of their choosing, to get them out into the community practicing their speaking and listening skills. Students make choices about where they go, who they talk to, and what questions they will ask. Students set goals specific to improving their communication skills and practice these skills on their field trips.
Hear Rebecca talk more about how her students are learning about speaking and listening and what their field trips have been like so far:
In addition to their speaking and listening units, Rebecca's class has many other opportunities for voice and choice in the classroom. Rebecca uses the following practices to create a classroom environment more conducive to PL:
Hear Rebecca talk more about the other ways that students have voice and choice in her classroom:
Rebecca talks about how she thinks PL and PBL have affected her students. She believes they are learning how to collaborate with one another and that they have higher level discussions. She sees her students being more confident in their communicating skills. They are learning how to respectfully debate, disagree, and question each others' thinking to be more critical thinkers. She also thinks her students are excited about their learning and are learning how to make responsible choices.
Two of Rebecca's students talk about what they like about her class and how they're setting goals. Another student talks about their field trip to DU where he helped get the class into the law library, where few people are allowed to go.
Rebecca talks about the lessons she's learned in doing this work. She advises other educators to let students direct the classroom as much as possible. She also works closely with her peers to collaborate on new practices and make sure her expectations are consistent with those in students' general education classrooms.
Rebecca was born and raised in Wisconsin and then spent 15 years in Northern California, where she started teaching. She has been teaching for eleven years, eight of which have been at Asbury. For the past four years, Rebecca has been working to incorproate PBL and PL into her classes with the help of PL coach, Desi Kennedy. This is her first year teaching English Language Development.
Rebecca has stated that she never wants to leave Asbury, as she feels her relationships with her friends, students, and parents at Asbury are strong and she will never find a community like this again. Rebecca is married with two kids and lives in Parker, CO. She has been working part-time the past few years, which has helped her find a balance between teaching and being a mom.
Thank you to Asbury teacher Rebecca Tanner, PL lead Desi Kennedy, and principal Alicia FaJohn, Imaginarium staff Sophie Gullett and Elisa Bowers, and the students taking ownership of their learning.
A huge thank you to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation whose Next Generation Systems Intiative (NGSI) grant has been instrumental in helping Denver Public Schools design, implement, and study personalized learning.