Independent Study 101
3 Major Components:
Independent study is very different from a traditional site based school. You as a parent have accepted the big responsibility of your child’s daily education and you now have a wonderful opportunity to create a richly rewarding and memorable experience for you and your family. Parents play a huge role in the success of their students. Independent study is very different from a traditional site based school. We know this is a huge task and we want to support you in playing your role as day-to-day teacher. We have prepared a series of materials to support parents.
Prior to your first meeting, please review the "Back-to-School Checklist 6-8" and Pathways Paperwork Guidelines for Parent TK-8 (located below the menu bar on the right-hand side of this page). These forms will give you a good overview of what to consider in setting up your child's educational plan.
"Begin the Journey"
What does Independent Study look like?
To begin you will want to have a conversation with your entire family about what independent study will look like and the roles that each of them will have to support this endeavor. Your middle school student needs to acknowledge that during the school day you are now their teacher and they need to commit to their role as the student. Discuss how other family members can support this by allowing quiet time for the student to focus and learn with minimal distractions. It is VERY important to develop a structure to your day and stick to it. It is also important to give the student some choices such as do you want to start with English or Math? As you make a plan, here are some clarifying questions you need to ask yourself and your child::
- Where will their learning space will be? How will you arrange their learning space and how will you organize it? Some families have a designated school area within the home which can look and feel similar to a classroom environment. Other families use the kitchen table or other common areas. Some students choose to work mostly at a desk in their room. This can look different for each family and at times very different for siblings depending on what makes the best learning environment for them.
- How frequently will you need to check for understanding with your child? Some students may need frequent check ins throughout the day perhaps even hourly or more often. This can vary depending on the academic level of the student.
- How will you/they organize and plan for timely completion of assignments? Students can use a variety of strategies and tools to stay organized. Students are encouraged to use a weekly planner and clearly write out daily homework tasks for each subject areas. Other families like using a whiteboard which has a daily plan written out. These tools when used consistently can work effectively to stay on track.
- Do you need a timer to schedule how much seat time before a break? How long will your breaks be and how often?Your child’s ability to sustain concentration will probably vary throughout the day depending on what subject they are engaged in. Be mindful of this and revise your schedule if needed. If your child works best in the morning and they struggle with Math it should be a priority to complete Math assignments in the morning.
- How will you start your day? What time exactly and stick to it. Do you expect the student to make the bed, get dressed and have breakfast? Or, will you allow for a more casual beginning? These are big questions that require some thought. We encourage families to think through the expectations they have and make a plan as a family. Some students can manage their personal time well with a more flexible schedule while other students need very clear and consistent schedules to achieve academic growth and success. A consistent schedule will also include daily time set aside to review your child’s work and make sure they are understanding what is expected of them and demonstrate homework completion. You know your child better than anyone else. Bottom line is that consistency is key and if something isn’t working you can change it. Remember your IST is a great resources to brainstorm ideas when challenges arise.
How do I complete the paperwork?
Once you have gotten through the organization of your home classroom and roles and responsibilities of everyone you will move on to the another component of learning from home, creating lessons and documentation through paperwork. Some of you are experienced and know how your child learns best so you already have an idea of the curriculum you want to chose. Others are very new to this and will need help with assigning and choosing curriculum. Your IST is very experienced and will help you with any curriculum choices or guide you with appropriate assignments.
Use the "Back to School Checklist TK-5" from the menu on the right to think through various aspects of your home-based learning program. Your IST will review some of these items with you during your initial meeting and for others, they may direct you to regional parent training opportunities or other resources. There is no one “right way” to approach curriculum in a home-based learning environment. Pathways allows for tremendous flexibility in the methods used (curriculum) to reach the standards. For some parents this is very exciting because it means that they can design lessons and unit plans specific to the interests and learning styles of their child. However, for other parents this is overwhelming and does not give them enough direction on where to start. NO matter where on that spectrum you fall, discuss various options with your IST and select a place to start. Likely, over the first few months of school, you and your teacher will decide to make some changes to the materials selected or the types of assignments. That is to be expected. A few aspects to consider:
- How does your child learn best? You may want to complete a learning style inventory to see how your student best learns; visually, auditorily or kinesthetically. Most students are a combination. It’s important to teach to their strengths. www.sealyisd.com/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=9144782 or Pinterest has lots of inventories.
- What educational approach do you want to use?
- There are a range of approaches, from traditional textbooks and materials, to project based. Some of these approaches are also aligned with educational philosophies such as Waldorf or Classical Education.
- What types of methods of instruction do you want to include?
- As you learned at the information session, we offer a range of methods to reach the grade level standards including: curriculums/texts, learning center classes, classes in the community with approved vendors, online curriculum, online classes, projects and parent designed units.
- How much guidance do you need as a parent?
- It is important to consider not only your child’s needs, but your as well. As you step into this role of teacher, how much and what type of support do you need? SOme parents want a curriculum that lays out daily lessons while others are more comfortable piecing together various elements from a variety of materials.
Also in the menu to the right, you will find an overview of paperwork guidelines- please review this document as well. This paperwork is not only a huge component of independent study compliance, but also outlines the expectations of your IST and is a tool for communication for the members of the educational team.
How do I know if my student is making progress?
There are several tools that help demonstrate how well your child is making academic progress. Referencing the monthly assignment sheet, learning objectives and evaluating assessment scores throughout the semester support ongoing progress monitoring. As the parent provides daily instruction, structure and support for their student you, have many opportunities to informally evaluate your child’s learning and progress. Here are some things to consider as you evaluate progress:
- Is your child able to complete daily assignments in all subjects? If not, what is hindering them? Some students may need more support in breaking down daily assignments into management tasks. If your child is working below grade level is reading, writing, or math they may need to spend more time daily to complete grade level assignments. Some students can complete weekly assignments working M-F however others may need to work during the weekends as well.
- Is your child actively engaged in their learning? How can you tell? Secondary students are expected to demonstrate their learning through conducting hands on investigations, research activities and being about to present their findings through oral discussions and written explanations.
- Is your child able to demonstrate time management skills? Strong time management skills include the ability to make a schedule, identify priority tasks, and avoid procrastination. Parents need to model time management skills for their students and support them as they develop and strengthen these skills.
There are many online resources that parents can access to support student learning. A good place to begin is to have a better understanding of what the grade level standards are.
The following website : http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/ has the standards for each grade level so you can take a look to determine what is expected at each grade level.
When reviewing your child’s monthly assignments sheets you can review the grade level learning objectives that are written within the document. Here are a few examples:
- Students should be actively engaged with daily independent reading from a variety of genres.
- Student should be able to compare and contrast texts in different genres; determine a theme or central idea; provide a written or oral summary.
- Students should be able to demonstrate comprehension of informational material: cite textual evidence through explicit retelling. Analyze reliability of sources and distinguish fact from fiction.
- Students should be able to make sense of problems and persevere in problem solving.
- Students should be able to reason abstractly and quantitatively.
- Students should be able to construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
- Students should be engaged in inquiry based learning that includes observation and investigative activities
Another progress monitoring tool is collecting baseline assessment data of where you student is at the beginning of the school year so you can determine if they are making adequate progress. Pathways administers an in-house benchmark assessment using Renaissance Learning for reading and math during the first few weeks of enrollment and each new school year. From these assessments you will have established a baseline and also determine strengths and areas to focus your teaching or intervention if needed. It’s important to re-evaluate student progress and frequently review target skills throughout the school year. Renaissance Learning reports include the following information:
- Test results (Independent reading level, Lexile score, standard score, etc)
- Current performance levels ( each student’s scaled score equates to one of for categories: urgent intervention, intervention, on watch and above benchmark)
- Suggested Skills for growth (these targeted skills are recommended learning progressions that correlates directly from the standards)
Remember your Independent Study Teacher is a valuable resource to brainstorm ideas and any concerns you have regarding your child’s learning and progress.
If you or your IST have any concerns about your student’s academic progress, or any concerns in general, we can hold a student study team meeting (SST) to discuss the concerns and come up with a plan for support or intervention. Please ask your IST about this process if you need more information.
The Skills We Need for Critical Thinking
The skills that we need in order to be able to think critically are varied and include observation, analysis, interpretation, reflection, evaluation, inference, explanation, problem solving, and decision making. Specifically we need to be able to:
- Think about a topic or issue in an objective and critical way.
- Identify the different arguments there are in relation to a particular issue.
- Evaluate a point of view to determine how strong or valid it is.
- Recognise any weaknesses or negative points that there are in the evidence or argument.
- Notice what implications there might be behind a statement or argument.
- Provide structured reasoning and support for an argument that we wish to make.
Read more at: https://www.skillsyouneed.com/learn/critical-thinking.html