To give kindergartners opportunities to exercise their voices and make choices about their learning
"A person's a person no matter how small." -Dr. Seuss
Kim Magoffin, a kindergarten teacher at Asbury Elementary, is one of many teachers at the school who is committed to implementing personalized learning (PL). She aims to help the school's smallest learners explore different learning options and exercise their voices in their learning.
In designing her classroom, Kim wanted students to be able to make choices about their learning. Students choose where they sit each day and they work with Kim to set individual goals that they'd like to achieve during class. Students also have flexibility with how they demonstrate their learning.
Kim also uses project-based learning (PBL) to engage students more deeply with their learning. At the beginning of the year, students voted on what kind of class pet they would like and decided to add another guinea pig to their classroom, launching their guinea pig race PBL unit. With the help of guest speakers, students spent the year learning about what to consider when building a race track, broadcasting, guinea pig food preferences, and how to market their race. Using this information, students have designed and tested race tracks, created advertising for the race, and discovered what food works best to lure guinea pigs across the finish line.
When helping her students take on new roles and experiences, Kim first helps students learn how they like to engage with their learning and express themselves. She then finds roles that fit each student. For example, some of her students like to talk more and share their ideas with the whole class, so Kim created an "announcer" role that students could take on during their guinea pig races.
To start, Kim teaches students the different ways to demonstrate their learning so that they can choose for themselves how they like to do this. Students work on whole class goals and pick individual goals. Kim also creates project-based units that allow students to take on new roles and incorporate their specific interests. Kim then uses what she learns about students during these units to design other lessons.
Kim creates a classroom culture supportive of personalized learning by creating a safe and welcoming environment. Each day, a different student greets the class at the front door. Class begins with a morning circle. This provides an opportunity for students to share their feelings and learn more about their classmates.
Kim believes students are learning how to speak up and advocate for themselves. She helps students understand that everyone is at a different place in their learning and encourages them to share information with each other and their families.
To do this work, Kim suggests starting small. She sometimes tests new practices with a smaller group of students or with one topic within her class so that students can adjust to the change. She also uses this to learn what works best for scaling the practice. Kim believes that it's important for kindergartners to be involved in personalized learning and to be given the chance to learn more about themselves as learners.
Kim has been teaching kindergarten for 14 years at Asbury. Prior to that, she taught at Fairview for seven years teaching first grade, reading recovery, and kindergarten. Besides a brief period during middle school when Kim wanted to be a lawyer or the president of the United States, she has always wanted to be a teacher. She is married and has a 14-year-old daughter named Olesya.
Thank you to Asbury teacher Kim Magoffin, 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.