The Big Switch in IXL for My Class
June 20, 2012|Posted in: IXL Integration
This year I realized that my students still were not working up to their potential using IXL. So, I decided to turn the program on it’s head and try something that would push my comfort level to it’s limits. I turned the learning over to my students. I made them absolutely responsible for their own outcomes, and acted as a “guide on the side”, rather than the “sage on the stage” (to use Alison King’s wonderful analogy).
Using the clear targets design that I have previously discussed, I took it to the next step.
I cleared off a section of white board and created an IXL Weekly Targets display. On this board, I would post about 6 targeted skills that related to the lessons I would be teaching in class that week (sometimes two). These were the skills that students were assigned and their time to complete the work was now limited. This helped create a sense of urgency, students could not simply sit back and wait for knowledge to arrive, they had to seek it out.
I need to note that I taught a 4/5 blend this past year, and this method of posting targets would brilliantly for both sets of learners. In fact, having the blend pushed a lot of 4th graders to want to finish their 4th grade targets and then work on the posted 5th grade targets. I allowed this, only after they completed all of the targets for the entire set of 4th grade standards, about a dozen 4th grade students did this.
Now that the targets were posted, I set in motion something that took a lot of trust and plenty of front-loading of ethics and responsibility. Each of the posted targets, also listed the names of each student below it. Whenever a student completed a target by scoring 100, they got to highlight their name on the sheet.
Here’s where to trust comes in. After a student was able to highlight their name, they were allowed to become a Math Mentor for any student who still needed help understanding the skill. The idea of sharing knowledge really showcases how much a student has mastered a skill. When they can teach it to another student, real deep understanding begins to take hold.
So, by creating this corps of mentors, I have multiplied the number of teachers available to help one another. My role when we were working the computer lab became a roving guide, and I would check in with students, verify that mentors were doing an appropriate job, meeting with a small group, or helping an advanced learner push into more difficult subject matter.
Now this didn’t happen on day one, in fact, I didn’t attempt this until January, mid-way through this past school year. I needed to have my community set in place. I needed students to understand expectations and to feel the seriousness of what we were going to attempt. I am going to attempt this again in October-November of next school year. That may be too early, but it’s worth a try.
Without trusting my students, I would have never been able to see the beauty and complexity of peer assisted learning. It works, it may look different from class to class, but I would encourage you to try some form of it with your classes, and let me know what is working for your students!