Noticias em eLiteracias


Combatting the Challenges of Whole Group Lessons with Blended Learning

Por Catlin Tucker — 5 de Outubro de 2021, 18:21

When I work with teachers shifting to blended learning, I strive to establish the WHY driving our work together. I want teachers to understand the purpose and value of the shift to blended learning. Blended learning is not a reaction to a moment. Blended learning is the thoughtful design and facilitation of learning experiences that strive to shift control from teacher to learner by weaving together active, engaged learning online and offline. This blend of online and offline learning can happen exclusively in the classroom with the station rotation and whole group rotation models. It can combine both in-class and online learning at home with the flipped classroom and playlist models. These models are flexible and able to transcend any single teaching and learning landscape. It is that flexibility that is so exciting given the challenges facing educators and educational institutions.

Even though I know why it’s worthwhile to develop our teacher toolboxes with a collection of blended learning models instead of relying exclusively on whole group instruction, it’s essential for teachers to think about the benefits and drawbacks of this heavily used approach. I hope that a close examination of this approach to designing and facilitating lessons will motivate teachers to explore alternative models that free them from the front of the room.

In training sessions, I ask teachers to think about why they use this model. I ask them to brainstorm and discuss with colleagues the benefits and challenges of teaching using the whole group, teacher-led, teacher-paced model. Below is an image of teacher responses to the following questions: What are the benefits and challenges of the whole group, teacher-led model from your perspective?

Below are the benefits and challenges of teaching in a whole group lesson.

Benefits Challenges
Classroom management Student engagement
Control the pace Student attention spans
Able to cover more material in less time Student distractions or behavior issues
Less preparation required Limited student interaction and low levels of participation
All students hear the same information with the implication that information can be presented one time Differentiation
The teacher can guide students and keep them focused Students do not have to think for themselves

Teachers appreciate the increased control they have in a whole group lesson as well as the ease in preparing a single learning experience for the whole class. However, they recognize that this design does not engage all students, allow for consistent differentiation, or provide learners with control over their experience. It’s clear that designing and facilitating learning using a whole group, teacher-led design is more manageable for the teacher, but does not necessarily yield the best results for students.

When I ask teachers to shift gears and put themselves in the seat of a student in a whole group, teacher-led lesson, they identify the following as both benefits and challenges of being a student in this type of lesson.

Below are the benefits and challenges of being a student in a whole group lesson.

Benefits Challenges
Students can hide and do not have to participate Cannot control the pace of learning
Predictable and familiar Fewer opportunities to engage and participate
Less responsibility or pressure to engage in the lesson Unable to stay focused
Students receive explicit instruction Boring
Team building and peer-to-peer learning Scared to ask questions or speak in front of the class
Teacher guiding students through models and challenging aspects of the lesson Does not address specific student needs

Teachers recognize that this whole group, teacher-led lesson presents significant challenges for students. When working with teachers, I connect some of these challenges of the whole group lesson with some of the key benefits of shifting to blended learning models.

Blended Learning: Combat The Challenges of the Whole Group Lesson

Blended learning models can help mitigate or eliminate many of the challenges presented by the whole group, teacher-led lesson. By aligning the key benefits of blended learning with some of the “pain points” that make teaching in this traditional model challenging, I hope more teachers will be more receptive to exploring these models.

Blended Learning Benefit #1: Student Agency

What: Student agency is the students’ ability to make key decisions in the learning experience.

Pain Point: Teachers are frustrated by a lack of student engagement and motivation

Blended learning models are student-centered, not teacher-centered, which presents more opportunities to build in meaningful choices that allow students to select pathways that work for them. Increased levels of student agency are more likely to yield higher levels of engagement and interest over time.

There are three moments in a learning experience or cycle when teachers can consider giving students agency.
1. “The What”–Can we allow them to select the lens they look through as they learn about a topic or an aspect of a larger topic to focus on?

2. “The How”–Can we let them make key decisions about how they get from point A to point B, which materials they use, or whether or not they complete a task online or offline?

3. “The Why”–If students understand the purpose or value of the work we are asking them to do, can we let them decide what they want to create to demonstrate their learning?

Blended Learning Benefit #2: Differentiation

What: Teaching techniques designed to meet the needs of a diverse group of learners with varied needs, skills, abilities, and language proficiencies.

Pain Point: Teachers find it challenging to effectively meet the needs of diverse groups of students in a single class who have a wide variety of learners with a range of skills, abilities, language proficiencies, learning preferences, and interests.

Blended learning models prioritize small group and individual interactions between teachers and learners, which makes it easier to differentiate consistently and effectively.

There are three main ways to approach differentiation.
1. Differentiating the content, or how students access knowledge, understanding, and skills. For example, teachers may provide students with multiple ways to engage with content (e.g., text, video, audio recordings).

2. Differentiating the process, or how students understand or make sense of the content. For example, providing concept maps or graphic organizers, engaging learners in discussion (synchronous or asynchronous), or encouraging a reflective practice via a writing prompt.

3. Differentiating the product, or how students share or demonstrate their learning. For example, some students may want to write while others will prefer to record a video. Teachers can also provide a choice board of options and allow students to select the project or performance task they want to complete to demonstrate their learning.

Blended Learning Benefit #3: Student Control Over the Pace of Learning

What: Identifying moments in the learning when it would benefit students to control the pace of the learning experience.

Pain Point: Teachers are frustrated the classroom management and behavior issues that can derail a lesson.

Many of the behavior issues blossom from the misalignment between the pace the learning is moving and the pace learners actually need it to move. When the pace of learning is too fast, learners can get frustrated, angry, and disengage. If the pace of a lesson or learning experience is moving too slowly, learners get bored, make their own fun, and disengage. However, student control over the pace of learning is key characteristic of blended learning. The goal is to shift control over the pace to students as much as possible.

There a several types of activities that lend themselves to learners controlling the pace of their experience.

  1. Consuming new information (e.g., reading an article, watching a video, listening to a podcast)
  2. Conducing online research
  3. Engaging in online discussions
  4. Practicing and applying
  5. Collaborating with classmates around shared tasks
  6. Reflecting and engaging in metacognitive skill building
  7. Completing a complex task (e.g., writing an essay, completing a multimedia project, tackling a performance task)

Just as a single tool will not work to solve every problem, a single instructional model will not work to accomplish a wide variety of learning objectives. I want teachers to develop a robust collection of models they can draw from when designing and facilitating learning experiences to meet the diverse needs of a group of students. Instead of relying on one approach because that is how we were taught as students or taught to teach in credential programs is limiting. Teachers who began to explore blended learning models will find they spend less time trapped at the front of the classroom transferring information and orchestrating the lesson and more time working directly with students.

Looking for additional resources?

You can learn more about universally designing blended learning to give students more agency in my book UDL and Blended Learning or by taking my online, self-paced courses.


Standard-aligned Rubrics: Assessing Progress Toward Firm Goals While Allowing for Flexible Means

Por Catlin Tucker — 20 de Setembro de 2021, 19:59

In our book UDL and Blended Learning, Dr. Katie Novak and I encourage teachers to work toward firm, often standards-aligned, goals. We also stress the importance of providing students with flexible means. All students can make progress toward firm goals, but they may need to take different paths to get there. Some students will move more slowly and benefit from additional support, scaffolds, and signage to get to the desired destination. Others will make the journey more quickly with significantly less help.

As we design learning experiences, one way to provide students with flexible means is to give students agency.

  • What decisions will students get to make in the learning experience?
  • How can we design meaningful choices that allow students to select a pathway that moves them toward the desired outcome?

When we build student agency into a task or an assessment, students may produce various artifacts to demonstrate their learning. They may express and communicate what they know or can do in different ways. The variety of products they create causes many teachers to question how they should assess this work since it takes many forms.

Let’s say the objective of a learning cycle is to help students to craft a strong argument, compare and contrast a plant and an animal cell, or use the formula for volume to solve real-world math problems. These are firm goals that all students can be working toward; however, the way they engage with information, the level of teacher support they receive, the time it takes them to reach the objective, and the product they submit may be different.

Let’s take a look at an example. If the learning objective is for students to craft a strong argument, you can provide them with different levels of support and different ways of demonstrating that skill. You can allow them to write an argumentative essay, 2) prepare and engage in a live debate with a classmate, or 3) record an argumentative speech. Not only can students select from these three avenues to demonstrate their learning, but you can also provide student agency in relation to the topic. Instead of assigning all students a single subject or issue to focus on for their argument, you can provide a list of topics and encourage students to select one of interest.

Example: Craft a Strong Argument

Providing students with multiple options may feel overwhelming, but using a single rubric to assess those products may make giving students a choice feel more manageable. Even though students might focus on different topics and produce different products to demonstrate their learning, we can use the same rubric to assess their skills if it is standard aligned.

Designing a Standards-aligned, Mastery-based Rubric

First, when designing any learning experience or learning cycle, I encourage teachers to identify target standards or skills that will frame and focus their design work.

Second, once they have their target standards or skills, we craft clear learning objectives. What will students understand or be able to do at the end of this learning experience or cycle? The learning objectives are what we want to assess progress toward. Whatever students produce or create should help us assess progress toward those learning objectives. If we are crystal clear about the outcome at the beginning of the design process, that creates clarity about what students will need to reach that objective successfully.

Step 1: Unpack your target standards or skills to identify the essential criteria you’ll assess. I encourage teachers to limit the criteria they include in their rubrics to avoid overwhelming students. For the example above, the criteria might include:

  • Makes clear claims
  • Presents relevant and compelling evidence
  • Supports claims with valid reasoning and clear explanations

Step 2: Use a simple 4-point mastery-based scale.

  • 1 = Beginning
  • 2 = Developing
  • 3 = Proficient
  • 4 = Mastey

I share the template below with teachers to use in training sessions.

Step 3: Describe what you would expect to see at each level of mastery. What does it look like in the beginning stage versus the developing, proficient, or mastery stages? Writing these descriptions is the most challenging part of designing a standards-aligned rubric. It takes time to articulate what each level looks like; however, the benefit of this approach is that you do not need to write clarifying feedback. Students can read the descriptions to understand why they are receiving a particular score.

Suppose you align the criteria with the learning objectives you crafted from your target standards. In that case, you can use this one rubric to assess each product (e.g., argumentative essay, live debate, or recorded speech). If students are writing an essay, you might be tempted to evaluate mechanics or writing style; however, those are specific to that product and are not target learning objectives for this learning experience or cycle.

Regardless of whether you are giving students agency using a choice board, choose your learning path adventure, or a would you rather option, you can use a standards-aligned rubric to make sure you stay focused on assessing specific standards and skills at the heart of the learning experience.

The beauty of a standards-aligned, mastery-based rubric is that it:

  • can be used to assess a variety of products in relation to specific criteria.
  • reduces the time teachers spend grading because they simply mark the language on the rubric and do not have to write additional feedback to justify a score.
  • provides students with a vehicle to understand their progress and level of mastery.
  • can also be used as a self or peer-assessment tool.

You can learn more about universally designing blended learning to give students more agency in my book UDL and Blended Learning or by taking my online, self-paced courses.


Shifting from Time-Consuming Teacher-led Workflows to Sustainable Student-led Workflows

Por Catlin Tucker — 13 de Setembro de 2021, 13:29

I had the pleasure of chatting with Matt Miller this week for my podcast, The Balance. During our conversation, we explored aspects of the teaching profession that are time-consuming and create work-life imbalance. One culprit is the mentality that, “If I don’t grade it, the students won’t do it.” I disagree, especially when it comes to assignments designed to provide students with opportunities to review concepts and practice specific skills.

First, I do not think grades are an effective long-term strategy for motivating most students. In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink points out that extrinsic rewards–points, grades, or the promise of a class party for good behavior–are not effective ways to motivate people over time. These “carrots” might work for a short period of time, but they are unlikely to be powerful long-term motivators. Instead, internal factors like the enjoyment of a task, a sense of achievement, and recognition of growth motivate people.

Second, asking students to do something meaningful with their work creates accountability and can motivate them to complete assignments. Simply submitting work that students may not see again for a few days or weeks is unlikely to compel students to prioritize that work.

Third, I worry that grading assignments that fall under the umbrella of review and practice robs students of a safe space to fail. Students need space to try, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes. If teachers grade the accuracy of review and practice, it creates a climate where mistakes are penalized instead of treated as opportunities to learn and grow.

So, how can you reimagine traditional teacher-led workflows when assigning review and practice? How can we avoid taking stacks of literal or digital work home to grade on your evenings and weekends?

First, we need to acknowledge the time-consuming nature of traditional teacher-led workflows. Below is an image depicting a workflow I frequently see when coaching teachers. Teachers will assign work to provide students with practice or review. Each student completes the assignment. Depending on the number of students, the teacher collects anywhere from 25-160 individual work samples. They often spend hours outside of school putting comments, points, or grades on this work. Then they enter the points or grades into their online grade books. This workflow is time-consuming and positions the teacher to do the lion’s share of the thinking and the work.

Now, let’s reimagine this teacher-led workflow to create a more sustainable student-led workflow.

Shifting to Sustainable Student-led Workflows

Instead of assigning practice and review then collecting massive stacks of student work to grade, pull that work into your teacher-led station, or dedicate class time to self-assessment. Imagine students completed a sheet of math problems, a grammar or vocabulary review, or labeled the parts of a map or plant cell. If you want to know how accurate their work was, pair or group students strategically and give them an answer key. Ask them to work together to check, correct, and capture their questions. If they got an answer wrong, encourage them to work collaboratively to see if they can correct their mistake. If not, you can have a strategy in place so students can communicate which problems or questions they struggled with and could not correct on their own. This provides you with data you can use to identify the aspects of the assignment that need to be revisited in small groups or as a whole class.

If practice or review takes the form of a written assignment or something that cannot be easily self-assessed with an answer key, provide students with a strong example or exemplar and a simple rubric to guide their self-assessment. For example, if they wrote an analytical paragraph, give them a strong example to compare their work to and a rubric with 1-3 criteria to help them think critically about the quality of their work. Strategically pair or group students so they have a network of peer support to lean on as they attempt to assess their work. Alternatively, you can ask pairs to exchange their work samples and complete a peer assessment using the rubric.

At the end of this self or peer assessment, encourage students to take time to reflect on their skill set in a learning log.

  • What did they learn about their skills from assessing their work?
  • What aspect[s] of their work was particularly strong?
  • What aspect[s] of their work could use more development?
  • Where do they see growth in their work or skill set?
  • What additional support do they need to continue developing?
  • Is there anything they found particularly challenging or confusing?

Taking time to reflect on the experience helps students develop their metacognitive muscles. I would argue that students will learn a great deal more in a student-led workflow that requires that they think critically about their work and use their classmates as valuable resources in the process.

I know the fear that if you don’t grade work, then students won’t do it is real. However, I think our finite time and energy are better invested in designing dynamic student-centered learning experiences. How can we design learning experiences that are interesting, engaging, and position the learner as an active agent in the lesson? I believe shifting our focus and investing our time in design work to prioritize student autonomy and agency, instead of spending hours putting points and grades on practice and review, is likely to do more to motivate our learners over time.

If you are looking to create more balance in your approach to teaching, check out Balance with Blended Learning which explores strategies for shifting workflows, helping students develop their metacognitive muscles, pulling feedback and assessment into the classroom, and teaching students the skills they need to lead the learning.


Promoting Literacy: Cultivate a Reading Culture

Por Catlin Tucker — 8 de Setembro de 2021, 14:30

Guest post written by Amy Tobener-Talley.

September 8th is International Literacy Day, a great time to think about promoting a class culture that values reading. However, encouraging students to read in and out of class is challenging as small screens command much of their time and attention. It is becoming increasingly difficult to pry students away from Snapchat, Netflix, Spotify, Instagram, and video games to read anything longer than a snippet.

Based on the reading data I’ve collected from my students, the percentage of students reading well below grade level is rising. Just four years ago, approximately 10% of my students were reading below grade level. Today, an alarming 30% are below grade level, with 25% scoring well below grade level. Over half of my current students struggle to read and comprehend grade-level texts. This trend begs the question: How can we encourage our students to read both inside and outside the classroom?

Below are strategies and resources I’ve used to cultivate a reading culture in my classroom.

Booklist Assignment

 The Booklist Assignment is designed to help students select a book they’ll enjoy. It asks them to list 4-5 books they would like to read using various resources such as Goodreads book lists, Scholastic lists, local libraries, classroom libraries, or online book sources, like Epic Books or Lexia.

Silent Sustained Reading Routine

Once the students have chosen a book, we begin strengthening the reading stamina muscle. You can do this by asking students to record the amount of time they were genuinely engaged with their book during silent reading. The longer they are silently involved in reading, the better chance of getting immersed in a book. 

While students are reading, this gives you the chance to facilitate check-ins with each student. You can use this time to conference about their reading level, the grade level goal, and book choice. I often provide book recommendations to reluctant readers or students who are not enjoying the book they selected. I find that once this process starts, the avid readers in the room come alive recommending books to their classmates.

Reading and Response Assignment

As you build a reading culture, you can assign the “Reading and Response” as classwork, homework, or a combination of the two. I like to assign it as homework because I think it is essential that they are reading at home, but I also allow them to use silent reading time in class towards the requirements of the reading log. I find that this is an added incentive to get those reluctant readers to buy in. 

Reading logs are a controversial topic. Some educators love them; others loathe them. I occupy the middle ground on this one. One of the biggest complaints I hear about traditional reading logs is that it takes the joy out of reading when you are forced to keep track of what you are reading. For this is the reason, I created a reading log that keeps recording at a minimum but maintains the accountability piece.

Response to Reading Choice Board 

My students found it tedious to write a summary every time they read, yet I needed a strategy to gain insight into their reading comprehension. This was when I realized a choice board format could provide students with the agency to choose an activity that would work for them. I created the “Reading Response Choice Board” below and let students choose how they respond to their reading. Then, instead of making this assignment due each week of reading, I gave them time to work on one of the projects over a three-week period of time.

Cultivating a culture of reading doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and structured routines. These strategies are designed to help students explore books of interest, provide them with class time to engage with their books, and give them the agency to choose how they want to share their reading.

Amy Tobener-Talley teaches ELA, ELD, and Digital Technology at a dual-immersion language school in Sonoma County. She is bilingual (Spanish), Google certified, and passionate about leveraging her 15 years of experience to modernize teaching and learning. Using digital tools and blended learning techniques, she has created a student-centered environment in which her students engage and thrive in active learning online and offline.


Teach Students To Treat Their Learning Like They’re Making a Documentary

Por Catlin Tucker — 30 de Agosto de 2021, 00:41

Learning is a dynamic process that requires active engagement. Unfortunately, many students have gotten comfortable in their roles as passive observers or consumers in the classroom. Yes, that is a less cognitively and socially taxing role, but it is not nearly as interesting or engaging. This passive position also does not require that students think intentionally about their learning.

As we begin the new school year, students need to be at the center of learning and actively engaged in thinking, making, doing, discussing, and reflecting. An effective way to shift our students’ thinking about their role in the classroom is to teach them how to treat their learning like they are making a documentary. The beauty of this mindset is that it demands that students capture, reflect on, and share their learning.

The Subject: Students and Their Learning

The students and their individual learning journeys are the subjects of the documentary. They need to be curious to make a documentary. In this case, they direct that curiosity inward to explore the impact of their experiences on their thinking, feelings, and growth.

  • What am I learning? Why am I learning this? How is this relevant to my life?
  • What am I understanding? What is confusing? What resources do I have access to if I need support?
  • How am I learning? Which strategies or resources are working best for me?
  • In what areas am I demonstrating significant growth? In what areas am I struggling to make progress?
  • What “ah-has” or realizations am I having? How are those moments impacting my thinking?

Using Devices to Document Learning

Teach students to use their devices to capture visual media documenting their learning. Encourage your students to:

  • Take photos of work in progress, experiments, labs, art projects, etc.
  • Capture a progression or slow change with a timelapse.
  • Record videos of works in progress, presentations, or demonstrations.
  • Use audio capture to record notes, capture realizations, or document interviews.

They can use their phones, Chromebooks, tablets, or laptops. It’s helpful if they can save their media to the cloud where they can easily store, organize, and access it.

Organize and Save Documentation in a Digital Notebook

This documentation is best captured in a digital notebook or portfolio. The classic paper binder limits students to text and drawings. Yet, learning is rich and multidimensional. If you consider the experience of being a student in a lab conducting an experiment for science, it may be challenging for them to describe in words what they are seeing and noticing. If they can document the parts of the process with visual media, those images can support a more accurate and detailed reflection on their learning.

In addition to supporting the mentality of “treating learning like you’re making a documentary,” there are several benefits to a multimedia binder compared to a paper notebook. Students:

  • can incorporate media to bring their work to life.
  • access their work from anywhere with a device and wifi.
  • don’t have to carry around a heavy binder.
  • don’t have to worry about losing their work.
  • share their work with an authentic audience.

Depending on the collaborative suite (e.g., Google Sites or Microsoft OneNote) or learning management system (e.g., Canvas or Schoology) your school is using, there is an option for creating a digital notebook or portfolio.

When working with my students, I found it easier to allow them to self-pace through the process of setting up their digital notebooks. I created the following Google Document to walk them step-by-step through the process; then, I was freed to move around the room supporting students as they worked.

Thinking About Learning and Capturing Those Reflections

A critical aspect of creating a documentary is thinking about the storyline. In this case, students have to know themselves well to tell the story of their learning. This demands that they regularly reflect on their learning. What is their documentation revealing about their learning? What are they noticing about their understandings, skills, and growth?

You can support this reflective process by dedicating class time to it. After a learning experience, ask students to pair their visual media with an audio, video, or text explanation of what they learned. This reflective practice will help them develop their metacognitive muscles and better understand themselves as learners.

Creating Their Documentary

As the end of the semester or trimester approaches, you can ask students to pull their documentation and reflections together to produce a documentary about their learning using video creation tools. Students can also share these multimedia artifacts of their learning with their families to celebrate their growth. This can provide the people in your students’ lives with a window into their learning and progress that isn’t normally available to them.

Ultimately, documenting learning encourages students to take a more active role in the learning process and emphasize that this is their individual journey. They cannot be silent observers in a classroom. They must be engaged, curious participants who strive to know themselves better, and technology can support them in assuming more responsibility for their learning.



Choice Boards: Benefits, Design Tips & Differentiation

Por Catlin Tucker — 16 de Agosto de 2021, 19:05

Student agency, or a students’ ability to make key decisions about their learning experience, is an essential aspect of blended learning. Student agency requires that we design our lessons to offer students meaningful choices. These choices can help us universally design learning experiences that strive to remove barriers and invite students to decide how to engage with information, make meaning, and demonstrate their learning.

Choice boards fall within the umbrella of blended learning when we combine active, engaged learning online with active, engaged learning offline. Below is an overview of the benefits of using choice boards and the various types of boards you can design to meet a range of different objectives.

The Benefits of Choice Boards

  • Choice is a powerful motivator.
  • Learner variability means that not all students enjoy the same task.  
  • Students have more control over the pace at which they navigate the tasks.
  • Teachers are freed from orchestrating a lesson and able to conference with learners about their progress, provide feedback on work in progress, or conduct side-by-side assessments.

Designing Choice Boards

You can design choice boards for a variety of purposes or learning objectives. It’s essential to identify the purpose of a board to ensure your design aligns with that objective.

  • Standards-aligned boards
  • Strategy-specific boards
  • Thematic boards
  • Review and practice boards
  • Project or performance task boards

Standards-aligned Choice Boards

Standards-aligned choice boards provide students with multiple ways to engage with target standards. Each column focuses on a specific standard or skill. Then the various learning activities within each column allow students to engage with that standard or skill in a way that is appealing to them. Below is a deconstructed example that highlights the considerations you will want to make when designing your standards-aligned choice board.

Strategy-specific Choice Boards

Strategy-specific boards present learners with a variety of strategies to select from and can be used repeatedly. For example, a board can focus on presenting reading strategies as pictured below so that students can select a focus strategy each time they read a text. Similarly, you can create a vocabulary review board with activities students can choose from to practice and play with their new subject-specific or academic vocabulary.

Thematic Choice Boards

Thematic choice boards focus on a particular theme or topic. Elementary teachers may use their board to encourage a deep dive into a holiday, season, or weather pattern. Thematic choice boards can prioritize a topic we care about or value that does not appear in our standards. For example, teachers may want to create a well-being board to engage students in mindfulness activities or create a brain break board to provide “fast finishers” with activities to work on while other students finish a task.

Review and Practice Choice Boards

A review and practice board is an alternative to a traditional study guide. As students prepare for an assessment, create a board with activities that target key vocabulary, concepts, and skills. Then encourage students to select an item from each column to help them prepare for the assessment. This positions the learner to make key decisions about which activities would be most valuable as they work with vocabulary, concepts, and skills.

Project or Performance Task Choice Boards

Not all students express or communicate their learning effectively in the same way. Providing students with a project or performance task choice board allows them to select the project or task they want to work on to demonstrate their learning. This choice can translate into higher rates of completion and more robust finished products.

Subtly Differentiating a Choice Board

You can create three versions of the same choice board (advanced, regular, scaffolded) to ensure that the level of rigor and academic complexity is appropriate to different groups of learners in your class. If you create your choice boards using a digital document or slide deck, you can “make a copy” of your regular choice board and adjust them to challenge strong students or add additional supports and scaffolds for students who need them.

Alternatively, you could create a single choice board and color-code the squares to denote more challenging activities and tasks. For example, the choice board template below has blue and purple squares. The purple “stretch” squares are more challenging for students who are capable of academically rigorous work. These squares can be optional, or you can ask students who you think are ready for a stretch square to complete at least one activity or task from a purple square.

What will you do with your time while students work on a choice board?

Prioritizing student agency and removing barriers are significant benefits of a choice board. Still, the best aspect of using choice boards from a teacher’s perspective is the time and space they create for us in the classroom. As students self-pace through the items on a choice board, you are freed to spend your time working directly with individuals or small groups of learners.

The goal of this time from a teacher’s perspective should be to connect with learners and shift more time-consuming teacher tasks, like feedback and grading, into the classroom. When these tasks are done in the classroom with learners, they become an opportunity to engage learners in conversations about their progress and work.

Choice boards are versatile and can effectively shift students to the center of the learning experience by inviting them to decide how to spend their time and energy. This increased student agency also frees you to invest your time and energy in tasks that free you from the front of the room and allow you to work alongside students.


Vision Boards: Start the Year with a Visual Goal Setting Exercise

Por Catlin Tucker — 10 de Agosto de 2021, 21:11

When I began my doctoral program, one of my first assignments was to create a vision board. I was instructed to imagine my life in the future and create a visual to represent what I wanted that reality to look like. What did I want to be doing personally or professionally in five years? What was I hoping to accomplish or achieve? What did I want my day-to-day life to look and feel like?

I remember laying my big piece of butcher paper on the floor and contemplating my future. The images on my vision board ranged from personal hopes to future professional aspirations. I found the exercise powerful. It required that I have complete clarity about my goals and what I actively wanted to work toward.

In the day-to-day craziness of life, it’s easy to move from one task to another without stopping to take an inventory of where we currently are and where we hope to be one day. The same is true for our students. This is why I encourage teachers to guide students through the process of regularly setting goals for themselves. I want them to reflect on and articulate what they care about and want to work toward. Asking students to create a vision board for the year ahead is a fun, visual way to encourage students to think about their hopes, dreams, and goals. It is also a great way to learn more about the students we will be working with this year.

When you articulate the “why” or value of a vision board for your students, explain that the mental practice of visualizing has been shown to positively impact motivation, confidence, and physical ability (Ranganathan, Siemionow, Liu, Sahgal & Yue, 2004). Then guide them through the following process to support them in creating a vision board that is meaningful and motivating.

Creating a Vision Board

Step 1: Time to Reflect

Just like we ask students to complete a pre-writing or brainstorming activity to generate ideas for a writing assignment, it’s important to give them time to reflect on what is important to them personally and academically in advance of creating their vision boards. At this point, they can generate a list of words or create rough sketches to capture their thinking about specific goals they have for themselves this school year.

Step 2: Select a Medium

Students who prefer a tactile, offline experience can create a vision board on poster paper and sketch their images or create a collage from old magazines. Students who enjoy working online can create their collages using Canva or a Google Slide. Giving students the agency to decide how they want to create their vision board is critical to making this activity meaningful.

Step 3: To Share or Not To Share

Sharing a vision board may be a nerve-wracking experience for students. If students know they’ll be put on the spot to present their vision board for the class, it may limit the depth and honesty of the items on their boards. Instead of requiring students to share their vision boards with the class, they may feel more comfortable recording a short FlipGrid video describing one item on their vision board and what it represents to them.

I recommend that you create your own vision board in advance of assigning this activity to your students. Not only will this help you to clarify what you want to work toward or achieve this year, but you can share your vision board with your students to provide them with a model and help them get to know you.


Teacher Tips: Starting the Year with Station Rotation

Por Catlin Tucker — 5 de Agosto de 2021, 14:29

Guest post written by Amy Tobener-Talley.

The station rotation model is a great way to introduce your class expectations to a new group of students while simultaneously building relationships and developing your class community. In this post, I’ll share some strategies and resources I found useful when preparing to use the station rotation model at the beginning of the school year.

The first few weeks of the year can be anxiety-inducing. For years, I felt daunted by everything I was supposed to cover. I overwhelmed and bored my students with way too much information instead of focusing on getting to know them. I longed for a better way to start the school year. I wanted those first weeks to be engaging and interesting. 

In an effort to reimagine the first weeks of school, I decided to use the station rotation model to encourage my new students to interact with one another and learn about our class. I designed a collection of stations to encourage them to explore expectations for conduct, course requirements, goal setting, what it means to collaborate, etc. The results were incredible! I was able to breathe and enjoy the relaxing, student-centered atmosphere I had created. Instead of standing at the front of the room talking at them, students worked independently and collaboratively on the tasks at various stations. I was freed to circulate, facilitate, and connect with my students. 

My beginning of the year station rotations have evolved each year. Below are tips for preparing a station rotation, so they run more smoothly.

Station Rotation Preparation Tips:

  1. Create an overview of the first 2-3 weeks of school in your Google calendar planner or use Catlin Tucker’s template.

2. Design a mix of 4-6 online and offline activities that correlate with what you usually cover in the first few weeks of the school year. Create an overview of the rotations with links to resources and documents. I suggest adding the link to this overview document to your digital planner.

Note: This station rotation series pictured above is designed for a 6th grade English Language Arts class. The groups cycle through the six stations twice in two weeks. Feel free to make a copy of the documents and tailor them to your needs.

3. Organize and edit all of the documents your students will need and decide what you will use as evidence of learning (e.g., written responses, videos, observations, presentations).

4. Create a slide deck with hyperlinks and student instructions for each station. You may want to consider using video to provide directions in order to save time.

5. Put your students in predetermined groups or let them choose their groups to see who they want to work with. For more information on grouping strategies, check out this blog.

6. Create an assignment in your learning management system (LMS) and post the slideshow overview with instructions. Post separate assignments for each online station, so students can access all of the resources and digital documents they need to complete the assignments.

7. Provide students with meaningful choices in the rotation to remove potential barriers that might make it challenging for all students to access the content.

I hope these preparation tips help you use the station rotation model to design a more student-centered start to the year that is less stressful, frees you to engage with your students, and helps you build a strong community!

Amy Tobener-Talley teaches ELA, ELD, and Digital Technology at a dual-immersion language school in Sonoma County. She is bilingual (Spanish), Google certified, and passionate about leveraging her 15 years of experience to modernize teaching and learning. Using digital tools and blended learning techniques, she has created a student-centered environment in which her students engage and thrive in active learning online and offline.

🍎 Courses on Sale for Back-to-School!

My Getting Started with Blended and Online LearningAdvancing with Blended and Online Learning, and UDL and Blended Learning courses are on sale this August for teachers who want to do a deep dive into blended learning as they prepare for the new school year! If you are a leader and want a quote for bulk licenses, you can complete this form for getting started and advancing with blended learning courses or this form for UDL and blended learning!


Prepare For Fall: Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Blended Learning Self-paced Online Course

Por Catlin Tucker — 30 de Julho de 2021, 15:39

Dr. Katie Novak and I wrote UDL and Blended Learning: Thriving in Flexible Learning Landscapes to support teachers in developing a mindset, skill set, and toolset nimble enough to traverse any teaching and learning landscape with confidence. After a year and a half of uncertainty and now with concerns about COVID variants emerging again, we want educators to feel prepared to tackle whatever challenges come their way while providing diverse groups of students with engaging, inclusive, and accessible learning experiences.

When Katie and I work with educators, we stress that a shift to universally designing blended learning is a journey. It will take time and a willingness to pursue our own learning. I often say that I want teachers to think of themselves as the lead learner in a classroom. Our practice develops over time with experimentation, successes and failures, and student feedback. There is no endpoint when it comes to learning, which should be exciting!

We have been thrilled by the response to our book and wanted to design a self-paced online course grounded in UDL and blended learning principles that allowed educators to dive deeper into this work. We’ve designed the course so that each of the eight modules begins with a video with Katie or me. Then you decide which flexible pathway you want to take to learn more about the topic at the heart of the module (e.g., learner variability and flexible groupings). We have curated a collection of resources in each model (texts, videos, podcasts…depending on your preference!) so that you can choose your learning path. We know learner variability is the norm for all learners, including adult learners, which is why we wanted to build meaningful choices into this experience for you.

We challenge you in each module to take what you have learned and act on it. We’ve provided multiple options for how you might choose to reflect on, apply, and share your learning in each module. Again, we know that not all learners express or communicate their learning in the same way, so the options are designed to allow you to select a strategy that feels most comfortable for you.

Below is our introduction video to our course Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Blended Learning For All Students!

The course is composed of eight modules that align with many of the big ideas in our book. Each module has a guided note template for educators who want to capture their thinking and learning as they self-pace through the course. Below is an overview of the modules.

Module 1: Introduction to UDL

Module 2: Introduction to Blended Learning (BL)

Module 3: Variability and Flexible Groupings

Module 4: The Magic of Metacognition

Module 5: Designing Instruction That Is Equitable, Engaging, and Inclusive

Module 6: Educator as Facilitator

Module 7: The Power of Authentic Assessment in UDL and BL

Module 8: Module 8: Reflecting on Your UDL and BL Journey

Our course will be on sale for $49 in August to support teachers as they gear up for back to school! If you are a school leader interested in exploring a book and course pairing for your teachers, you can submit this form to get a quote for bulk course licenses and a discounted price on our book.

My Getting Started with Blended and Online Learning and Advancing with Blended and Online Learning courses are also on sale this August for teachers who want to do a deep dive into blended learning as they prepare to head back to school this fall!


Tract: Learning Pathways For Students Created By Students

Por Catlin Tucker — 22 de Julho de 2021, 18:38

As educators, we must strive to place students at the center of the learning experience, encourage them to learn through a lens of interest, and enjoy opportunities to pursue their passions. However, inviting students to choose their learning “path” in the classroom may feel daunting. How do we support students in identifying something they are passionate or curious about and provide the resources necessary to facilitate their learning?

Tract is an online community where students can share their knowledge, learn from one another, and connect with others interested in similar topics or activities. Tract offers students the tools and support needed to create dynamic learning experiences for one another. 

Students as Creators

As part of the Tract community, students can select a topic and create their learning path on that topic. They are encouraged to identify a topic of interest and create a dynamic learning experience around their content. There is even a learning path designed to help them develop their content. It walks them through a series of learning activities designed to help them become effective creators of content and includes the following challenges:

  • Identify your topic
  • Research your topic
  • Outline your learning path
  • Create your challenges to drive deeper thinking
  • Write your script
  • Record and edit
  • Present and publish

As any teacher can attest, creating a learning path demands critical thinking, careful planning, research, intentional sequencing, and the production or curation of resources to guide the experience. Designing learning experiences also reinforces and strengthens our understanding of topics. Tract provides students with a platform to create and share learning paths that combine short TikTok-like videos with fun challenges.  

Students Choose Their Learning Paths

Students can select a learning path on Tract that appeals to them. For example, students who want to hone their public speaking skills can choose the learning path titled “Give a Speech Like President Obama.” They watch a short video written and produced by a student and self-pace through the learning path. 

The learning path has a preview of the content, identifies the level of rigor (e.g., medium), and provides a category. Then the learner can preview the path to see if this is a learning experience they want to pursue. In the screencast below, you can see the learning sequence that walks students through the process of giving a speech. The path combines video instruction on writing and delivering a powerful speech and culminates in the students publishing their own speeches on a topic of their choice. 

Teachers looking to support students in pursuing passion projects or making the most of genius hour can leverage Tract to ensure that those student-centered learning experiences are rich and rewarding. Additionally, many of the skills required by content creators require that students apply skills many of us are required to teach, including reading, writing, research, speaking, and listening. Students are more likely to be interested in honing their research and writing skills to create content on a topic of their choice. Similarly, students learning will be more engaged if they have the agency to decide what they want to learn! 

Teachers can try Tract for free this year at! Just click “Request access” and enter the code CATLIN. I’d love to hear about the amazing things your students create!



Blended Learning: What It Is and What It Is Not

Por Catlin Tucker — 19 de Julho de 2021, 17:18

The pandemic has elevated the phrase “blended learning.” When schools closed or shifted to hybrid schedules, many institutions turned to blended learning to navigate the new demands placed on teachers and educational institutions. As an outspoken advocate for blended learning over the last 10 years, I was initially excited to see so much momentum in this area. However, as schools prepare to welcome students back for in-person learning, I’ve had several encounters with school leaders who seem to think that returning to in-person learning means there is no need for blended learning anymore. This perspective stems from a lack of clarity about what blended learning is and why it is valuable.

What Blended Learning Is

Let’s start with a clear definition.

Blended learning is active, engaged learning online combined with active, engaged learning offline to give students more control over the time, place, pace, and path of their learning.

A key aspect of this definition is positioning the students as “active agents” in the lesson or learning experience. The students should be doing the heavy cognitive lift of making meaning. In a blended learning environment, the students are doing the thinking, discussing, making, questioning, exploring, collaborating, and reflecting.

Blended learning can happen entirely in a classroom, online with strategic use of synchronous video conferencing sessions and asynchronous work, or a blend of the two. The idea that teachers returning to classrooms don’t need or won’t benefit from learning about blended learning models signals a lack of understanding about what this term actually means.

When compared to the whole group, teacher-led model, the benefits of blended learning include:

  • Giving students the agency to make key decisions about their learning
  • Differentiating more consistently and effectively
  • Partnering with students to begin personalizing their learning paths
  • Shifting control over the pace of learning to students

Teachers returning to classrooms for the new school year can leverage models like the station rotation, whole group rotation, flipped classroom, and playlist to design student-centered learning experiences that shift control to the learner.

When I work with teachers, I emphasize the value of building a dynamic skill set composed of many different approaches to designing and facilitating learning. Just like in life, no one tool solves every problem. The same is true for teachers. There is no single instructional model that will work for every learning outcome. We must approach our work with a high level of intentionality, selecting the best model for the objectives of a specific learning experience.

What Blended Learning is Not

It is also important to highlight what blended learning is not. A technology-rich classroom does not equate to blended learning. Every student can have a device and still not control any aspect of their learning experience. Simply adding technology to the mix does not mean students are active agents in the learning process or have opportunities to control the time, place, pace, and path of their learning.

I’ve also heard the phrases blended learning and personalized learning used synonymously, yet they are not the same thing. Blended learning creates exciting pathways toward personalization, but personalization requires a partnership between the teacher and the learner. This partnership is easier to achieve in a blended learning environment where teachers have the time and space to work directly with students, providing individualized instruction, support, and feedback. Conferencing is another routine that teachers can build into a blended learning environment that allows them to personalize a student’s learning experience more effectively. Conferencing creates regular opportunities to discuss student progress, identify areas of need, and customize their learning path to ensure they continue growing and developing.

Moving Forward

The last year and a half have presented myriad challenges for educators and educational institutions. With those challenges have come exponential growth. I want that momentum to continue. I don’t want teachers to hear the message that “The pandemic is over. We don’t need blended learning.” Returning to business as usual and teaching the same way we did pre-pandemic would be a lost opportunity to improve the quality of learning for students. Instead, teachers should be encouraged to continue blending active, engaged learning both online and offline to give students more agency regardless of the learning landscape.

Leaders looking to support teachers with self-paced online learning opportunities can request a quote for my Getting Started with Blended and Online Learning and my Advancing with Blended and Online Learning Courses!


Embrace Flexibility with Universally Designed Blended Learning

Por Catlin Tucker — 8 de Julho de 2021, 18:01

The variety of humans in a classroom is remarkable. Their needs, skills, interests, pacing, preferences, and language proficiencies are incredibly diverse. As educators, we have the challenge and honor to teach a dynamic and unique group of students each time a class period begins. Universally designing blended learning presents educators with the opportunity to transition from designing a single experience that is teacher-paced and teacher-led to a more flexible experience that gives the students more control over the pace and path.

I realize that flexibility can feel a bit daunting, both in our design work and as we facilitate a learning experience. It requires that we relinquish some of the control that comes with orchestrating a lesson from the front of the room. Ultimately, that is what universally designed blended learning is all about…a shift in control from teacher to learner. This shift in control demands that learners assume more responsibility for their learning. If our goal is to cultivate expert learners who are resourceful, strategic, and motivated, they need opportunities to drive their own learning.

So, what might flexibility look like when universally designing blended learning?

#1 Student-Paced, Free-Flow Station Rotation Lesson

The station rotation is a popular blended learning model that rotates students between online and offline learning activities. A station rotation comprises three types of stations: 1) a teacher-led station, 2) an online station, and 3) an offline station. However, the total number of stations varies depending on various factors, like the total number of students a teacher ideally wants at a station or the length of the class period.

A minor variation on this typical structure that prioritizes flexibility is to run the lesson as a “free-flow,” or student-paced, station rotation. Teachers can break the class into groups and ask students to start at a particular station and allow them to transition to the next station when they are ready. Instead of a teacher-paced rotation where students move after a set amount of time, the student controls the pace at which they navigate tasks and move around the room.

This design demands that the teacher-led station function more as a “drop-in,” which I always referred to as “Tucker Time.” During a free-flow lesson, I used my teacher-led station to provide feedback on work-in-progress (e.g., writing task, performance task, research project). That way, I could give each student who arrived at my station time to continue making progress on their work while I provided them with focused, timely, actionable feedback.

#2 Your Choice Station Rotation Lesson

Another variation on the station rotation is to design a series of stations (e.g., 5 or 6 total) and ask students to visit at least 2 or 3 of the stations during a rotation. That way, the students decide where they think they would benefit from spending their time and energy during a lesson. This works particularly well for a series of stations designed to help students review key vocabulary, concepts, or skills before an assessment. It is also a nice way to provide more personalized practice with skills or processes that students need more exposure to or time with.

Teachers may also use formative assessment data to identify a “must-do” station for each student and ask them to start the rotation at their “must-do” station. When they are done with the required station, allow them to choose the other “may-do” stations. That way, the teacher can ensure that students are hitting a station that addresses their specific needs based on formative assessment data.

It is helpful to conclude a “your choice station rotation” with an exit ticket that asks each student to identify the stations they visited, provide a brief explanation for their choices, and reflect on what they learned. This is a nice way to keep track of where students spend their time during a your choice station rotation.

#3 Choose Your Learning Path Adventure

One of my favorite blog posts to write last year was my choose your learning path adventure! When working with Dr. Katie Novak on UDL and Blended Learning, we provided an example of transforming an Engage NY/Eureka elementary math lesson into a choose your learning path adventure. It was fun to reimagine a typical whole group, teacher-led lesson through the lens of a choose your learning path adventure that positioned the student at the center of the learning experience.

Teachers can build a choose your learning path adventure in a choice board format where students move from left to right, selecting one item from each column. Alternatively, they can build a dynamic experience inside a digital slide deck with hyperlinks, embedded videos, images and graphics, and meaningful choices woven throughout. Teachers can design the experience to allow the students to decide 1) how they engage with information, 2) how they process, practice, and apply what they are learning, and 3) how they want to demonstrate their learning and reflect on the experience.

#4 Hyperdoc Lesson + Teacher Time Coaching Station

Another way to create flexibility in a lesson and allow students a high level of control over their experience is to design a hyperdoc, a complete lesson or learning cycle built inside a digital document (e.g., Google Documents or Google Slides).

A hyperdoc has everything a student needs to complete the lesson (directions, links, and resources), so they can self-pace through the experience. Students should also enjoy agency and choice as they move through a hyperdoc. Teachers can strategically pair students or create small groups to provide peer support as they work. Then the teacher is freed to run a help desk or coaching station. They can pull individual or small groups of students who would benefit from additional support, guided practice, reteaching, or feedback. These moments allow teachers to better meet the diversity of needs in a classroom.

There are myriad ways to universally design blended learning experiences that prioritize flexibility, honor learner variability, personalize the experience for students, and help to cultivate expert learners. If you want to explore the exciting intersection of Universal Design for Learning and blended learning, you can check out my book UDL and Blended Learning: Thriving in Flexible Learning Landscapes. Dr. Katie Novak and I have also completed a self-paced online course that will be on sale for $49 in August to support teachers as they gear up for back to school! If you are a school leader interested in exploring a book and course pairing for your teachers, you can submit this form to get a quote for bulk course licenses and a discounted price on our book.

My Getting Started with Blended and Online Learning and Advancing with Blended and Online Learning courses are also on sale this August for teachers who want to do a deep dive into blended learning as they prepare to head back to school this fall!


UDL and Blended Learning: Removing Barriers with Design

Por Catlin Tucker — 21 de Junho de 2021, 16:24

I like to compare the teacher’s work designing learning experiences to the work of an architect. In my new book with Dr. Katie Novak, UDL and Blended Learning, I share a story about working with an architect to design a new home after my family lost our house in the Tubbs Fire in 2017. Over a series of three meetings, my architect asked me countless questions about what I wanted in a home and how I used the space. He wanted to understand me to ensure that the home he sketched would fit my needs, preference, and lifestyle. In much the same way, teachers must get to know their students. How do they enjoy engaging with information? Do they work better on their own, with a partner, or in a group? What are they interested in or passionate about? Do they work best in particular environments? What avenues might work best for them to share their learning?

Below are three aspects of our design work that I encourage teachers to consider as they architect learning experiences for their students.

#1 Get To Know Your Students

The first step in our design work must be an effort to get to know our diverse learners. Without this crucial step, teachers fall into the practice of designing a single experience for all students. However, a one-size-fits-all approach to design does not provide equitable learning experiences. In an educational context, equity understands that different learners will need different inputs to reach a particular output. Some students will need more time, resources, and support to reach a particular learning objective successfully. Providing the varied inputs that learners need to thrive in a classroom demands that teachers have more than a single model for designing their learning experiences.

Engage Learners in Conversation
  • How will you get to know your individual students at the beginning of the school year?
  • How can you make time for conversations with individual learners?
  • How might you lean on digital tools (e.g., surveys, video recordings) to aid your understanding of your students?

#2 Establish Clear Objectives and Firm Goals & Select the Best Instructional Model

Teachers must believe all students are capable of meeting high expectations. However, different students will need different inputs and learning paths to get to a particular outcome or goal. It is that flexibility that demands our teachers have an arsenal of instructional models and strategies to choose from when designing learning experiences. Too often, teachers rely exclusively on the teacher-led, whole group model because that is what they were taught in teacher training programs. It’s still common to walk into classrooms with an agenda written on the board and the teacher positioned at the front of the room. In a teacher-led, teacher-paced lesson, students have little control and few opportunities to make key decisions about their learning experience.

I want teachers to explore the range of blended learning models available to them to select the best model for a particular outcome. The beauty of blended learning models is they shift control over the learning experience from teacher to student. This is a critical shift if we want to cultivate expert learners who are resourceful, strategic, and motivated. The qualities of an expert learner are impossible to cultivate when students are not asked to share the responsibility for learning in meaningful ways. If the focus is on compliance and following directions, learners do not have opportunities to become resourceful or strategic. Over time, the lack of autonomy and agency also negatively impacts a learner’s motivation.

As teachers use the range of blended learning models to combine active, engaged learning online and offline, they are freed from feeling pressure to spend large chunks of a lesson at the front of the room controlling the experience. Instead, these models create the time and space for teachers to work directly with individual or small groups of students. It is in these one-on-one and small group settings when we can be most effective at understanding where learners are and meeting their specific needs.

Create Flexible Pathways
  • Do you consistently anchor your design in grade level standards and articulate clear learning objectives?
  • How much control do students in your class typically have in your lessons? Do they get to make meaningful choices?
  • Which instructional models have you used with your learners? How much experience have you had experimenting with blended learning models?
  • What concerns do you have about designing learning experiences that shift students to the center of learning? What explicit skill building might need to happen to help learners be more successful as we shift the responsibility for learning to them?

#3 Identify and Remove Barriers

When I lead training sessions on blended learning models, I sometimes experience pushback from teachers concerned with the time it will take to make a video or design a station rotation. Yet, when we think about many of the instructional strategies we have used for years (e.g., lecture, discussion, written responses), there are myriad barriers that may make it hard for students to access information and share their learning effectively.

Last week at the end of a flipped classroom workshop, a teacher said, “Why would I spend time to make a video when I can present this information to the class?” I turned the question to the group and asked them to work with a partner to brainstorm all the barriers that might make it hard for all students to access information presented that way. Teachers identified the following factors that might create barriers: audio processing disorders, poor vision, attention deficit, distractions and day dreams, headache or illness, language proficiency, etc. So, if all those factors could be at play in a classroom, it makes sense to question whether a live lecture or whole group mini-lesson would be the best strategy for ensuring that all students can access the information we are presenting.

Taking time to identify barriers in our design work is critical.

Identify and Remove Barriers
  • What might make it hard for a student to process information presented verbally in a lecture or mini-lesson?
  • How might a whole group, real-time discussion make it challenging for some students to participate?
  • How might asking students to demonstrate their understanding in a written response distort our understanding of what they actually know or understand?

Once we have identified potential barriers, we can focus on providing meaningful choices and providing scaffolds in the lesson to remove those barriers.

The architect I worked with to rebuild my home created a blueprint. He designed a detailed plan customized to my needs, but he did not build my home. Instead, it was a team of contractors and subcontractors who did the laborious work of building the structure. Similarly, I want teachers to design learning experiences that invite the students to do the hard work of making meaning and constructing knowledge. Too often, the teacher does the heavy cognitive lifting in the lesson when it should the students doing it. The more intentional our design work, the more likely we are to create learning experiences that allow all students to be successful and encourage them to think, do, make, discuss, and reflect, which are critical to deep and meaningful learning.

Summer Learning Opportunities

If you want to do a deep dive into universally designing blended learning to remove barriers and create flexible pathways, you can order your copy of UDL and Blended Learning: Thriving in Flexible Learning Landscapes from Amazon or request a bulk order for a team of teachers (10+) who want to do a book study! Each chapter ends with reflection and discussion questions to guide those book study conversations.

Want to explore blended learning in an online course? I have two courses–1) beginning and 2) advancing– so you can choose the self-paced course that is the best fit for you! Both courses include video tutorials, templates, resources, and action items to help teachers explore blended learning models and design student-centered learning experiences that combine active, engaged learning online and offline. Teachers who purchase a license for either course will have unlimited and ongoing access to it, so you can continue learning all year long! Leaders looking to purchase bulk licenses to support teachers can complete this form!


Professional Learning Communities: Using the 5Es to Give Teachers Agency and Maximize Productivity

Por Catlin Tucker — 15 de Junho de 2021, 04:25

This challenging school year has made it clear that educational institutions and educators must be flexible and willing to adapt to a changing educational landscape. This will be easier to do if school leaders harness the talent on their campuses and create systems that encourage teachers to learn with and from each other.

Professional learning should not be relegated to a handful of all-staff training days. Those days may serve as a “spark” to ignite interest in a topic; however, without structures in place to help teachers take the ideas, strategies, and models presented and implement them, that spark will fade.

PLCs can be an effective way to build professional learning into the fabric of our schools. I’ve worked with high-functioning PLCs and those that flounder. The most effective PLCs I’ve worked with share similar characteristics.

  • School leaders provide dedicated time in the teachers’ schedules to meet each week.
  • The PLCs are composed of teachers who teach similar grade levels and/or subject areas.
  • There is a clear structure that guides the PLCs’ time together making it productive.
  • The members of the PLC determine the focus of their inquiry and learning.
  • Teachers are encouraged to share their learning and discoveries with the larger school community.

PLCs group teachers into learning teams that pursue their professional learning through a lens of interest. The learning teams that enjoy high levels of autonomy and agency tend to be more motivated and engaged. How can we provide PLCs with a clear structure to guide their work while allowing them the autonomy and agency to personalize their learning?

In the last year, I’ve encouraged school leaders, coaches, and teachers to consider using the 5Es instructional model to guide their work in PLCs. My rationale is two-fold. First, if teachers experience the power of the 5Es instructional model for their professional learning, they are more likely to use it to design student-centered inquiry. Second, the 5Es instructional model prioritizes teacher agency, which I don’t think we talk about enough in education. Teachers in one subject area, at one grade level, or teaching in one community are likely to face unique challenges and have different interests. PLCs need a structure that invites teachers to pursue learning that addresses pedagogical problems, challenges, and interests specific to that learning team.

The 5Es instructional model is composed of the following stages: 1) Engage, 2) Explore, 3) Explain, 4) Elaborate, and 5) Evaluate. Let’s explore how PLCs can use this model to guide their learning.

Engage: Develop a Question to Drive Your Inquiry Cycle

The PLC begins by engaging in a discussion or structured brainstorming session to identify areas of interest for this inquiry cycle. For example, what pedagogical problems are they currently facing? What is challenging about their teaching assignments? What are they curious about or wondering? What would they like to improve on or develop in their practice?

As a group, they identify an area of focus and craft a question to frame and focus their work together.

Explore: Let the Investigation and Learning Begin!

During PLC time and beyond, teachers commit to exploring the question that is driving their inquiry cycle. They may conduct online research, talk to colleagues, join a Twitter chat, connect with experts on social media, and/or commit to a book study. The goal is to learn as much as they can!

Explain: Time to Share Your Learning

Once the PLC members have had time to explore and learn on their own, they need to publish their learning for the group (and beyond). Each member of the PLC should have time to share what they discovered or learned during the exploration stage of the 5Es. This can happen in a real-time discussion during a PLC meeting or asynchronously via FlipGrid video recordings. This phase of the 5Es allows the group to share their learning and learn from one another.

I also encourage educators to share their discoveries and thinking with a larger audience by doing one of the following:

  • Write and publish a blog
  • Produce an original podcast
  • Create a video on the topic
  • Design and publish an infographic

When teachers take the time to produce artifacts of their own learning to share with an authentic audience, they tend to think more deeply about what they are learning (just like students!). Those artifacts can also function to support other educators who are also interested in the same issues.

Elaborate: Apply Your Learning

During the elaborate stage, the members of a PLC take what they learned and design a learning experience, implement a specific strategy, or employ a specific blended learning model. The goal of the elaborate stage is to solve a pedagogical problem, tackle a challenge, or pursue an area of interest.

Each member of the PLC will take what the team created or designed back to their classrooms to implement. They will all experiment with a specific teaching technique, strategy, or instructional model to see how well it addresses the issue at the heart of their inquiry cycle.

Evaluate: Assess the Effectiveness

Members of the PLC will need to collect artifacts of student learning and student feedback to evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy, technique, or model. The artifacts of student learning can be analyzed and discussed by the group to determine if the strategy, technique, or model positively impacted the problem, challenge, or issue driving this inquiry cycle. If so, how can they continue to improve and refine what they did? If not, what changes or modifications might need to be made before implementing it again?

It is also critical to ask students about their experiences. What did they enjoy? What did they find challenging? What recommendations would they make to improve the experience in the future? This feedback can help the PLC to continue improving this particular strategy, technique, or model.

The 5Es instructional model balances the need that teachers have for autonomy with a clear structure that will maximize their time together. Putting teaching teams in charge of their own learning will turn learning from an event into a process and reinforce the mindset that teachers are the “lead learner” in a classroom or on a campus. There is no end point to learning, which should be incredibly exciting. Most educators love to learn, so we need to harness that passion to empower teachers to become perpetual problem solvers capable of adapting to various demands of this profession.

We cannot afford to return to “normal” as schools reopen. In our conversation on my podcast, The Balance, George Couros defined innovation simply as “better ways of teaching and learning.” That’s what we need to be committed to as educators. Schools that embrace PLCs, carve out time for PLC members to work together, and provide both autonomy and structure are more likely to create a culture of learning on their campuses where everyone pursues better ways of teaching and learning.

Looking for a summer read? Check out my newest book UDL and Blended Learning: Thriving in Flexible Learning Landscapes!


End-of-the-Year Housekeeping: Reflect & Organize

Por Catlin Tucker — 6 de Junho de 2021, 18:46

The end of the school year is a great time to do a few “housekeeping” items. This is probably the last thing you feel like doing after the year we have had! Despite finding these chores tedious while doing them, I always feel more organized afterward. Doing these things also makes planning for the upcoming school year less daunting come August. 

  1. Reflect on Teaching

Reflecting on a school year that I am anxious to put behind me is hard. So as I get lost in thoughts of sunny days without agendas or homework, I gently encourage myself to revisit the planning guide that most of us create at the beginning of the year and loosely follow. Whether you use a planning guide or not, they are a great place to make notes on what worked well and what didn’t for you (and your students) this year. Ask yourself: What do I want to keep? What should I let go of? What needs some tweaking or reimagining?

This year presented an even more complicated set of circumstances as most of us sailed the uncharted waters of using new technology tools and experimenting with new technology-enhanced instructional strategies. You may need to ask yourself some additional questions: 

  • Which of the new tools that you explored this year would you like to not only use again but explore more thoroughly? 
  • Which of them didn’t work for you? Why didn’t they work? Should you abandon them or give them more of your time to see if there is something that you missed? 
  • Is there another technology tool or online resource that you didn’t get a chance to try that you might try next year?
  • If you used a learning management system this year (e.g., Google Classroom, Canvas, Schoology), what role will it play when you return to your classroom next year?

Taking time to reflect on the year when we are all exhausted may seem overwhelming, and it is, but time is of the essence. If I wait until the summer or closer to the next school year to do this, one of two things happens. Either I won’t do it at all (sad but true) or the information is not fresh and at my fingertips like it is right now.

I adapted one of Catlin’s templates and used it to create a Planning Guide that’s perfect for capturing my thoughts on the year. 

Whether you did or didn’t make a planning guide, you can use this document to record your favorite activities of the year, reflect on the outcomes, and record your thoughts about what changes you want to make next year. You can be as detailed as you want. Any items you are able to record become the basis for your planning for next year. Then, enjoy your summer and come back to it with fresh, rested eyes in August!

In a previous post titled Save Your Sanity with a Things to Revamp for Next Year List, Catlin shared her “things to revamp for next year” document, which is another format teachers can use to reflect and capture their thoughts.

2. Clean and Organize Files

At this point, most of us rely heavily on Google Drive or the equivalent to manage our documents. Here is another place that we can reflect, edit, or purge. 

Determine what you need to keep, what you can delete, and what needs to be organized into folders. Much like cleaning out your clothes closet, you can determine:

  • When was the last time I used this file or document?
  • Do I need to keep it or can I toss it?
  • Where should I file it so I can find it easily?

I remember hearing that if you haven’t worn something in your closet for over a year, you don’t need it. The same rule can apply to our files and folders. Just as a cluttered closet makes it challenging to find the clothes we want to wear, a cluttered Google Drive can bog us down and make it difficult to find what we need. Consider reorganizing your documents by topic, unit, skill set, or time period and color-code them for easy access. This can be a tedious task, so I recommend doing it in small bursts with frequent breaks. 

Start with organizing your folders by broader topics, then sort the individual documents accordingly. For example, if you are an English Language Arts teacher, you may want to consider a file labeled “Reading,” another labeled “Writing,” and yet another for “Speaking/Listening’.’ Additionally, you can create subfiles within those folders and organize your resources by novel, writing genres, or topic. You may also find that you have the energy to edit documents that you remember needed tweaking but didn’t have the energy or time for during the school year. 

Taking time to reflect on the year and organize your files is a great way to end the year, providing some much-needed closure and peace of mind. You’ll thank yourself when you sit down to begin planning for next year! 

This guest blog was written by Amy Tobener-Talley.

Amy Tobener-Talley has been a bilingual educator for 15 years. She currently teaches Language Arts and Technology at a bilingual public middle school. Amy graduated with a major in Spanish from California State University, Sacramento. Amy is a Google certified educator adept at designing engaging, student-centered digital curriculum and learning opportunities.

Leaders looking to support teachers with self-paced online learning opportunities this summer can request a quote for my Getting Started with Blended and Online Learning and my Advancing with Blended and Online Learning Courses!


UDL and Blended Learning: Thriving in Flexible Learning Landscapes (has arrived!)

Por Catlin Tucker — 3 de Junho de 2021, 19:16

Today is the official launch of my newest book UDL and Blended Learning: Thriving in Flexible Learning Landscapes! I had the pleasure of collaborating with Dr. Katie Novak on this project. We combined our expertise on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and blended learning to write a book designed to help teachers develop a mindset, skillset, and toolset that allows them to thrive no matter the educational setting–in class, online, or a blend of the two. Explore how you can universally design blended learning to remove barriers, provide firm goals with flexible pathways, and cultivate expert learners who are motivated, resourceful, and strategic!

Katie and I asked educators to submit their questions about the book! Below we answer some of your questions!

A Quick Introduction to the Book

You can listen to my podcast conversation with Katie about Universal Design for Learning here!

How Do I Make Station Rotations Work With UDL and Blended Learning?

If you want to learn more about the Station Rotation Model, here are a collection of blogs I’ve written about it!

How To Get Your Team Onboard with UDL and Blended Learning?

Looking for a book study title for your staff?

Each chapter of the book ends with a summarize, reflect, and discuss section perfect for a book study! If you are looking for a summer book club title for your staff, you can submit a request for a bulk order (10+ copies) using this form!

If you have questions, you can post them here, reach out on Twitter, or send me a message on Instagram!


5 End-of-the-Year Activities

Por Catlin Tucker — 25 de Maio de 2021, 04:54

As this year winds down, I encourage teachers to take the final weeks of the school year to create closure, collect feedback, and help students look forward. Needless to say, the 2020-2021 school year has been intense. Teachers and students alike are eagerly anticipating the summer. As tough as this year has been, there has been tremendous growth (even if it is hard to appreciate right now). Teachers have been challenged to develop their skill sets and toolsets this year. Even though many felt unprepared for and uncomfortable with many of the changes, they also honed new skills and learned how to leverage new tools.

Before you head out to enjoy some much-deserved rest, consider using one or more of the following activities to connect with your students and try to understand what worked, what didn’t work, and what might need to be modified or adjusted before the next school year. You have an opportunity to help your students reflect on the year and what they learned. You can also gather some feedback about instructional strategies, class routines, the curriculum, projects, and technology tools. You might be surprised by their answers.

Below are 5 fun end-of-the-year activities.

1. High/Low of the Year

I love a high/low structure for encouraging a quick reflective practice that provides insight into the student experience. The simplicity of the prompt leads to honest and thoughtful responses. Teachers can copy and use the slide deck below to create a single shared digital space for students to reflect on their high and low of the year. I encourage teachers to provide meaningful choices when it comes to how students express themselves. It will be a more meaningful exercise if students enjoy agency in terms of their expression. Do they want to compose a written response, draw, or record a video?

Alternatively, teachers can use this high/low prompt to engage pairs, small groups, or the whole group in a verbal share out in class.

2. “Still I Rise…” Poem (Inspired by NPR)

This morning I heard NPR’s resident poet Kwame Alexander introducing a new crowdsourced poetry project. He read several lines of Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise.” I got goosebumps, as I usually do when hearing Angelou’s poetry. I loved his idea of creating a community crowdsourced poem about how the pandemic and this last year have changed us. I thought this would be a powerful exercise to do with students.

Encourage your students to think about what they have learned this year and how the pandemic has changed their lives. How did they “rise” through it all? What do they hope life beyond the pandemic will be like? Ask them to write a poem (structure and style their choice) and begin with the phrase “Still I rise…”

You can have students publish their poems or read them aloud. You can even pull a line from each student’s poem to create a crowdsourced poem like Alexander plans to do with the poems that listeners submit to NPR.

3. End-of-the-year Exit Ticket or Feedback Form

Students have likely seen their fair share of digital exit tickets this year. Hopefully, they can stomach one more! An end-of-the-year exit ticket or feedback form is a quick way to encourage students to reflect on the year and provide valuable feedback. Given how tumultuous this year was, it is critical to check in with kids to see how the strategies, routines, and technology worked from their perspective. You can ask about specific likes and dislikes, request recommendations for improvement, and find out what they thought of specific units, texts, or projects.

My advice is to wait to read their responses until you’ve had some time to rest and relax this summer. This year has been draining, and the last thing you need is to be inundated with student feedback when you are spread thin and feeling exhausted by the demands placed on you this year. Give yourself some time to enjoy the summer! Your students’ responses will be waiting when you have more energy to process their feedback and use it to begin thinking about the next school year.

4. Drive Reflection with a Powerful Thinking Routine

Earlier this year, I shared a collection of thinking routines developed by Project Zero out of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. As I was coaching a teacher last week, it occurred to me that these thinking routines could be used to encourage students to consider what they learned this year and how it has impacted them (e.g., their identity, their understanding of key concepts or issues). For example, a teacher could present students with the connect, extend, challenge thinking routine and ask them to use it to reflect on what they learned in a particular class.

5. Capture This Crazy Year in a Time Capsule

Ask students to create a time capsule (format or form their choice) to capture this moment in time. The pandemic of 2020 will likely be something our students tell their children and grandchildren about. What artifacts from the last year can they collect to include in their time capsule? Is there music that saw them through this tough year (e.g., specific songs, artists, playlists)? Can they include lyrics or favorite lines? Did they find comfort in a favorite food, movie, or family game?

Encourage them to collect little mementos or take photos to capture these special reminders of the last year and write themselves a letter to include in their time capsule. Tell them to imagine they are trying to describe their lives during the pandemic to their future selves. What was lost? What was gained? How did the pandemic impact their routines, school, sports, family, or life? The more specific they are, the more meaningful this time capsule will be in the future!

If you have fun and creative ways to provide closure, collect feedback, and get students thinking about the future, please post a comment and share your ideas!



Blended Learning: Designing with Balance in Mind

Por Catlin Tucker — 18 de Maio de 2021, 15:58

I am concerned about the impact that the imbalances in education have on teacher engagement and job satisfaction. I know firsthand the toll that the imbalances caused by traditional workflows in education can have on a teacher. Those unrealistic workflows almost drove me out of education. That’s why the theme of balance has permeated my work for years. I host a podcast called The Balance and wrote a book titled Balance with Blended Learning because I see teachers struggling with balance in every coaching and training session I facilitate.

As I work with teachers, I stress the importance of balancing the various elements within the design of a lesson. When we design learning experiences with balance in mind, the output of a lesson will feel more balanced too.

There are several reasons it’s critical to consider balance when designing learning experiences. First, I do not want the teacher to do the lion’s share of the work in the lesson. The person doing the work in a classroom is the person doing the learning. So, students should do the heavy cognitive lift of making meaning and applying their learning. That belief has informed the way I define blended learning. Blended learning is “active, engaged learning online combined with active, engaged learning offline to give students more control over time, place, pace, and/or path of their learning.” This definition is grounded in a constructivist perspective that positions the student at the center of learning. They are not passive consumers but rather active participants. We must strive to design lessons that shift the focus and the control from teacher to learner.

Second, I want learning to be a partnership between the teacher and the student. Students must share the responsibility for learning. That means they need to be able to flex their metacognitive muscles by setting goals, tracking and monitoring their progress, reflecting on their learning, and assessing their own work. As Katie Novak and I write in UDL and Blended Learning: Thriving in Flexible Learning Landscapes (coming out May 29!), these are critical skills students need to develop if they are going to become expert learners who are motivated, resourceful, strategic, and capable of advocating for themselves.

Third, I do not want teachers to design learning experiences or use technology to isolate learners. Instead, I want them to cultivate a powerful learning community capable of making meaning together. Lessons that encourage conversation and collaboration are more likely to be engaging for students. They also help students to view one another as valuable resources in the classroom. Instead of the teacher being the only source of information, support, or feedback, students develop the skills necessary to be resources for one another.

The next time you sit down to design a lesson, ask yourself…are these elements balanced? If not, can you modify your design to create more balance? How might balancing these aspects of your lesson yield a more engaging experience for you and your students?

Teacher Voice Student Voice
Online Learning Activities Offline Learning Activities
Individual Tasks Collaborative Tasks
Practice Activities Creative Tasks
Teacher Feedback Peer Feedback
Teacher Controls the Pace Students Control the Pace
Teacher Directed Learner Choice
Teacher Assessment Self-Assessment

If teachers design their lessons with a high level of intentionality and strive to balance the various elements within the lesson, there are several potential benefits.

  • Teachers will have more time to interact with and support individual or small groups of students to differentiate instruction, supports and scaffolds, practice, and application.
  • Students will be more interested and engaged because they have more control over their learning.
  • Students will develop their metacognitive and self-regulation skills.
  • Students will learn how to be valuable resources for each other when it comes to feedback and collaboration.
  • Teachers will have more success building a dynamic learning community because students have more opportunities to learn with and from each other.

As we blend technology and tradition moving forward, there is an opportunity to re-evaluate our approach to designing and facilitating learning experiences to better meet the needs of diverse groups of students and lighten teachers’ loads. Instead of feeling pressure to do it all, I would love to see teachers share the responsibility for learning with students by designing lessons that encourage them to take an active role in the learning process.

After a challenging year, I worry about teacher engagement. My doctoral research indicated that a teacher’s work designing learning experiences is cognitively engaging. Higher levels of perceived student engagement are emotionally engaging. Finally, the quality of a teacher’s relationships with students is socially engaging. Since these aspects of a teacher’s work are critical to their engagement, teachers benefit from spending time and energy designing balanced learning experiences that engage students and allow them to connect with learners. However, they are unlikely to have the time or energy for this design work if they are overwhelmed by stacks of literal or digital assignments. Instead, I’d like teachers to consider the role students can play in providing each other with peer feedback, helping each other make meaning, and assessing their own work. Shifting the responsibility for learning to students helps them develop a better understanding of themselves as learners and frees teachers to invest their finite time and energy in aspects of their work that they find engaging and rewarding.

Leaders looking to support teachers with self-paced online learning opportunities this summer can request a quote for my Getting Started with Blended and Online Learning and my Advancing with Blended and Online Learning Courses!


Removing Barriers with UDL and Blended Learning

Por Catlin Tucker — 11 de Maio de 2021, 05:25

Recently, a teacher posted a comment to my blog lamenting that direct instruction consumed much of the class period. Like many, this teacher felt intense pressure to teach the standards and wasn’t sure how to embrace Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and blended learning. This is not unusual. There is often a tension created by the pressure put on teachers to cover content with the student-centered approach to learning described by UDL and blended learning. I understand the pressure teachers feel to cover the standards and move through their curriculum. We can indeed cover more ground when we present information in a traditional lecture format, but that doesn’t mean students understand the information.

Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggens point out in Understanding by Design that understanding is not simply acquiring information or facts. Understanding is demonstrated when students do something meaningful with that information. In other words, can students transfer that new learning to a novel situation? So, we can present information via direct instruction to help students acquire facts, but that doesn’t mean they understand. The goal of our design must be to remove barriers and help students progress from simple acquisition of information to meaning-making and then to transfer.

Whole group direct instruction is often used to transfer information. Yet, this approach to instruction creates barriers that make it challenging for all students to be successful. The class may include students with a hearing impairment, auditory processing disorder, or attention deficit disorder. The same class may have students who don’t have the necessary prior knowledge or language skills to understand the information presented. The teacher may use academic or subject-specific vocabulary unfamiliar to a student with limited background knowledge or who is not a native English speaker. Other students may struggle to stay focused because they are distracted or having an off day. These issues can be exacerbated by the speed at which a teacher talks or presents new information.

So, if a teacher wants to present information, UDL encourages them to present that information in multiple formats, allowing students to engage with information in a way that feels accessible. For example, if a science teacher wants to present information on biodiversity, they can offer students multiple options to engage with the concept of biodiversity. They can find a podcast (e.g., Listenwise), an online article, or a video on biodiversity. Then students can decide whether they would enjoy listening, reading, or watching information on this topic. The benefit of these formats is that students have a higher degree of control over the experience as compared to a whole group presentation. They can pause or rewind an audio recording or video, look up an unfamiliar word in a text, enlarge the font size on their screen, or add closed captioning to a video. All of these adjustments can make the information more accessible.

#BlendedUDL Tip: When you design a lesson, think about the parts and consider the barriers that may make it challenging for students to be successful. How can you proactively remove those barriers?

After engaging with information in a format that feels accessible, students can transition to an activity of their choice designed to help them make meaning. This is where blending active, engaged learning online with active, engaged learning offline can provide learners with meaningful choices. For example, teachers can merge a “choose your own adventure” mentality with the station rotation model. Instead of requiring that all students visit each station and complete every task, teachers can present students with a series of learning activities and ask them to visit at least two stations. That way, students get to decide which learning activities they would benefit from and enjoy. This type of student-directed learning can also help teachers cultivate expert learners who know what they need from a learning experience.

Station 1: Teacher-led The teacher provides follow-up instruction complete with additional visuals and examples for any student who feels like they need more support understanding the concept of biodiversity.
Station 2: Online Station Students spend time engaging in an asynchronous online discussion/debate about possible threats to biodiversity.
Station 3: Offline Station Students create a flow chart or concept map with paper and markers that visually displays the meaning of the word biodiversity.
Station 4: Online Station Students select a specific habitat to research and share their learning about the biodiversity in that habitat in writing, video, or a visual format (their choice).

#BlendedUDL Tip: Leverage a strategic mix of online and offline learning to give students agency and create time to work with small groups of learners.

Once students have had time to work with and make sense of the new information and concepts they’ve acquired, teachers can challenge them to take that new information and do something meaningful with it. Instead of asking them to regurgitate facts, how can we encourage students to apply their learning in a new or novel way? As teachers design tasks that challenge students to transfer their learning, it’s another opportunity to remove barriers by inviting them to decide how they’ll most successfully communicate and express their learning. Just like the transfer of information can create barriers, so can our strategies for measuring learning and assessing understanding. Some students may prefer offline strategies involving writing, drawing, or designing, while other students will prefer to use technology and create digital artifacts of their learning. The variability among learners demands flexibility in our design and assessment of learning.

Teachers want all students to be successful. Yet, some teaching strategies create barriers that impede student progress. If we take time to assess potential barriers for learners with disabilities, second language learners, and students who have unique strengths, weaknesses, or learning preferences, it’s clear we need to think about the design and facilitation of learning with that diversity of needs in mind. This is where the combination of UDL and blended learning has the potential to be so powerful. Teachers can universally design blended learning experiences that proactively remove barriers and allow students to make key decisions about their learning.

Want to learn more about UDL and blended learning? Dr. Katie Novak and I are excited to announce that our book UDL and Blended Learning: Thriving in Flexible Learning Landscapes will be available at the end of May! If you would like to order books in bulk to facilitate a book study with your staff, you can submit your requests here. Each chapter ends with questions and activities you can use to get teachers thinking about how to design learning experiences to support all learners!


Universally Designed Blended Learning

Por Catlin Tucker — 3 de Maio de 2021, 14:59

There are two things I am certain of in education. First, learner variability is the norm, not the exception. Second, technology is here to stay. So, how do we design and facilitate learning experiences to remove barriers and allow all students to succeed? How can we leverage technology to provide meaningful choices within a learning experience and create the time and space needed to work with individual students or small groups of learners?

In my upcoming book, I teamed up with Dr. Katie Novak to explore the complementary nature of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and blended learning. Below you will find italicized excerpts from the first chapter of our new book woven into the text below.

UDL is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn.” UDL celebrates learner variability as an asset in the classroom. UDL recognizes that every class comprises a wide range of learners with various needs, skills, experiences, knowledge, and interests. Each student will encounter unique barriers, enjoy engaging with information in different formats, thrive in different learning scenarios, have particular preferences, benefit from varying levels of support, and communicate their learning differently.

Every student, regardless of variability, deserves the best opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge regardless of the learning landscape. For too long, schools were designed for those students who were the mythical average learners at the expense of students who had unique needs and challenged teachers to the limits of their commitments, insights, and skills. When we accept that learner variability is the norm, we begin to design with that reality in mind.

However, the events of the last year have made it clear that educational landscapes can shift at any time. In the last 15 months, teachers have been asked to teach in person, online, and various combinations of the two. As soon as teachers got their bearings in one teaching and learning landscape, things shifted. It was an exhausting and often frustrating experience. Moving forward, Katie and I want teachers to have a skill set nimble enough to navigate any teaching and learning landscape.

Education today requires flexibility and agility. We are called to design and deliver curriculum and instruction that engages learners in face-to-face settings, during hybrid instruction, and when learning is remote, and back again. We don’t need two vehicles, or two different sets of skills, to meet the needs of learners in a flexible learning landscape. Instead, we need to develop a skill set that is adaptable enough and flexible enough to travel from the bumpy, cobblestone streets of traditional education to the choppy waters of learning in the cloud.

To meet the needs of diverse learners in flexible landscapes, educators need more than a single framework. UDL provides a foundation that reminds us that the goal of school is to teach students how to become motivated, resourceful, innovative learners, and help them prepare for the lives they want to live. To do this, we have to embrace blended learning so they can seamlessly traverse from in-person, hybrid, online, and back again.

In my previous books, I’ve defined blended learning as the combination of active, engaged learning online with active, engaged learning offline to give learners more control of the time, place, pace, and path of their learning. This definition is grounded in constructivist principles and positions students at the center of learning. This fundamental shift in control from teacher to learners is key to helping us reach those goals of developing more motivated, resourceful, and innovative learners.

In my previous books, I’ve explored what blended learning looks like in action, encouraged leaders and coaches to power up blended learning by building a professional learning infrastructure, and described how teachers can leverage blended learning to partner with students and create more balance in their lives. This book creates a bridge between the UDL framework and blended learning. This bridge will help leaders and teachers understand how to universally design blended learning. We want to universally design to celebrate learner variability, remove barriers, give students agency, and cultivate expert learners. This book highlights how blended learning, in general, and the models, specifically, can make those objectives easier to accomplish!

Katie and I are excited to share this book with you later this month! In the meantime, we wanted to invite you to submit your questions about our new book, UDL, and blended learning. We will be responding to your questions and posting the answers! You can post your question on Twitter using the #BlendedUDL or submit your question to this form!


Peer Feedback: Making It Meaningful

Por Catlin Tucker — 27 de Abril de 2021, 20:50

Feedback is how students feel seen and supported. It is also how we communicate to our students that we value the process over the product. When we give feedback as students work, we signal that the work they are doing is important, and we care about their progress.

Teachers want to give students timely, focused, and actionable feedback, yet it is easy to neglect. Traditional approaches to providing feedback are time-consuming and often require hours of work beyond the school day. Given the bombastic pressure on teachers this year (and every year), I’ve been working on strategies to help support students in giving each other feedback. As a learning community, all members should play a role in providing thoughtful and substantive feedback.

Peer feedback is most effective when it is focused, and students have clear guidelines for giving feedback. Below are three strategies designed to make peer feedback meaningful.

Peer Feedback Choice Board

Choice is a powerful motivator. Giving students meaningful choices can help them to successfully complete tasks. So, why not use this format for peer editing? Building student agency into the peer feedback process removes barriers and encourages students to provide feedback through a specific lens. Based on what a student sees in the work they are reviewing, they may be drawn to one option on the choice board over another.

Teachers working with younger students or second language learners can create a choice board with sentence frames to provide students with additional support as they give each other focused feedback. For example, under the box labeled “Greatest Strength,” teachers could rework that as a series of fill-in-the-blank statements. The strongest part of this draft was ________. I thought _______ was done well. I really liked _____. Each option in the choice board could be composed of fill-in-the-blank statements that students complete. This approach to designing a choice board for peer feedback gives students agency and choice while providing the necessary scaffolding to make this activity accessible.

Assignment Checklist

It is challenging to “see” our own mistakes, but another student can provide a set of fresh eyes when reviewing a draft. Before submitting a finished product, teachers can provide students with a checklist of items required in the work. These are often the same things that teachers outline in the initial description of the assignment, task, or project. For example, English teachers may have expectations around font size and type, spacing, indentation, quotes, and citations. As students move through the writing process, they may forget some of these requirements and benefit from a peer editor who can review their work to ensure it complies with the stated guidelines for the assignment.

When using a checklist to guide peer feedback, I recommend the following:

  • Pair students strategically
  • Articulate the value of peer feedback
  • Review the expectations and format for peer feedback with the class
  • Give students time in class to provide each other with peer feedback
  • Limit the number of items on the checklist to avoid overwhelming students
  • Encourage students to make notes on the checklist identifying gaps, missing elements, formatting errors, etc. but to avoid making notes on the other student’s work

The checklist approach is designed to help students clean up easy-to-correct mistakes before submitting their work. Instead of making any edits for the other person, the peer reviewer identifies areas where the student will need to spend time editing or developing their work.

Peer Review Using Rubrics

Rubrics are like roadmaps. They provide clarity about what students are working toward. I believe rubrics should be provided at the start of any assignment, task, or project that will be assessed using a rubric. That way, students can reference the rubric as they work.

If teachers create a standards-aligned rubric that includes descriptions for what the individual skills “look like” on a scale of 1 (beginning) to 4 (mastery), students can use a modified version of that rubric to give peer feedback in the form of an informal assessment. Teachers can add a column to their rubric that encourages students to provide a brief explanation for each score they give their partner.

This approach has the added benefit of helping students get familiar with the rubric that the teacher will use to assess their finished products. As they read the language on the rubric and evaluate their peer’s work, they may realize that aspects of their own work need development or revision.

These peer feedback strategies can be used individually or in combination to provide ongoing support at different stages in the process. Peer feedback aims to engage the learning community in the process of thinking about the work they are doing and supporting each other. These peer feedback activities position students at the center of the learning and require that they think critically about each other’s work. These peer feedback routines can also lighten the load for teachers because they are no longer the only source of high-quality feedback in the classroom.

Leaders looking to support teachers with self-paced online learning opportunities this summer can request a quote for my Getting Started with Blended and Online Learning and my Advancing with Blended and Online Learning courses!


Pile of Words: Drive Deeper Engagement with Vocabulary at the Beginning of a Unit, Text, or Project

Por Catlin Tucker — 18 de Abril de 2021, 17:36

Each new unit, text, or project presents learners with vocabulary words that may be new and unfamiliar. So, how do we get students to think more deeply about vocabulary? How can we make learning new vocabulary more engaging and meaningful? Matthew Perini, Harvey Silver, and Jay McTighe propose a simple yet powerful strategy called “pile of words.”

I love the pile of words strategy because it positions the students at the center of learning. Instead of the teacher simply pre-teaching vocabulary or presenting a word bank or word wall of key terms, the pile of words strategy challenges students to engage in conversation, work collaboratively, and think critically about vocabulary.

Here is how it works!

Step 1: Think about the unit, text, or project you are about to start and create a list of vocabulary words and key terms.

Select a list of vocabulary words and terms central to the unit, text, or project you are about to begin with your students. When I piloted this strategy with my students, who are teacher candidates, I shared the following pile of words from a text we were about to begin.

The size of your pile of words should be large enough to allow for sorting and grouping without overwhelming learners. If you are working with younger learners, you may want to keep your pile of words smaller. A third-grade teacher might present students with six words, whereas a tenth-grade teacher might present 15-20 words. You are the best judge of how many words you think your students can handle for an exercise like this.

Step 2: Group students and give them time to discuss and define.

Give students time to discuss and define the words. Which words do they know? Which do they need to define using online resources? Encourage them to capture their definitions in their notes so they are easy to reference throughout the unit, text, or project.

If you are working with younger learners, you may want to provide resources they can use to look up unfamiliar words or even provide them with definitions after they have had the opportunity to discuss and define the words they do know.

Step 3: Group the words into categories by shared characteristics and label each category.

Once students have defined the words, they should work collaboratively with their group to create categories. Which words share common characteristics? What would you label this category of words to reflect their commonality? Put the words with shared characteristics together in a category and give that category a name or label.

My students worked in breakout rooms using a Jamboard to organize and label their words. I invited them to make as many categories as they needed to sort and group the words.

The categories students create and the labels they assign to each category provide insight into their thinking. This step provides informal data about what they know and what gaps or misconceptions exist.

Step 4: Ask students to make predictions about what they expect to learn based on the pile of words.

After sorting the words into categories and generating a label for each, ask them to take a few minutes to review the words, categories, and labels and make a prediction about what they expect to learn based on this pile of words. What big ideas would they expect to explore studying this unit, reading this text, or working through this project?

Step 5: As students progress through the unit, text, or project, ask them to revisit their predictions.

Prompt students to revisit these predictions as they make progress through this unit, text, or project. Were their predictions accurate? Do they need to be refined based on what students are learning? Are there additional vocabulary words or terms they want to add to their pile of words?

I modeled this strategy with my teacher candidates hoping that they will use it to drive deeper learning. I created the template below to support them in using this strategy online or in a blended learning environment. Although I included six possible groupings in the “group and label” section, it’s important to tell students that they can create as many groups or categories as they need and to feel free to customize the template.

Pile of Words Template

The beauty of this simple strategy is that it can be used at any grade level or in any subject area to drive deeper thinking about vocabulary.

Looking for simple yet powerful strategies designed to drive deeper learning? Check out Jay McTighe and Harvey Silver’s book Teaching for Deeper Learning!

Leaders looking to support teachers with self-paced online learning opportunities this summer can request a quote for my Getting Started with Blended and Online Learning and my Advancing with Blended and Online Learning courses!


Will Existing Mental Models Threaten Post-pandemic Progress in Education?

Por Catlin Tucker — 11 de Abril de 2021, 18:05

Over the last 14 months, people have asked me, “What do you hope the silver lining of this tough year will be?” I hope educators and educational institutions use this year and the lessons learned to reimagine “school” and how we design and facilitate learning. Yet, I worry that won’t happen. I fear schools will revert to what is comfortable and what aligns with existing mental models instead of questioning the status quo, taking inventory of the lessons learned this year, and paving a new path forward.

Stagnation or Progress

Since the pandemic began, I’ve worked with thousands of school leaders and educators. Much of that time has been focused on how to teach in online or blended learning environments. That was important work necessary to meet the short-term demands of the pandemic. However, to make significant and sustainable long-term changes in education, our perceptions of what teaching and learning “look” like have to fundamentally shift to avoid stagnation and make progress.

The rapid proliferation of technology combined with the closure of schools due to COVID were powerful change agents that placed enormous pressure on educational systems this year. Some educational systems made significant progress or changes to adapt to the demands of the moment, while others stagnated and floundered.

Many factors contribute to stagnation. Some schools struggled to embrace the flexibility and affordances of online learning and instead attempted to replicate the traditional school day online. Others did not have the infrastructure, devices, or professional learning necessary to navigate this sudden shift online. Yet, I believe the most powerful force at work maintaining the status quo is our mental models about teaching, learning, and school. I fear these mental models will cause many leaders, teachers, parents, and school systems to embrace a return to pre-pandemic norms without questioning what has been gained in this year that is worth retaining.

The Power of Mental Models

Mental models are deeply held assumptions, ideas, and images we have about how the world works. Caroll and Olsen (1988) defined mental models as rich and elaborate structures that reflect our understanding of what a system contains, how it works, and why it functions the way that it does. These mental models are often unconscious and are formed as a result of our life experiences. They have a powerful impact on the way we view the world and how we act in it.

Most educators, myself included, entered this profession guided by mental models about the educational system formed by our experiences as students. Teacher training programs likely reinforced those mental models.

When I began teaching, I believed the following to be true.

  • The teacher is the expert.
  • Learning happens in classrooms.
  • Students move from class to class on a set schedule.
  • Classes are composed of students who are the same age.
  • All students in a class should complete the same assignments.

These statements on the surface may seem innocuous, but they serve to create stagnation in the face of change agents. For example, if teachers see their role in a classroom as “expert,” they design teacher-centered lessons where they spend significant time at the front of the room–physical or virtual–talking and transferring information. As a result, students spend much of their time quietly listening and receiving information.

Mental models make it hard, even scary, for educators and educational systems to rethink rigid schedules, seat time requirements, pacing guides, and traditional approaches to instruction. I believe these are aspects of education we have the opportunity to re-evaluate and reimagine in the wake of COVID. We do not have to return to school exactly as it was before the pandemic. Instead, we must ask, “How can we take the best aspects of teaching and learning from the last year and incorporate them into our future work with students?”

Unearthing Our Mental Models

The first step in changing a mental model is to unearth and understand it. Failure to identify and name the mental models driving our actions and decisions will undermine any effort to make long-term change in a system. The process of uncovering existing mental models requires that leaders and educators take time to consider the images, assumptions, and stories they have about what it means to be a teacher and a student as well as what learning looks like and where it takes place.

When you hear the words “teacher” or “student,” what images come to mind? What is that person doing? What are their primary roles and responsibilities? How do they interact with other members of the learning community? The answers to these questions are likely reflections of our past experiences in school systems.

Once we have unearthed our mental models and consciously understand what drives our thinking and decision-making about teaching and learning, we need to think about what we want teaching and learning to look like in a post-pandemic world.

As a blended learning advocate, I encourage educators to design and facilitate learning experiences that:

  • Place students, not teachers, at the center of learning.
  • Prioritize student agency and invite students to make key decisions.
  • Encourage communication and collaboration among students.
  • Remove barriers and meet individual students where they are at.
  • Leverage technology strategically to transfer more control over the time, place, pace, and path of the learning experience to the students.

Constructing New Mental Models For a New Age in Education

Many leaders and educators acknowledge the value of student centered-learning, student agency, social learning, differentiated and personalized learning, and learner control over elements of their experience, like pace. However, these beliefs about learning may stand in stark contrast to the mental models people have constructed based on their expeirences in school 10, 20, or 30 years ago.

To make long-term change, we have to construct new mental models that support and reinforce these new approaches to teaching and learning. Two people can observe a scene, like students chatting in a classroom, and draw totally different conclusions about what is happening based on their mental models.

If leaders and teachers value communication and collaboration among students, the mental image that comes to mind when we think of a classroom will include chatter, noise, movement, and flexible seating arrangements. We cannot say we value social learning and become anxious or concerned if we enter a classroom where students are talking and making noise. Our mental models communicate that a scene playing out in a classroom is either positive or negative.

It took me a long time to reconstruct my image of what a productive classroom looked like, from a quiet space where students sat in rows and worked alone to a buzzing hive of conversation, collaboration, and movement. I had to spend time in classrooms where students engaged with one another to learn to appreciate that creativity and learning can happen in these vibrant student-centered environments.

I believe a backward design can help construct new mental models. What do leaders and teachers want to work toward? What do you value as a school community? Once a clear vision has been established, describe what teaching and learning will look like in this future state. If leaders and teachers identify student agency as a value or pillar of learning, what will that look like in action? What would you expect to see in classrooms?

Leaders must also engage stakeholders in conversations about what worked during this tough year. Which instructional models were most effective? What learning activities successfully engaged learners? Which technology tools were most useful? The answers to these questions can help schools identify aspects of online or hybrid learning they want to retain.

Similarly, teachers should collect feedback from students about their experience. What worked well for them this year? What was challenging or frustrating? What aspects of online or hybrid learning would they encourage teachers or schools to keep?

Although this year has presented educators with myriad challenges, there has also been exponential growth. I hope schools take time to understand what worked well, what didn’t, and how existing mental models among staff members will either function to support or impede innovative change moving forward. Instead of wishing to return to pre-pandemic school, how can we take the lessons learned this year and pave a new path forward?

Leaders looking to support teachers with self-paced online learning opportunities this summer can request a quote for my Getting Started with Blended and Online Learning and my Advancing with Blended and Online Learning Courses!


Streamlining Student Questions in a Concurrent Classroom

Por Catlin Tucker — 1 de Abril de 2021, 16:19

One of the challenges teachers in concurrent classrooms face is feeling torn between the needs of students in two learning landscapes simultaneously. Teachers feel guilty because they know one group of students is commanding more of their time and attention. Often, the students in class monopolize the teacher’s time and attention because they can raise a hand or blurt out a question.

As I work with teachers in this challenging teaching assignment, we set up a two-part protocol for questions.

Step 1: Use Your Resources

First, students need to understand that we value their questions, but there are moments in a lesson when we won’t be available to offer an answer or provide support immediately. If we are already working with another student or a small group of students, what can they do to answer their own questions?

  • Can they ask Google and do a quick online search?
  • Can they search for a YouTube video tutorial?
  • Can they ask a classmate?

Students must begin to use their resources online and within the class community to become problem-solvers. Instead of immediately asking the teacher for help when they hit a bump or get stuck, let’s encourage them to try and “figure it out” on their own first. If that doesn’t work, then they can ask the teacher a question.

Step 2: Submit Your Question or Request for Help

If students are unable to answer their own questions, streamline submissions using a single channel. The in-class and online students should have the same access to you in the lesson. That is hard to do if the students in-class can raise a hand or verbally request help. Instead, I encourage teachers to ask all students to submit questions using the same avenue. That makes it possible for teachers to work through the requests equitably.

Google or Microsoft Form

Create a Form for all questions or requests for help. That way, all requests are shuttled to the corresponding spreadsheet, where they are timestamped. The teacher can keep the spreadsheet open on a device and respond to questions or requests for help in the order they are received.

LMS Messaging System

If students are using a learning managements system (LMS), like Canvas or Schoology, to access resources and assignments, teachers may want to use the messaging system inside of their learning management system to streamline questions and requests.

Remind App

Teachers who use the Remind app to send class announcements can ask all students to submit questions and requests via Remind. Those requests appear in order, and the teacher can record a short audio explanation for the student, which may save time responding to students. It also provides a more personalized way to provide support for our online students instead of a text-based response. Another advantage of using Remind is that it lights up a phone with a notification, like a text message, so teachers moving around the room can carry their phones instead of feeling tethered to a laptop.


ClassroomQ makes it possible for students to add their names and requests to a virtual queue. The student can request assistance and see how many other students are ahead of them in line.

Padlet Wall

Teachers already using Padlet can create a wall for questions and requests. Using the “shelf” format can help students organize and group their questions and requests, making it easier to identify trends or overlapping needs. If a few students have the same question or need help with the same thing, the teacher can group them and support them all at one time. Another advantage to using Padlet is that teachers can turn on the “comment” feature and encourage students to help one another if they know the answer to a question or are able to provide peer support.

Questions are an important part of the learning process, but they can also create an inequality of teacher attention in the concurrent classroom. It is important to have clear lines of communication open when juggling kids in class and online simultaneously to make responding to student needs in both learning landscapes more manageable. The key is to communicate why you are asking all students to use a particular method to ask questions and be consistent in reinforcing that norm or expectation.

Although I framed this blog using the concurrent classroom as the context, these protocols are universally useful. So, regardless of whether we are in class, online, or a blend of the two, teachers should encourage students to be problem-solvers who lean on their resources. It’s also helpful to streamline requests and questions to avoid a situation where a single student monopolizes our time, and others do not get the support they need.


An Active Reading Strategy for Any Learning Landscape

Por Catlin Tucker — 28 de Março de 2021, 19:27

I’ve experienced the phenomenon of reading a text, but when I get to the end of a page or the bottom of the article, I have no idea what the text was about. I could not answer a single question about the content of what I read. Yes, my eyes technically scanned the words, but I wasn’t thinking about what I was reading. My mind was a million miles away.

When this happens, I understand the cause. I was not actively engaging with the text. So, I take a breath, focus my mind on the text, and begin again. I know these moments do not reflect a deficiency in me as a reader. They result from a lack of focus on and engagement with the text I am reading. Unfortunately, I worry that students internalize these moments and assume they are not good readers when they don’t understand a text. Yet, reading is like any skill that we can improve with practice. We can apply strategies to help us think more deeply about what we are reading.

In their new book, Teaching for Deeper Learning: Tools to Engage Students in Meaning Making, my friend, Jay McTighe, and his co-author, Harvey Silver, write about an active reading strategy that encourages students to engage with texts before, during, and after reading. Their approach contrasts with classic reading comprehension questions, which students typically respond to after completing a reading assignment. Instead, this strategy presents students with an open-ended, debatable, or controversial statement to consider before they begin the reading. As they read, they analyze the text, pulling evidence that supports and refutes the statement. This prepares them to engage in a dynamic discussion with their peers about the statement and the reading.

I was immediately struck by the simplicity and power of this strategy. My mind was buzzing with how beautifully this could work in-class, online, or in a blended learning environment. I wanted to support teachers in thinking about leveraging this active reading strategy for any learning landscape, so I created the template below (with permission).

This strategy activates thinking throughout a reading task. It doesn’t matter whether a student reads a story for English, a chapter in a textbook for science or math, or an online article for history; they need to be actively thinking about what they are reading. The more effectively they engage their higher-order thinking skills, the more likely they are to make meaning as they read.

Whole Group Rotation Model

Last week, I wrote about the whole group rotation, which rotates students between online and offline, individual and collaborative learning activities. This model is a great option for teachers who want to integrate technology in a meaningful way in a traditional class. It’s also a useful model for teachers navigating the challenges of the concurrent classroom in which they are teaching students in class and online simultaneously.

Let’s explore what the active reading strategy above looks like in a whole group rotation.

Before the Reading: Students read a statement and consider their initial thoughts on the statement. Do they agree, disagree, or are they unsure? What information might they need to make an informed decision about the statement? They should capture their initial thoughts in writing at the top of the document.

During the Reading: Students should have plenty of time to self-pace through the reading. Perhaps teachers grab texts or articles at different Lexile levels to differentiate or pull students who need additional support reading into a small group. That way, the teacher can guide the small group of students in reading, periodically pausing to analyze and discuss different pieces of evidence.

As students read, they should keep the initial statement in mind and collect textual evidence they believe supports and refutes the statement. This evidence should be captured in a two-column chart.

After the reading: Students engage in a conversation with their peers. This discussion can happen in small groups in a socially distant classroom or in breakout rooms. If learners are working asynchronously online, this conversation can happen in a video-based discussion using FlipGrid or in a text-based discussion inside a learning management system.

Regardless of the discussion format, students should share their thinking about the statement and offer evidence collected from the text to support their position. What evidence from the text supports the statement? What evidence contradicts or weakens the statement? Which side (for or against) has the strongest evidence? If there is disagreement among the group members, can they work collaboratively to generate a statement they all agree with?

Finally, students should reflect on what they learned. Reflection is an effective way to help students appreciate how their thinking changed as a result of actively reading and engaging in a discussion with their peers. It is also an opportunity to identify any areas of confusion or questions that still exist.

This strategy and the collection of other engagement strategies described in Jay McTighe and Harvey Silver’s book, Teaching for Deeper Learning: Tools to Engage Students in Meaning Making, can help teachers cultivate a skill set that transcends a specific teaching and learning landscape. That flexibility is what all educators need right now.