When we were in school there was a mystery of what you were going to learn, how it was graded, and the teacher owned all the information. Transparency in learning has lifted that mystery and bridged the information gap between the teacher and students.

As a teacher, part of my job is to be a lifelong learner and I took on the challenge to learn and implement a student-centered personalized learning classroom.  My students and I have been blown away by the transformation from a traditional classroom design to a personalized learning classroom.

One of the biggest areas I have worked on in my classroom is the concept of transparency.  Student learning targets are very specific, clearly worded, and prominently posted. I want my students to know exactly what lies ahead and what they are expected to learn in this course.  As a result, my classroom is arranged with all of the standards visible.


​Students learning plans also clearly define the learning targets and the aligned activities to prepare students to master the content. The student learning plan is like their own individualized lesson plan for the standard they are learning. The student takes a pretest to determine their point of entry in the learning progression, completes the aligned activities and small group instruction based on the pretest, and demonstrates mastery once they are confident in their learning. The student learning plan supports the student to be self-directed, guides the learning, and captures all the data and evidence. Student learning plans are a huge piece of building transparency in my classroom. 


Assessment is also not a mystery! There are no secrets.  I am not trying to trick them.  I am trying to teach them.  Our digital learning platform allows for students to have easy access to assessments, immediate feedback and the ability to track their progress anytime.

Students can see on any day what standards they have mastered, standards that still need developing, and the next standards in their learning progression. Students are more prepared for assessments with the learning targets clearly defined. The aligned activities allow students to determine when they are ready to be assessed and when they need more practice.  Students have taken ownership of their learning and the content required in the course. It has been so encouraging to see students admit that I have not fully mastered a standard and watch them self-assign homework in order to be prepared the next class period. 

​Additionally, I believe the implementation of transparency has helped develop the climate of my classroom.  There is an honesty amongst the students.  They are not afraid to ask each other for help because they have each experienced success in different areas.  They have become a family and are happy to stop what they are doing to help someone else be successful. 

In short, I have been amazed at the successes of my students this year.  I cannot believe the ground they have covered and the confidence they have gained.  Transparency in the classroom is something I thought I had.  It was something I thought every teacher just did.  However, I have learned this year what true transparency is, and how by giving my students the complete picture they have been able to rise to the occasion.


Personalized Learning Experience

Teacher’s Name: Sophia White

Class: 6th Grade English Language Arts

Common Core Standard: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.

Lesson Title: Do You Really Mean That?

Objective: The learner will be able to interpret the meaning of various figurative language examples in literature.

Integrated skills: Visualizing, analyzing, and differentiating.

Lesson Time: 60 minutes



Anticipatory Set

1)      Teacher briefly explains the lesson objective.  

2)      Students watch the video and read lyrics of the song “My Heart’s a Stereo.”  


3)      Students complete a survey on in response to the song on their iPads or computers.

Sophia White edmodo

4)      Teacher discusses results with students.

5)      Whole Class Discussion: What clues brought you to your response? How did you know the songwriter was not referring to an actual stereo?


Direct Instruction & Shared Reading

1)      Students write the definition of figurative language in their Student Literature Dictionaries.

2)      Students review the difference between literal and figurative language.

3)      Teacher and students read the poem “Dreams” by Langston Hughes.



Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a broken-winged bird
Frozen with snow.


4)      Teacher models how to interpret the meaning of “life is a broken-winged bird” using visualization and context clues strategies.

5)      Students interpret the meaning of “life is a broken-winged bird” using visualization and context clues strategies in literature circles.


Strategy Groups


1)      In literature circles, students read “Growing Pains” by Jean Little.

2)      As a group, students practice interpreting the meaning of figurative language using strategies taught in shared reading.

3)      They must prove their responses and come to a consensus. Consensus must be written.

4)      Teacher monitors and provides academic feedback to students in groups.


Independent Practice and Reading Conferences


1)      Students independently read “It Seems I Test People” by James Berry.

2)      Students independently create a lesson using the Educreation app explaining how they interpreted the meaning of figurative language in the poem.



3)      Teacher conferences with students based on reading levels and skills to reinforce.



Mastery of objective is based on how well students construct meaning from figurative language and demonstrate how the figurative language contributes to the overall meaning of the text.

 Closure Activity


1)      Students send their lessons to their partners. The partner must watch the lesson and provide feedback.


School to Home Learning Extensions

1)      Students create their own figurative language masterpieces using what they have learned in class.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in the Classroom

 “The way we set up our classroom gives our students a clear message about the culture of the classroom, the kind of work they will do and the expectations we have for them.” (Sibberson and Szymusiak, 2003).

SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) help students to take ownership of their learning and build procedural efficiency. They contain information to reiterate expectations and clear up confusion. They also ensure a teacher’s instructional time is not wasted going over classroom procedures again and again. They can be formatted in a list or flowchart.

Here are a few examples of SOPs drafts created by teachers in Charleston County at a RISC training: