Using Individual Meetings to Foster Student Ownership

Using Individual Meetings to Foster Student Ownership

When learning moved online in 2020, I found that my students were not as actively engaging in their learning or owning their learning goals. In thinking about how to engage with my students, I was inspired by individual meetings that take place during literacy center rotations in many K-6 classrooms. I adapted this idea to the online environment and have continued to use it as we have transitioned back in person.

What does this involve?

Once a week in class, I dedicate about an hour and a half to 30-minute individual meetings during class. Each week, I prepare a new “practice menu” for my students to choose the area they would most like to practice. This menu includes practice activities for all of the content we have covered so far in the unit. I also often include an option for students to ask their own questions or practice speaking.

What does this look like in action?

Before Class: I prepare the practice menu items. These practice activities are often extension activities that I didn’t have time to get to during class or supplementary materials from the Ventures resource room, or Literacy Minnesota curriculum. Occasionally. I will prepare special practice or follow-up items for particular students based on their interests or something they have asked for in a previous class. The number of items on the practice menu grows throughout the unit as we cover more material.

As I plan my units, I also decide the order in which I will meet with my students. I make sure to schedule students to meet with me about twice per unit. I try to schedule students that I know will need more support more than twice.

During Class: Students are given group work (literacy centers, inductive grammar work, online work, etc.). During this time, I pull students (usually 3 per week) into individual meetings. Then, I review all of the possible practice items with students and ask them to choose which one they want to go through. We walk through the practice together with the support they need. Often, I add items or ask additional questions based on watching students complete the practice.

After Class: My students are able to continue practice of particular items via MobyMax or can take home the practice items that they would like to work on more.

Online vs. in person

Online: When we first went online, I felt a real need to connect individually with students on a weekly basis. For this reason, I replaced my regular class once a week for scheduled individual appointments. Now, I assign students time slots during class to meet with me one-on-one while other classmates work with a volunteer, on MobyMax, TVM, or other distance learning (DL) platforms.

In Person: There are two main ways that I pull students out during in-person class. First, I will assign all my students some group or pair work (for productive noise), then pull out a student or two during that time. When I see a need for more differentiation for a particular student, I set up literacy centers that all students rotate through and assign a student to meet with me while their group mates complete individual work.

What issues have you run into?

What if a student will not choose a practice option?

I have had some students say, “You choose. You are the teacher.” This doesn’t usually persist long. In this situation, I take the meeting time to talk about why I think it is important for them to choose the practice on their own. I often mention that I can’t meet every student’s needs without some help knowing what students think. I also have an exit ticket routine that asks students to reflect on what they do not understand. If a student is very stuck in choosing an item, I have them take out their notebook and look back at their exit tickets from the unit.

What if students keep choosing the same kind of practice?

This doesn’t come up much because I change the menu options regularly. However, sometimes I ask them about their choice saying, “I think we practiced that last week AND the week before. Would it help for us to spend more time in class on this? Can we look back at your notes?” Occasionally, I overrule them and tell them that we are trying to keep moving towards our goals. I ask, “Which of these items will help you get closer to your goals?” If they don’t want to practice anything on the menu, I will work with them on speaking practice or answering any of the other questions they have.

How do you keep up with a new practice menu each week?

At the beginning of each unit, I put together additional practice activities that I think would be beneficial or that we can’t get to during the unit and then keep these activities (from Ventures, supplementary texts, etc.) in a “toolbox” to add to the menus as we go through the unit.

What if a student always comes with personal questions and never has time to get to the practice items?

I have one student that is always asking technology, history, or personal questions during our individual meetings. My policy with this student is that we can talk about personal questions in one meeting per unit, but they need to pick a menu item during the other meeting(s). I have a couple other students that want to catch up on information they missed before they joined the class. For these students, I sometimes do a mini-lesson with them to support their understanding of the practice item we are working on.

What do you hope comes of this?

I hope that my students can get the practice they need to be successful in the standards and goals that we are working towards. I also have seen that students feel much more comfortable asking questions during class and during these meetings. Some of my students who were often quietly confused have started to actively ask for certain items to be on the practice menus. I hope that students are able to meet their own goals with individual attention through this routine.

Laura Kim-Lowe, Education Program Director/Intermediate Instructor MORE