Creating learning experiences where students have a chance to demonstrate mastery of standards is what educators do each and every day. We take a curricular resource aligned to standards, prepare the necessary materials, differentiate as needed for our students, and execute the lesson plan. What happens, though, when a teacher makes the choice to take it a step further? What happens when a teacher recognizes an opportunity to increase accessibility and engagement, and in doing so takes the risk to try something new and different?
That is innovation in action. Sometimes it's trying an approach that has never been done before, and other times it's simply improving an experience or lesson that already exists. Either way, both approaches require initiative and an innovator’s mindset focused on what is best for our students in today’s educational environment. Kayla Davis (3rd Grade Teacher, Cherrelyn) and Scott Mountz (Special Education Teacher, Cherrelyn) are both educators that embrace an innovator’s mindset, recognizing an opportunity to increase engagement and accessibility in a lesson by making a simple, yet profound improvement to an EL Education lesson for their third grade students.
Traditionally, students would be guided through a text under the careful watch of their teachers, connect to their learning target or targets during the lesson, and then record or demonstrate their understanding of the learning target by writing in a workbook or graphic organizer. Kayla and Scott recognized that some of these graphic organizers, while beneficial, often produced low engagement and were at times difficult to access, especially for students with specific needs related to their learning. They collaborated and decided to make one small, yet powerful adjustment to the lesson by including Book Creator, an online tool that allows students to create digital books complete with unique features completely selected by the creator (images, backgrounds, text variations, and much more). Instead of using workbooks, students were creating books. The book creation process allowed for differentiation based on user creativity and ability. Students were able to demonstrate their understanding more clearly, concisely, and most importantly, in a way that highlights off their own creative expression.
"The constant repetition of writing in a workbook became challenging,” explains Mountz. “The graphic organizers weren’t always differentiated, and it was difficult for some of our students to demonstrate their understanding. Now our students can select images to explain their thinking as we scribe their thoughts.”
"Once we started using Book Creator, student engagement improved tenfold,” adds Davis. “From a planning standpoint, we no longer need to worry about engagement. We are creating true excitement with our students. We are able to quickly see what the students are doing, help make quick edits, and provide quick feedback digitally. Learning is fun for our students!”
You may be wondering… what do students think about this innovative approach to learning?
"l like Book Creator more because it’s more creative. Instead of just typing, you can add in special things like coloring, backgrounds, and pictures. And we get to make our writing into a book!” - Stella W.
"I like using Book Creator because you can draw, add in your writing, and I can find pictures to help me answer the questions.” - Stella S.
"Normally we would write this (responses) on a piece of paper. I like this way more because it helps us to get our ideas out because we can type it out. I also like it more because we get a space to add in images on an image search and it to our writing.”- Dylan
"I love it because you can search images to add to your writing. I love that you can change the color of the pages. It can help me understand books more by actually making a book, and then reading it.” - Zoey
"I like Book Creator more because it is kind of magic how you can just add in your text wherever you want, and you can make it bigger or smaller or change the color. My favorite part about Book Creator is adding in pictures that help.” - Greyson
It’s easy to see from these students’ reactions that this intentional adjustment to the learning experience is addressing exactly what Kayla and Scott were looking to address: increased student engagement and accessibility. Together, they took the initiative and explored an innovative approach, made adjustments to the learning experience, practiced this new approach with students, and executed their plan during the EL Education lesson.
This is innovation in action. Thank you, Kayla and Scott, for taking the risk and the time to create this learning experience for your students!
Innovation in Action is a periodic column designed to highlight innovative practices happening in our district. If you are interested in submitting a story to be highlighted in a future “Innovation in Action” column, or if you have questions, please contact Paul Whitaker.