- Introduce the Grid to your students by starting with an Intro Grid.
- When creating your Intro Grid, include procedures you want to establish with your students.
- Model your Intro Grid after future Grids that may be used.
- Communicate with stakeholders through videos and emails.
- Allow students and stakeholders to provide feedback to you often.
Help! I just spent days, weeks, months, and years transforming my classroom with mastery learning—what now? How do I introduce the Grid to my students and stakeholders?
Have you ever reflected on the first day you had your very own classroom for the first time and thought about what activities you chose for students? For me, I remember being so nervous to say students’ names during attendance, the rest of the day was a blur. Well, as this was almost a decade ago, it may be a bit of a blur for other reasons.
However, I will never forget the first-day nerves! Do those first day of school nerves ever go away, though? Maybe they evolve from nervous jitters to butterflies of excitement, but the start of school is always an exhilarating time.
As we begin to facilitate a mastery learning classroom, educators’ eager nature to explain this new procedure to families is admirable.
Very often teachers have spent hours, days, weeks, and months planning, sitting in professional development sessions, popping into live Q&A’s on Facebook, and scheduling phone calls to spitball ideas. Why? All of this time is put forth in an effort to make the transition from a traditional classroom to a mastery driven classroom a smooth one. But are these transitions ever really smooth?
I facilitated a webinar through the Teach Better Team this summer on this very idea—introducing families and students to a progressive classroom.
However, while I will share a number of tips and tricks in this blog, there was one major takeaway from our webinar I hope to leave here for you as well:
You have dedicated so much time chewing on the idea of mastery learning, daydreaming, problem-solving, and wrestling with this idea. Your students and stakeholders need to be provided the same grace.
They need to sit with the idea, ask questions, and reflect. The trick is doing this without allowing it to break your confidence!
You have completely reenvisioned a learning space that puts students first, focuses on growth and understanding, and transitions your role from the “content delivery system” to the “facilitator of learning”… and that’s all-new! New for you, for families, and for students. So be prepared…it’s going to feel odd, you are going to encounter roadblocks, and you will get questions about this shift.
Shifting your classroom from a “teacher-focused” environment to a “student-focused” learning space is best for student success and growth. You CAN do it!Parents are partners in learning, not hurdles to overcome. Treat them as partners and you will continue to build trust with your stakeholders in your ability to make the best decision for their student! Click To Tweet
Now let’s discuss ways to help…
Make an Introduction Grid.
Chad Ostrowski (the creator of The Grid Method Mastery Framework) says it all the time, “We can’t teach a new skill while we teach a new procedure.” Therefore, take the Grid step by step to allow others a safe space to learn and explore by introducing a Grid without new content. An Intro Grid can help a TON with this!
As I said above, we did an Intro Grid Webinar over the summer that covered this very idea (check out the Webinar Replays in the Teach Better Academy). This 1-day, 2-day, 1-week, or 2-week Grid—depending on how you design it—can allow your learners to learn the classroom management elements of a Grid as well as move throughout their learning by practicing the skills. Here, students can safely test boundaries, ask questions, and sit with the new mindset of finally having control of their learning.
You can do this at ANY point in the year!
Here are the basics I would recommend while building an Intro Grid:
- Create a list of what you want students to learn procedurally. A few things that should be on your list are Progress Monitoring, Goal Setting & Reflection, Growth Mindset, Assessment Expectations, Advocating for Needs (Triage System), etc.
- Allow your Level 1 of the Grid to include the MOST important Grid Procedures that you want students to practice the most (i.e. progress monitoring, goal setting, moving throughout a Grid, assessment expectations, etc.).
- Build your Levels like you would a typical content Grid. For example: If you are going to have a formative assessment at the end of each level, incorporate that procedure into the Intro Grid. This should also include teacher checkpoints & more!
- Fill in other elements you want students to learn in Levels 2 & 3. This may include growth mindset activities. This is also a great space for other simple “to do’s” like having students get logged into new tech programs you may use in the future or reviewing your grading policies.
Again, the idea of an Intro Grid is not only to introduce new procedures, but create a space for students to practice the skills, make mistakes, reflect, reteach, and adjust.
Stakeholders are trusting you with their most prized possession—their children—and change is scary! So we need to have an open line of clear, transparent communication at any time we are trying new ideas in the classroom.
While directing them to teacher-created resources is always a valuable option, remember there are also hundreds of Grid resources the Teach Better Team has as well. Outside of the blogs we write, podcasts we record, and community events we facilitate, we also work with districts around the world to implement mastery learning, building and district-wide. So if you are hunting for a resource, the team probably already has a draft to get you started. You can then personalize for your stakeholders and students. Consider reaching out to Chad at Chad@TeachBetter.com for a specific tool.
On the flip side, I also feel talking with your families and students as they move through this transition is invaluable. Hosting Q&A’s or having a Google Form where families can submit their questions can be a safe space to allow for this dialogue to begin. However, my favorite tip when working through a mastery learning transition is the use of video emails!
We all know the tone and message in an email can be construed depending on the reader’s mood and environment. Therefore, take control by recording yourself on camera sharing information. For me, this could mean providing families an overview of what the classroom may look like or a weekly recap of student success. Either way, do not make it fancy, do not take time to edit it, and do not stress over writing a word by word script. You are a teacher, and you are a good communicator!
Simply press play and use this template to get you going:
(A) Start with a BIG hello!
(B) Introduce yourself (it’s a good practice to get into).
(C) Summarize what’s coming in the video (3 key points).
(D) Provide families with the 3 key points and any details they need.
(E) Share your excitement and student impact of these points.
(F) Ask families to reach out with any questions.
(G) Wish families a safe and healthy week/weekend while thanking them for the work they do to support their child at home.
Then, attach your video in an email. To do this, you can upload it to Google Drive or create a Youtube Channel and label your video “unlisted” so only those with the link can see the details. Your email should be VERY short and sweet.
Here is an email draft to get you started:
We had such a wonderful week in Room 2165! Here is a quick weekly recap with a few reminders and exciting new upcoming things to look forward to.
INSERT VIDEO LINK HERE
Don’t have time to watch or listen to my quick 5 min video, no stress! Here are the highlights for you:
(1) Students began a new unit focused on writing their own story!
(2) The first draft of their story is due Wednesday.
(3) If your child is feeling behind in the Grid, please ask them to set up a time to chat with me! I am here to help them brainstorm and be successful!
Thank you for all that you do at home to support your student’s success!
I appreciate you so much!
Parents are partners in learning, not hurdles to overcome. Treat them as partners and you will continue to build trust with your stakeholders in your ability to make the best decision for their student![scroll down to keep reading]
Allow opportunities for feedback.
Isn’t it scary when we start something new to have others provide feedback? Sometimes I find myself personally struggling with feedback on a project I have invested SO MUCH time into because any suggestion seems like criticism. Often, I find myself getting too emotionally involved in a project, and I worry the criticism may imply I made a mistake or did something wrong. I always just want everything to go well!
Nevertheless, the reality is that change is scary and criticism may be scarier. But if we can shift our mindset away from being criticized and toward giving suggestions to make our work EVEN better, we will find greater success in the long term.
Additionally, when we provide a space for other voices to be heard, stakeholder and student “buy-in” increases.
So if you are worried, start small with multiple conversations with students and a quarterly survey to stakeholders. And if feedback is something you are hungry for, incorporate feedback continually! You could even include it within your Grid!
For me, I often invite families into my classroom (either virtually or physically) to see what we are up to! The best way to create an understanding of the classroom is to see it in action! You have incredible things going on in your classroom. Allow others to come in and see the magic.
More than anything, I want you to know: You CAN do this!
No matter what, the Teach Better family wants your transition to be as successful as possible. If you ever want to talk through ideas or check on how you’re doing, PLEASE reach out and schedule a time to chat with me! Here is my personal calendar. I would love to be a part of your sounding board to help you feel confident in partnering with students and stakeholders to have the most successful year possible.
When I decided to try the Grid Method with my 1st and 2nd grade students, I knew I was stepping out into unknown territory. There are few teachers that would attempt to give that much responsibility and control to such young learners. Parents, students, administrators, and I would all need to change our mindsets and perspectives on what learning and success actually are.
While I have dozens of individual success stories that I could share, the biggest impact I’ve seen within my classroom as a whole is the complete ownership of learning. Students no longer look to me as the indicator of success. They are aware of what it takes to meet the expectations and what constitutes mastery. Students, yes even 6, 7, and 8-year-olds, are consistently reflecting on their learning to decide if they have met mastery or need to revisit material.
They have learned to articulate which parts are confusing and which ones they are confident with. They have learned to ask questions of themselves and of their peers in order to ensure they are successful. During this process, I have moved from the leader of the class to a facilitator, while students have moved from passive to active learners. All of this has been possible through the Grid Method. – Maggie Gifford, 1st grade teacher
About Rae Hughart
Rae Hughart is a Middle-Level Math Educator in Illinois, the Director of Training and Development for the Teach Better Team, and author of Teachers Deserve It (20) and Teach Better (19) books available on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. In 2017, Rae was honored with the Illinois State University Outstanding Young Alumni Award – inducting her into the University Hall of Fame. In 2018, Rae was honored again by winning 1st place in the Henry Ford Innovator Award for her work within educators communities to build unity between local businesses and schools. You can learn more about Rae or book her for Professional Development opportunities within the Teach Better Speakers Network.