Monday, August 20, 2012

Mass Customized Learning at Sunrise Estates Elementary

Today I will once again turn over blogging duties to someone else.  Mrs. Karin Coiner is the principal at Sunrise Estates Elementary School and she will introduce to you an exciting initiative that a few teachers in her school are undertaking.  I love to see that different teachers across the district are putting their own spin on customized learning to fit their strengths and the needs of their students.  Customized learning cannot be a "one size fits all" approach, or it could not be called customizable!!  Enjoy.

Enter a Customized Classroom as an Observer

We believe education is shifting its focus towards mass customization and we are moving with it.  Individualized choices and educational decisions are impacting how we change our instructional practices and approach to student learning.  Last year, we piloted an alternative way to learn math in our fourth grade, which we will continue this year.  In addition, more grade levels will be implementing a similar plan.  Before you read this classroom experience, reflect back on how math was taught to you.  Now journey with us as we embark on providing alternative classroom experiences for our youngest learners. 

Sample of a Fourth grade math class:

All of the students have previously taken a math topic pre-test and the students have received their individual results.  Students are responsible for analyzing their own pre-test results to guide their learning needs and determine their individual areas of weakness.  This is in addition to the analysis done by the teachers.  These results impact how they plan each day of math time. 

Here is a “picture” of what it would be like as an observer looking in on our non-traditional and individualized approach to learning math. 

First, an observer notices that all the students in the class had received a Topic outline with the intended timeline of requirements.   For the first ten minutes of class, students organize their customized learning utilizing a planner page.  When the planning is finished, the students move to the location of the learning environment that best meets their needs. 

Upon entering one learning environment, an observer notices small group instruction with one teacher.  The students in this room receive their instruction in a more traditional approach.  Students are seen interacting more frequently and receive one-on-one assistance from the teacher as needed.  The students in this room state they are moving at a pace that best meets their needs. 

Upon entering another learning environment, an observer notices several things.  Students in this room prefer and are capable of independently using technology to learn their math skills and content.  The students move at their own pace through the topic requirements provided by the teacher.  You notice some students periodically gathering with the teacher to receive specific instruction when learning gaps are found.  Other students are working on individual projects that are tailored to meet their learning needs.  In addition, some students are working on checkpoints in order to determine if they have mastered a skill and can move on. 

Upon entering the final learning environment, called the Learning Lab, an observer notices a ‘centers’ based room filled with activity.  Students are freely interacting in order to complete a variety of tasks.  Some students are seen:
o   Using math manipulatives
o   Working at a computer center to research information, view informative videos, playing interactive math games, and produce instructional tools to share with their peers
o   Practicing their math facts through a variety of methods
o   Completing differentiated activities focused on the Topic they are learning

You have just observed a non-traditional classroom that uses a customized approach to meet the individual learning needs of each student. 


  1. To me this sounds very promising, when I was a kid I struggled at math. Only later, in college, to discover that I was very good at math but in elementary and high school they only taught the math in one way, memorize every thing and never explain why things are done they way they were.
    This method seems to have such amazing potential. First that students, with teachers, are expected to determine their weaknesses. This method alone would foster independence and responsibility for their own education. Second that they choose a method of instruction that fits them. Since children learn differently this technique would allow a child to pick a method that works for them.

  2. My daughter encountered wonderful success with Math during her fourth grade year as she experienced this customized classroom approach. When I had the opportunity to observe the students during Math, I saw students who worked enthusiastically to accomplish the goals that they had set for themselves. I saw teachers coming alongside the students as coaches proactively guiding, teaching, and encouraging learners. This approach opens many new doors for ALL learners!