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by Erica Fischer on Oct 27, 2014

What are your favorite methods and tasks that “personalize” your instruction?

Welcome back to #langchat! Last Thursday night, Langchatters gathered to discuss personalized instruction. Participants began by attempting to define personalization in the classroom. They then discussed whether instructors should limit student choice and, if so, where they should draw the line. Langchatters also shared their favorite ways to personalize lessons and reflected on how to personalize instruction while ensuring that all learners are reaching proficiency goals.

Thank you again to all of the participants who tuned in for another hour of #langchat and to last week’s moderators, Cristy (@msfrenchteach), Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell), Amy (@alenord) and Kris (@KrisClimer).

How do you define personalization in the classroom?

Langchatters shared their definitions of personalization in the classroom. @AndyCrawfordTX wrote that, for him, “personalization begins with relationships.” Many others agreed that getting to know students and understand their interests was a key first step in an effort to make lessons personalized. @Sralandes described personalization in the classroom as “learning based on individual needs [and] desires that is student-driven.” @dwphotoski echoed this idea in different terms, writing that personalizing means “making the students the curriculum, connecting them to every structure.” @AndyCrawfordTX offered one way to “connect” students to structures and to, in the words of @MmeMurphy, “[get] students involved in the creation process,” suggesting use of personalized vocabulary: “[Let students] ‘self-select’ instead of [using] traditional [vocabulary] lists.” @tmsaue1 posed an important question in the midst of this discussion: “We shouldn’t confuse choice with personalization. Who is designing the choices?” Langchatters seemed to agree that personalization means allowing students to make choices about their learning.

Where does the line for student choice stop? Is there a line?

@KrisClimer asked fellow instructors whether they felt that teachers should limit student choice. @AndyCrawfordTX said that students should be given “choice within certain [parameters] (learning targets).” @SrLaBoone agreed, writing, “Personalization for me means [students] have some say in subject. For descriptive adjectives, they provide the [celebrities] they want to describe.” @maestroallison also leaves room for student personalization within parameters on tests: “[I] make my assessments [open-ended] enough that [students] can add personal flair and earn points for it.” @Marishawkins added that, for written tests, giving students choices can allow them to “show what they know.” Langchatters reflected on the positive outcomes of student personalization. @MmeMurphy said, “I think when [students] share ownership of the content–like with creating a story–they are more engaged and invested in learning.” @SrLaBoone wrote, “Personalization for me is essential. [Students] need choice in how they express themselves in [their] L2. More choice [means] more engagement!” While participants generally favored some degree of student choice and ownership of content, some instructors expressed apprehension. One instructor pointed out that it can be scary to give students too much control, and @SenoritaBasom highlighted other considerations: “Choices are revered, but with limited time and [elementary] student [attention spans] it is important not [to] give too many!”

What are your favorite methods and tasks that “personalize” instruction?

Instructors shared their go-to methods and tasks for personalized lessons. In terms of methods, they emphasized allowing students to choose content they are familiar with and interested in. @SrLaBoone said, “Favorite methods: always relate content to what [students] KNOW. [For example,] for after-school activities, [have them] tell WHO [they] know that does [the activity being discussed].” @alenord also proposed that instructors could share their interests and activities with students: “Another angle to personalizing is to let them see more about us, too!”

Participants then shared some of their favorite “personalized” tasks. @coxon_mike suggested students share “selfies and [pictures] of what they did over the weekend,” adding that this can become an “instant personalized TL activity.” Instead of sending in pictures, @dwphotoski has students to share their weekend activities aloud: “Every Monday we have the weekend chat, [which means] instant personalization” @KrisClimer suggested another way to allow students to bring their personal tastes into the classroom: “This year, I’m having [students] propose songs rather than me choose them ahead. [They may be less] connected to [the] unit but [there is] way more interest.” @bleidolf67 enjoys putting students in charge of planning class itineraries for imaginary fieldtrips abroad, allowing them to showcase their interests in a different way: “I like for [students] to use Chrome books to plan cultural day trips to countries we [are] studying.” @tmsaue1 shared yet another way to promote personalized classes: “In @Jeorg’s class students write their own syllabus that support their language goals.”

What strategies can you use to allow for personalization while ensuring that all learners are reaching proficiency goals?

Instructors discussed ways to promote personalization while still keeping students on track. Several participants suggested offering students a range of homework choices to choose from. @MmeCarbonneau said, “My students often assign themselves their own homework from our unit matrix of tasks.” @alenord is considering the possibility of embedding independent study on topics of student interest within course units: “[I’m] toying with the idea of a ‘topic list’ that [students] choose from each unit. They [would] pick a topic for independent study [within] the unit.” Another participant offered a way for advanced students to adhere to standards, while still exploring their interests: “Upper level students choose [an] article they want to read [and] list the major AP theme it goes under.”


Overall, instructors favored allowing for student personalization of content. That said, they acknowledged that letting go of some control can be difficult for instructors. As one participant noted, “It definitely does require us to let go as much as we can while still ensuring that proficiency goals are met.” As @tmsaue1 observed, giving up control also means “empowering students” to make content personally meaningful. To be sure, “[walking] that fine line [between] too much [and] not enough choice for [students] to show mastery” (@bleidolf67) can be difficult, but Langchatters generally feel that personalization is essential to increased student engagement.

Thank you!

Thank you again to all of the participants who made time for #langchat last Thursday and to Cristy (@msfrenchteach), Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell), Amy (@alenord) and Kris (@KrisClimer) for moderating the conversation.

Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. If you have a topic you’re eager to discuss, send in your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Elementary in Spanish
Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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