Dec 30, 2012

Agile Phonics: Pt 1


Please try this at home!

Wandering Minds 

I have to admit, it is tough for my wandering brain to engage with my 4 year old at times. My mind needs challenging stimuli. As much as I love my daughter, I tune out after 10 minutes of playing Simba and Mufasa from the Lion King, or learning letters. I yearn for dopamine to be pumped into my brain, my mind wanders,  and then I feel like a bad father for not being in the moment with her.  

This week, I downloaded some Phonics books from the library for her. Indeed, not only did I tune out in 10 minutes of our first lesson, so did my daughter (it must be genetic!). To engage myself and her, we decided to combine Agile and Phonics. Engaging me with my love of Agile, and engaging Sienna with the Agile's visual workflow, empowering her with choice in learning, and providing her instant feedback on progress.

Designing Phonics ABLE Style

First, read this post regarding the elements of the Agile Based Learning Environment (ABLE). You will see these elements throughout.

Artifact #1: The “I Learned It” Chart

Keep the end in mind” - Stephen Covey

What does “learned” mean? How do we know when to move on to the next learning objective? When do we know we met our learning goals? How do I motivate my daughter to achieve the highest level of learning?  As a learning team (her and I), we should have clarity of what “learned”means from the beginning so we can design are learning to achieve the right level of mastery and move on to the next challenge.  It also ensures we spend out time on the most important, not “over-learning”and not “under-learning”, the former is wasteful, the latter creates “learning debt”. Learning quality goes up when we design with the end in mind first, knowing our definition of done.

Resources Need:
    • Flip Chart Paper
    • Makers/Crayons
    • Stickers (optional)
    • Learning rubric

Step 1: Identify the Learning Proficiency Levels:

Basic Phonics Skills, Level B (Grades K-1), Evan-Moor
Educators are very familiar with learning proficiency levels. The Phonics book provided us with a rubric of 3 levels of learning proficiencies which we could use in our learning:

Level 3: Mastered
 • The student is able to complete the activity independently. • The student is able to complete the activity correctly. • The student is able to answer questions about the phonetic principle being practiced. 

Level 2: Showed Adequate Understanding 
 • The student is able to complete the activity with little assistance. • The student is able to complete the activity with minimal errors. • The student is able to answer some questions about the phonetic principle being practiced. 

Level 1: Understanding
 • The student required assistance to complete the activity. • The student made several errors. •The student did not appear to understand the phonetic principle being practiced. 

Level 0: Showed Little or No Understanding
 • The student required one-to-one assistance to complete the activity, or was unable to complete the activity. • The student made many errors. • The student showed no understanding of the phonetic principle being practiced. 

Step 2: Design a “Learned It” Metaphor

The rubrics were definitely helpful to me, but, not so much to Sienna. How do I translate this to something more fun for my 4 year old Phonics learner? When in need help with Sienna, I always ask a“princess” to come to the rescue!  We came up with the idea of a Princess Castle visual metaphor for the learning proficiency levels.

Sienna decorating the "Learned It" Castle
Respecting our elements of ABLE, I asked Sienna if she like the castle idea. She loved it, of course, it involved princesses! I then drew a castle on a flip chart paper. The castle has 4 levels, corresponding to the Phonics learning rubric.  Level 0 - The Castle Gate, with Levels 1-3 being each next higher level castle tower.

Step 3: Design The “I Learned It” Badges

Teachers know the magical power of stickers for young children.  I pulled out our sticker stash and luckily found some princess stickers, imagine! I must be careful here, stickers or badges should be there to symbolize her level of learning and her effort, not as an extrinsic reward. I do not want the overjustification effect to take place, where an extrinsic motivation replaces that of her more valuable intrinsic motivation.

Level 3: Mastered
I asked Sienna, “What is the most important sticker for a princess?” She pointed to the Princess Crown “Wonderful, this is the sticker that you get when you really learned a lot about something and can do it by yourself”. This was became our level 3 - Mastery badge.

Level 2: Showed Adequate Understanding 
“Now, what is the next most important thing to a princess”
Sienna, “The wand!” “Great, that is our level 2 of learning, when you did a great job of learning, but perhaps not as much as when you get the Crown. You still might need a little help from Daddy”

Level 1: Understanding
Next, was our Level 1 learning. “Ok what is the next important sticker to a princess?” Sienna chose the princess gown. “Alright, when you learned something, but, probably need to learn some more, you get the princess gown. We'll know this because Daddy will be helping you a lot”.

I chose not to have a Level 0 sticker, if we do not get to at least to Level 1, we need to try again.

Each sticker with the corresponding “Learned It” Level number was placed on a flag on the right area of the castle.

Again, Sienna is part of the process, choosing her own “Learned It Badges”, symbols that are meaningful to her, inspire her, and ones in which she understands the ranking of learning it symbolizes.  To really make it hers, she colored the Princess Castle! Fun! 

Next In Our Princess Adventure

Sienna and I will share how we use the "Learned It" Princess Castle in a subsequent post to this series. I am sure you can already imagine how it might be used.

In our next post, Sienna and I will share how we develop ABLE Learning Objectives and the Learning Backlog so that we have a visible and adaptable roadmap for our princess learning adventure with Phonics.

Could you try something like this with your children or students? If so, share your ideas and results!

Thank You,
John Miller, CSP, PMP