At Rocketship, we have always valued personalized learning as a core part of our instruction, integrating blended learning programs into our instructional model to meet the needs of each and every Rocketeer.
In a typical classroom, you will see one teacher teaching the same content to 25-30 students. In this whole group structure, it is near impossible to tell what content every student is comprehending and what gaps in understanding specific students may have. At Rocketship, we define personalized learning as an instructional approach where whole group instruction is more purposefully utilized (i.e. social-emotional lessons that are developmentally appropriate and require a large group or team), and Rocketeers engage in learning that is targeted to their individual academic and personal needs. While technology allows us to efficiently assign aligned content and track growth, online tools do not solely define our personalized learning model. Rather, the authentic partnership of teacher insights, student agency, online tools, and data systems allow us to really give each learner what they need to succeed. Thus, personalized learning lives in all parts of the day, including, but not limited to: small group instruction, peer group projects, pull out groups with ISE (Integrated Special Education) specialist, leveled homework, Tier II interventions in the Learning Lab, and online learning programs (OLPs).
Some of our Rocketeers start with us well below grade level or face challenging situations at home. For this reason, we are constantly looking for ways to make our personalized learning as beneficial as possible to our students, in order to get them ready for college. This means innovating and trying new personalized learning models. One of our current focuses is integrating online learning programs (OLPs) into both our STEM and humanities classrooms to allow for more small group personalized instruction for our students, which research shows is greatly beneficial to student achievement.
In STEM classrooms, teachers use OLPs such as Front Row, Reflex Math, and DreamBox to increase the amount of time available for differentiated small group instruction. We use DreamBox and Front Row because they are both aligned to Common Core standards and continually adapt, inside and outside of the student’s grade level, during programming. Reflex math is a math fact fluency program that complements the other two by teaching and reinforcing students basic math fact skills so they can be successfully used in the other programs and in class.
Teachers set up a rotational model during their flexible grouping portion of the STEM block where students rotate between 2-3 stations (including OLPs) while teachers pull small groups. This rotational structure allows students to learn in different forms, both collaboratively and independently, and keep moving so energy levels stay high. In lower grades, many of our teachers primarily teach content in small group sessions to provide more one-on-one attention and hands-on math tools to our youngest learners.
We choose to use OLPs for a number of reasons: OLPs provide additional aligned practice to our content, preview new content, and build background knowledge in preparation for exploration with teachers. For example, as a third grade teacher you can assign standards related to fractions from the upcoming unit in DreamBox for students to preview the content before actually learning it with you in a whole group lesson. On Reflex math, students can practice their math fact fluency (an essential skill to build on for more complex math later on) through engaging games. OLPs also provide personalized practice that can be below or above grade level based on student needs.
Another OLP we use is Lexia Core5 that specializes in adaptive phonics and reading fluency practice. On Lexia, students play matching games, letter sound sorting activities and real time remedial lessons on certain words or sounds they struggle with. This is especially helpful for our 3rd-5th graders who may have gaps in phonics knowledge. At these grade levels, phonics is no longer taught in the whole group setting, so Lexia is where they get to practice phonics. Lexia provides interactive, differentiated lessons and continually adapts within the program. Both of these OLPs provide targeted practice for our struggling readers and allow our already fluent readers to challenge themselves.
Keya is a part of Rocketship’s Achievement Team, supporting the implementation of online learning and the personalized learning initiatives throughout the network. Previously, Keya was a Kindergarten teacher, first at a public school in Oakland and then at a start up charter school in San Francisco. Keya grew up in Hong Kong and attended the University of California, Los Angeles where she studied International Development and Chinese. After graduating, she joined Teach for America and began her career in Education. Keya now lives in San Francisco and enjoys discussing all things early elementary, trying new food, reading and traveling.