Author Biography: Barbara Bray (barbara.bray@ gmail.

com) has over 23 years experience “Making Learning Personal,” writes the professional development column for Computer Using Educators (CUE) since 1998, is a Creative Learning Strategist where she is Rethinking Learning (, and owner of My eCoach ( Follow Barbara on Twitter: @bbray and Kathleen McClaskey is President and Digital Learning Consultant of EdTech Associates ( who has over 28 years experience in designing instruction and learning environments for all learners and in developing professional development programs and projects using the Universal Design for Learning framework. Follow on Twitter: @khmmc and Activity Summary
This is an English-Language Arts lesson aligned to the third grade Common Core standard > key ideas and details. This lesson is for students to read, listen, ask and develop questions around the text in a flexible, personalized learning environment. A diagram of a redesigned classroom with five learning zones is included to demonstrate how to support personalizing learning. Personal Learner Profiles (tm) based on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) helped students understand how they learn and express what they know. Based upon on how students learn best, three students in different scenarios have been given a voice and choice how they would like to express their ideas and understanding of the text. Class or subject area: English Language Arts Grade level(s): 3rd grade Specific learning objectives: • Ask and answer questions about the text. • Choose the best way to demonstrate understanding of the text. • Select the appropriate technology or resource for tasks. • Make real-world connection to the text. • Collaborate with another student to support learning.

Anniversary Book Project


Personalize Learning by Redesigning a Standards-Based Classroom
By: Kathleen McClaskey and Barbara Bray Creative Commons License: CC BY-NC-ND Author contact:

Transforming a classroom to a personalized learning environment is challenging. What is and what is not personalized learning? The chart below shows how personalized learning is different than differentiated and individualized instruction.

starts with the learner connects with interests, passions, and aspirations learners actively participate in the design of their learning learners have a voice and choice on what they learn different objectives for each learner learner selects appropriate technology and resources to support their learning learners build a network of peers, experts, teachers, and paraprofessionals to guide and support their learning competency-based models where the learner demonstrates mastery assessment AS learning teachers develop capacity to create independent learners who set goals, monitor progress, and reflect on learning and summative assessments based on student mastery

starts with groups of learners adjusts to learning needs of groups of learners explicit instruction based upon the learning needs of groups of learners teachers create or adapt instruction and choose roles for learners based on different needs of learners same objectives for groups of learners

starts with the need of an individual learner accomodates learning needs of the individual explicit instruction based upon the learning needs of an individual learner teachers customize lessons and tasks for learners based on individual needs


same objectives for learners with specific objectives for individuals who receive one-onone support technology and resources are technology and resources are selected to support the learning selected to support the learning needs of groups of learner needs of an individual learner learners are dependent on learners are reliant on the individual teachers or paraguidance of teachers to support professionals to support their their learning learning based on Carnegie unit (seat time) and grade level assessment FOR learning assessment involves timebased testing and teachers provide feedback to advance learning based on Carnegie unit (seat time) and grade level assessment OF learning summative assessment is grade-based and involves timebased testing which confirms what learners know and don’t know

Personalized Learning Chart by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Personalized learning starts with the learner, is all about the learner, and means the student drives their learning. In the latter two approaches, the teacher adapts or customizes the instruction to meet the needs of either a group of students (differentiation) or for an individual student (individualization). For a downloadable version of the chart, go here Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization.

With differentiated and individualized instruction, there is little or no student voice. These are mostly teacher-directed. Students may participate in projects and take responsibility for specific roles within a project, but, in most cases, the teacher determines the topics, roles, and responsibilities. Projectbased learning (PBL) has students collaborate and produce an end product together. However, to personalize PBL, the student has a voice in the design of the project and possibly, the process. Student voice and choice is necessary to personalize learning. Student voice is difficult to hear in a traditional classroom where the teacher provides direct instruction and curriculum that is either provided for the teacher, adapted by the teacher, or designed by the teacher. Student choice means students choose how they learn something and, possibly, what they learn. Third Grade ELA Common Core Standards-Based Lesson In a traditional classroom, third graders may read or listen to the same literature and usually are asked to respond the same way to the text as everyone else in the class according to ELA-RL.3.1 standard. Third Grade Literature > Key Ideas and Details ELA-RL.3.1. Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers. In a personalized learning environment, each third grader and the teacher knows how the learner learns best and the best way that works for them to demonstrate what they know. To meet the standard ELA-RL.3.1, the teacher presents a story and offers multiple ways to read, listen, and respond to the story. To personalize the classroom, it can be set up with learning zones so learners have choices how to learn and demonstrate understanding of a concept. Let’s look at what this can look like in a classroom that was redesigning to personalize learning. Classroom Redesign to Personalize Learning Kevin McLaughlin, a primary teacher at Old Mill Primary School in the UK, set up his classroom with five learning zones. He found that redesigning the learning environment encouraged his students to take more ownership of their learning. Learn more here and even more about this on his website. Kevin shared how the learning zones work with his students:

1. Discussion and Thinking Zone – Learners can drop in whenever they wish to talk about their learning, find solutions, help each other and just to think and chill out. It’s also still the area where my class gathers for a whole group focus or an additional Creation/Show Off zone. 2. Discovery Zone – There are two of these although one is missed off the top of the image. These contain laptops and other technology that the learners can use to guide them on their learning, discover answers, investigate and solve problems, collaborate on projects and create presentations. 3. Show Off Zone – This is where the learners focus on discoveries they have made and demonstrate their understanding through writing, presentation, art work, display whatever medium they wish to present their work. 4. Repeat Level – Whenever any learner requires help, advice, explanations and is ‘stuck,’ this is the area they come to repeat the learning so they can move to the next level. 5. Creation Zone – Creating content for use in their learning, creating presentations to demonstrate learning, blogging, refining, editing. After you set up your classroom with learning zones, you can introduce and read a story to the whole class, invite students to read different sections, and/or include the book in digital interactive format on the laptops or on mobile devices for students to read on their own during reading time. For this example, we will use the book, Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. Here’s a summary of the book from Carol Hurst’s Children Literature Site: This beautiful picture book tells of the life of the author’s great aunt Alice, now called The Lupine Lady. When she was little, Alice told her grandfather that she wanted to do as he did: go to far away places and live in a house by the sea. He told her that she must also do something to make the world more beautiful. She accomplishes all she set out to do: traveling to tropical islands, climbing mountains before she hurts her back falling from a camel and decides to live by the sea. Her need to make the world more beautiful is

a source of consternation to her.

Her solution of spreading lupine seeds wherever she walks is at first inadvertent - birds and the wind disperse lupine seeds from some she had planted in her garden before her bad back forced her into a semi-invalided life. When she sees new plants growing on nearby hillsides and cliffs, she spreads the seed herself after she feels better. After reading the story, the teacher asks students to brainstorm questions that she writes on her interactive whiteboard using a mindmap like Inspiration. She asks students to pair with another student to come up with even more questions and then prioritize the questions so they eventually

choose a question to write a response. The moral behind Miss Rumphius is about values and making the world more beautiful. Each student may perceive values different based on their family and background. On her website Teaching Children Philosophy, Jenna Caputo provides guidelines for philosophical discussions and examples of questions about Miss Rumphius. The teacher can use some of these questions as examples: Topic: Making the World More Beautiful Miss Rumphius’ grandfather tells her that she must make the world more beautiful. 1. What does Miss Rumphius’ grandfather do to make the world more beautiful? 2. What does Miss Rumphius do to make the world more beautiful? 3. Is there a right or wrong way to make the world more beautiful? 4. Does making something more beautiful make it better? 5. Can you make a person more beautiful? Does that make a better person? Personal Learner Profiles™ Personal Learner Profiles™ are based on Universal Design for Learning(R) (UDL) which is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL provides a lesson blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone--not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs. [CAST and UDL] The following profiles about three students show how their personal learner profiles can help drive their learning. Personal Learner Profiles Learning Strategies The teacher and John agreed to pair him with John • difficult time focusing on the text. David who knows how to focus on a topic yet is not • is not able to write or speak as comfortable with computers as John. descriptively. • is frustrated when writing his ideas They went to the Discovery Zone where John down on paper. typed on Google Docs while David guided their • is comfortable with computers. • is good in math. brainstorming, coming up with questions about the • is able to visualize numbers and story. patterns. • cannot sequence what is David helped John prioritize the questions until they came up with one to answer: “what would we happening in a story. • does not know how to formulate a do to make the world more beautiful?” Then each good question of them shared what would they do. John wasn’t sure but David nudged him to think about his concerns about pollution, climate change, and too much stuff. John thought about this and his response led to planning a recycling center at school.


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is a good storyteller who understands the moral and message of her own stories. loves to write stories but has long term memory problems which affects how she recounts stories, characters, and plots of a story that she reads. has trouble in math with visualizing numbers and patterns. likes to talk, raises her hand even though she may not know the answer, and asks lots of questions yet many do not pertain to the story.

Mary decided to go to the Discussion and Thinking Zone to help her focus on the characters and setting of the story. The teacher set up a digital storyboard that included a set of visuals about the story. She then guided Mary and other students to sequence the story visually so they were able to understand the story and generate good questions.


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Mary then went to the Discovery Zone to use a mobile device with the app, AudioNote to write and/or record her questions. She then shared the questions with two other students who helped her prioritize them. She then created a slideshow using Wixie answering the questions as text, images, and voice. is an avid reader and loves to write Suzie’s personal learner profile made it clear that can write descriptively, likes to she best works alone. The teacher showed her draw but is anxious when she Notability that has the ability to draw, write, bring in speaks in front of others. pictures and create audio notes. forgets the sequence, moral and message of the story when she is She discovered that drawing first helped her write put on the spot. her questions in more detail. The teacher came by has trouble in math with patterns as Suzie was writing her questions and showed and sequencing. her how she could record her questions using wants to ask questions but Notability as a way to share her voice. is uncomfortable voicing her concerns. Suzie felt uncomfortable speaking into the device works better individually or in a so the teacher asked another student, Jane, to small group and enjoys writing in work with Suzie. They worked in a quiet area of her journal. the Discovery Zone with the mobile device and practiced going over the questions. Jane’s strength was listening and repeating back what she heard. This was just what Suzie needed to hear: her questions and help with prioritizing them. She decided on the question “Does making something more beautiful make it better?” and to write a response to the question in the form of a story.

When each learner with their teacher understands how they learn best, the learner is more involved in the learning process. The teacher designs a supportive learning environment that allows for each student to personalize how they access and engage with the content as well as how they

demonstrate their understanding. This does not imply that students are grouped or taken out of the classroom. A personalized learning environment means redesigning the physical nature of the classroom with the teacher as more of a “guide on the side.” Technology is changing teaching and learning now, but a personalized learning environment starts with the learner and how they learn best. Just imagine any learner achieving to the best of their abilities. Teachers as learning guides will be more important than ever as learners venture along their personal learning journey. Universal Design for Learning is a registered trademark of Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). Personal Learner Profile is a trademark of Kathleen McClaskey and Barbara Bray of Personalize Learning (

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