Improving Instructional Strategies & Developing Independent Learners: The Power of SMART amp in a Centers-Based Classroom

A SMART Customer story with Zachary Robbins, 5th Grade English Language Arts Teacher

Teachers and School

Zachary Robbins, 5th Grade ELA Teacher
McKinley School, Newark, NJ
Timothy Nellegar, Instructional Technology
Newark Public Schools

Challenge

To centralize and enhance collaboration through technology to empower students to become independent learners.

Result

A centers-based classroom approach that provided integral time to focus on small group instruction, ultimately improving student academic achievement.

Motivation: The Gradual Release of Responsibility

Located in the North Ward of Newark, NJ, McKinley School has a diverse population of 850 pre-kindergarten to 8th grade students. The school’s mission is ensure that each child meets and exceeds their social, emotional and academic potential, by providing them with enriching experiences and innovative instructional practices.

In order to move from a focused lesson to guided instruction, and ultimately to a more collaborative and student-centered classroom learning environment, Zachary Robbins knew he needed a technology tool that would allow him to gradually release the responsibility of learning to his students. He chose to use SMART amp in his classroom because it aligned with key Newark Public School’s (NPS) district-wide ELA “big investments,” and provided him with a technology solution that could:

  1. Encourage each of his students to write.
  2. Facilitate real-time monitoring.
  3. Foster collaboration.
  4. Motivate his class to become independent learners.

Zachary’s goal with SMART amp was to create a learning environment that would engage his students through enhanced collaboration. He wanted to use SMART amp to augment and modify existing pedagogy and content in a centers-based rotation to:

  • Check for real-time understanding.
  • Provide a place for his students to collaborate (at school and home).
  • Help them develop into autonomous learners.
  • Positively impact reading comprehension.

Increased Time-on-Task & Student Collaboration

Using SMART amp as the backbone for a centers-based approach to learning, Zachary was able to create a classroom flow that allowed him to increase student time-on-task and collaboration. It allowed him to seamlessly transition between student-centered instruction and direct instruction. It became a hub for his rotations and promoted student independence.

Outcome: An Empowered Teacher & Excited Students

Zachary was able to enhance his instructional approach with SMART amp, and empower his students to collaborate and become self-directed learners. Using SMART amp, he found that his students were able to easily reference and effectively critique one another’s work, as well as push their levels of understanding and content creation. Zachary was able to:

  1. Encourage his students to write in response to prompts embedded within his amp workspaces. He used SMART amp to motivate his students to contribute individually and in small-group settings — both synchronously and asynchronously.
  2. Facilitate real-time monitoring, while concurrently providing small-group direct instruction. He used SMART amp to provide continuous feedback and support to meet each of his students’ needs, and ensure their individual successes.
  3. Foster student collaboration to help his students gain an understanding of key concepts in their own words and minds. His students used SMART amp to examine each other’s ideas through written or spoken word, or alternative mediums such as images or videos.
  4. Motivate his class to become independent learners, by regularly challenging them to produce independent evidence of their viewpoints. They used SMART amp to explore and explain their thought-process.