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Royster adopts 'custom fit' learning system

Posted Date: 02/01/2021

Royster adopts 'custom fit' learning system

With laptops open at their desks, some of the eighth graders in Molly Smith’s math class watch a video on the Pythagorean Theorem, while others are taking notes or drawing diagrams with rulers and pencils. As an assignment is completed, the student sends it to the teacher and moves on to grab a worksheet from the bin for the next activity.

Math teacher Molly Smith helps studentIt’s a new system of learning called the Grid Method.

Royster teachers had been trained and were working to implement the new system in their classrooms last spring. Then the Pandemic hit and schools were closed. They kept working on it, realizing that the Grid Method would benefit synchronous and asynchronous learning as well as students in the classroom.

“We are constantly working on student engagement,” Principal Don Epps said. In the classroom, the needs of students range from those “who need more intervention, more practice or modeling and others who need to be accelerated, enriched or work at a faster pace. When teachers try to teach to everyone sometimes you end up teaching to the middle.”

The Grid Method is a student-centered, self-paced system of learning activities and assignments that are checkpoints to reach mastery of a specific topic. It was developed by a teacher, Chad Ostrowski, as a way to reach disengaged students in his classroom.

“I love the Grid Method,” Smith said. “Students can work at their own pace and be in control of their pacing for assignments as long as it falls within the overall timeline given. 

Epps said parents need to know three things about the Grid Method:

It allows student to learn at their own pace and use the learning style they prefer.girls work on retaining wall in science class

It does not replace teacher instruction.

It does not limit a student’s potential.

There’s been “incredible implementation” in math and science, Epps said. “I walk in math classes and every kid is on task. It’s really impressive.”

In her science classes, Jory Murry said it’s allowed her to have built in time for students that need more time to master certain objectives, and provided opportunities for students who work more quickly to move on to deeper content.

The students don’t work entirely at their own pace.

“We typically cover level one of our grid together, but allow for more advanced learning as it fits. We allow our students who are still completing level one activities to ‘jump ahead’ for lab days and other group activities,” Murry explained. “The grid just requires them to go back and master the first level before they can move on to the next individual piece of the next level.

The introduction to a new unit in Smith’s class often begins with teacher-led instruction.

Last week they began learning the Pythagorean Theorem. Within their grid, which looks like a color-coded calendar without dates, the students advance from a basic skill level to strategic thinking, applied knowledge, extended thinking and enrichment.

At each level, they complete assignments at their own pace, from learning vocabulary, watching a video, filling out worksheets, taking quizzes, and practicing ways to apply the Pythagorean Theorem. Within the different levels, they may work as a group, learn a song, complete an activity or an equation on Google Classroom.

Last week, Murry’s students paused on level three of their rock cycle grid to work in groups on an engineering design challenge.boy considers popsicle stick retaining wall

Before they can do this task, students have to have level one and level two of their grids completed. As soon as students reach this, they can join (a group) or create a new group for the level three task,” she said. “While students work in groups I am free to go back and forth between and give the students on previous levels more individualized attention.”

Smith agreed.

“I feel as though my instruction is more tailored to each individual student's needs (and) they aren't waiting on me to explain something to the whole class if they already understand the concept.”

She’s also embedded videos of herself teaching the content within the grids, Smith said.

Then, if a student is absent or misses an explanation, they have the information readily available to them.

The grids also contain a variety of learning methods and practice opportunities to choose from to demonstrate mastery of the topic.

“We use worksheets, google classroom activities, delta math, get more math, task cards, videos, guided notes, etc.  The list goes on,” Smith said. 

“We don’t want cookie cutter education for the kids at Royster,” Principal Epps said. “With all of the resources available to them we are much more efficient. The grid allows us to custom fit the best way students learn. It allows students to own their learning process. They have become self-reliant.”

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