Engaging Students in their Learning

17 Feb

Helping students understand how they learn and how to better manage their learning is an ongoing process. As most of my time is spent with teachers and administrators, I will share with you the two applications that can support these pieces in the whole learning process.

Although, before I delve into the applications, I’d like to take a moment to discuss an important step that needs to occur BEFORE teachers work with students in gauging how they learn and manage their learning. It is important for both teachers and students to know themselves as learners. Some of the resources to achieve this are found in the Alberta Inclusive Education Library, specifically the Student Perspective section where there is an abundance of templates. These resources include one-to-one interviews, small group discussions, written/audio/video reflections, drawings, inventories and checklists. (I am unsure if one can access these resources outside of Alberta. Feel free to contact me directly if there is something of interest.)

Inclusive Ed Library Inclusive Ed Student PerspectiveInclusive Ed Inst Strategies










The other piece to connect with the Student Perspective are different Instructional Strategies and Supports. Within the Inclusive Education Library is the book Making a Difference: Meeting diverse learning needs with differentiated instruction, Language Arts and Mathematics Instructional Supports for grades 1-9 to note.

So, once teachers and students have incorporated the above strategies and supports, this is where one can utilize two applications to help students understand and manage their own learning.

We want students to reflect on their learning AS they are learning. This process is important and that transparency of the process is important too. Polling students can be one way to accomplish this. I share with teachers that they can use polling in three ways:

1) For anticipatory info – find out what students already know, which will assist in the unfurling of a lesson and or unit. Does one go deeper into the vocabulary, offer more audio/video clips for support, add text and images, etc.?

2) Formative assessment – as the students are working individually or together, asking specific comprehension or process questions will let the teacher know if they need to review or emphasize a concept or connect different groups of students together to share their findings.

3) Exit ticket – what are the big findings from the unit/class? Are students on track in their understandings?

From any of the above three actions and their results, students can then be guided to enhance their learning in more specific ways. This ongoing feedback allows students to see their incremental gains in their learning.

For polling, one can have students individually answering, or take time to “think, pair, share” their responses with a partner before responding or have a group of three with one person being the recorder. Seeing class answers to questions in real-time depends on the activity. For some activities, teachers may want real-time answers scrolling directly on the screen at the front of the class, for other activities, teachers may want students answers to be shown after ALL have completed the poll. These answers can lead to deeper group discussions right at the time of the responses or they can be for teacher use and sharing in the next class (an overall summary or further questioning).

A couple of digital polling applications that I recommend teachers try out are:

  • Mentimeter – with multiple choice and open-ended questions, this polling application is free for teachers to use with up to 2 questions in a row (there is an Edu $$ version). I like the easy set up and easy polling. Students must have access to a device with internet to be able to respond. (See the intro video below.)


Mentimeter – intro from Mentimeter on Vimeo.

  • Plickers – a new favorite polling tool of mine since the teacher is the only one that requires a device connected to the internet (specifically iOS). Set up is quick with teachers inputting a class list, students are assigned a number and Plickers cards are then printed off (think bar code/QRcode)

Plickers view


One response to “Engaging Students in their Learning

  1. Debra Obetts

    February 17, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Hi Nicole, This is exactly the part of UDL that I am excited about too – student reflection to manage their own learning. I was able to open links from Alberta and they are awesome!


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