Month: November 2016

Synchronous Lesson Ideas

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My teaching style is more sage-on-the-stage than I would like it to be. Unfortunately, direct instruction is the teaching method that my special education students respond to best. I used to feel guilty about this, but as I have worked my way through the MET program, I have found that I am not the only teacher that uses a lot of direct instruction, and many educators agree that it is often necessary for my classroom population. That being said, I do try to incorporate as much student-centered instruction as my students can handle. Now that I am teaching 8th- through 10th-grade self-contained math classes, my plan is to start using short, small projects and activities in 8th grade and gradually increase my role as the guide-on-the-side as students progress through those grades. I look forward to the next few years, and I envision a classroom that looks very different from the one I am teaching in right now.

I found the description of personalized learning in the iNACOL report Mean What You Say: Defining and Integrating Personalize, Blended and Competency Education very similar to what special educators do on a daily basis. Our job is to differentiate and personalize learning to maximize a student’s chance of finding success with learning. The lists found in the article on pages 5 and 6 demonstrate how closely special education mimics personalized learning, including:

“…a students’ right to access learning experiences that enable them to progress according to their level of ability”

“…a dynamic learning opportunity providing students with content that addresses their personal learning needs based on their interests, parental input, and teacher observation as well as assessment data, which is the most important element”

“…various starting points within content, varied amounts of guided practice and independent practice as needed”

“…discovering students’ prior knowledge and experience of the content they are about to learn and meeting them where they are” (Patrick, Kennedy, & Powell, 2013).

Blended learning through the use of technology is an excellent way to provide for personalized learning. Recording lectures and putting them online for students to watch asynchronously as homework allows the teacher to completely individualize instruction during class time. Students can complete classwork and activities that match their learning level, style, and interests.

My biggest concern with creating an online asynchronous algebra course for special education students who, for whatever reason, cannot maintain in a  physical school environment, is the lack of direct instruction. I worry that even with created videos and step-by-step instructions, some students will not be able to find success. Adding in some synchronous lesson delivery could make the difference between failure and success. I think most algebra topics will lend themselves well to synchronous delivery. Some ideas might include:

  • Doing a screen share with Desmos to demonstrate graphing linear equations would be a great lesson to deliver to a group.
  • Using TI-Smartview software to demonstrate how to use the graphing calculator to help with a given topic
  • Teaching a geometry lesson using Geogebra
  • Using Google Sheets to create statistical graphs
  • Working through a simulation such as The Moving Man to help students understand how to create graphs based on movement



Patrick, S., Kennedy, K., Powell, A., & International Association for K-12 Online Learning. (2013). Mean What You Say: Defining and Integrating Personalized, Blended and Competency Education. International Association for K-12 Online Learning.





Asynchronous Lesson Self-Evaluation

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I created an asynchronous lesson on solving systems of equations by graphing using a graphing calculator. I began creating the lesson using Google Docs, but after a couple of weeks, it became a little unwieldy. My students all have IEPs and require a lot of remediation and practice for each skill they learn. I used to have a huge collection of textbooks in my room to give me the largest possible bank of problems. And we still often ran out. Technology has changed all that. I now use Google religiously and keep files for each topic in my Dropbox. Sites are tagged on Pinterest boards that match each unit. It is a simple matter to find examples of whatever we are working on, and print them, project them or upload them to our Google Classroom. As I started to add numerous activities and videos, I quickly outgrew the Google Doc’s usefulness and decided to try a LMS. While I use Google Classroom every day, I decided it wasn’t what I wanted for an online delivery system. After some research, I decided to go with Schoology. Schoology allows me to create folders and hierarchies that organize my materials into easy to use groups. I included an initial page detailing the lesson and what needs to be done. All lesson activities are included as assignments underneath that initial page. I then created folders for calculator skills, remediation, extra practice, challenge activities and final assessments. I’m impressed with how easy it is to upload what I want and arrange it in an easily accessible way. As I continue to play with it, I find myself liking the flexibility it offers over Classroom, and I am thinking about moving everything to Schoology instead. Definitely something to consider and I am already making a mental list of the advantages it offers.

My Asynchronous Lesson can be found here.

To self-assess my lesson, I used the Asynchronous Lesson Rubric and the Common Core Instructional Practice Guides. I found the Common Core Instructional Practice Guides thorough and relevant. I much preferred them to the Danielson Rubric my district uses for our observations. They go deeper into the lesson itself, and the thought behind it. The Danielson rubric is very broad and fairly shallow. It irritates me that I have to show something from every area in a forty minute lesson or I get marked down. The rubric was never intended for that, nor is it feasible to have every single area in every single lesson.

I created an account and completed the Achieve the Core Coaching Tool for HS Mathematics. My thoughts can be found here.  My reflection on the Asynchronous Lesson Rubric is embedded below.