Activity Guide

Defining Personalization

What exactly is personalization? This activity creates a school-wide conversation that asks participants to formulate a consensus definition of “personalization.” They first work through an activity to build a common understanding of the term. Then, they reconcile the consensus definition with the five part definition of personalization from the Breaking Ranks Framework.

Participants should engage in a valuable discussion about the perception and implementation of personalization in the current school culture. This discussion will facilitate reaching a consensus of personalization in your school culture and the learning process defined by the Breaking Ranks standard will ensure pathways for identifying and implementing effective personalization strategies and initiatives in your school.



2-4-8 Activity

The 2-4-8 activity is designed to bring a large group through discussion and consensus building to a common understanding and definition of a term.

  • Begin the collaborative conversations by having each participant write a brief definition of “personalization” in the context of school. Allow 2 minutes for this activity. Announce the time and give a warning when there are 30 seconds left.
  • Ask each person to turn to the person next to him or her and combine their definitions into one that they can both accept. Explain that this activity is tightly timed to force focused conversations and to keep ideas flowing.
  • Ask each pair to take an additional minute to be sure that their definition is clear and will stand up to the POTS test: Will the person on the street (POTS) understand the definition without explanation?
  • Have each pair join another pair and give the same directions as above so that the product is one definition agreed on by all four participants. Allow 5 minutes for this step.
  • Fold the quads into groups of eight and repeat the process. Allow 6 minutes for this step so that each group can record their definition on chart paper and post it on the wall.
  • Reconvene the large group and debrief by having a spokesperson from each group read the consensus definition. Discuss the similarities and differences in the definitions.
  • Debrief further by asking about the process. How easy or difficult was it to reach consensus? Why? What happened when the group was asked to apply the POTS principle? Who are the POTS in your school community? How can this activity be used in a school setting for other purposes?
  • Ask participants to discuss the implications for instruction and daily practices that their definition of personalization brings to their work.

The Breaking Ranks Gallery Walk

  • Provide each participant with a copy of Breaking Ranks Framework selection.
  • Label the top of each of five pieces of chart paper with one of the headings pulled from the definition:
    1. Assess their own talents and aspirations
    2. Plan a pathway toward their purposes
    3. Work cooperatively with others on challenging tasks
    4. Maintain a record of their explorations
    5. Demonstrate learning against clear standards in a variety of media.
  • Post each piece of chart paper in a separate area around the room and number 1 through 5.
  • Have someone read aloud the Breaking Ranks definition of “personalization.”
  • Break into groups of 5 to complete the following steps:
    1. Individually, read the definition and make notes about the actions/verbs in the definition.
    2. Within each group, count off by fives and move to the numbered chart papers posted around the room. Give each group a different colored marker.
    3. Ask groups to list under the heading on their chart paper the visible school practices that demonstrate that this element of the definition exists in the school.
    4. Have groups rotate until every group has contributed to each chart. If the group sees an idea put up by another group that they want to endorse, they should put a star next to it. If they see something that they do not understand, they should put a question mark next to it.
  • Have groups rotate to the sheet where they began and read the comments, endorsements, and questions.
  • Distribute copies of the handout: “Personalization—What Will It Look Like?”
  • Have the participants use the handout to record key ideas as the large group debriefs the gallery walk.
  • Have a spokesperson from each group summarize the contents of the chart.

Extend and Apply

Ask participants to discuss the implications for instruction and daily practices that their definition of personalization brings to their work. Looking at the school practices defined in the Gallery Walk, what personalization practices are currently implemented at your school and what new practices could be added to improve personalization strategies in each classroom. Use the Discussion Guide Planning Templates and the Process Circle implementation plan for new initiatives as needed.