How I manage my classroom: Suney Park, 6th grade

To create my classroom culture, I am conscientious about how I introduce Khan Academy and how I set the stage for the school term using a few different systems and tools. 


On the day I introduced Khan Academy to the class, I began by telling them that they were going to be part of something BIG, AMAZING, and that perhaps they would be part of something monumental in all the world.  I continued to pump them up using words like “trailblazer”, “pioneer”, and “cutting edge”.  Then I explained to them what TED talks are, the significance of TED talks, and we proceeded to watch Sal Khan’s TED talk on Khan Academy.   My concerns that the language would be over their heads were assuaged when I saw my students listening and engaged with Sal’s words.  In a discussion that followed the video, many students shared how they were able to relate to feeling bored when they had to sit through countless lessons about math that they already knew.  Others shared their feelings of confusion and sadness when they had no idea what was going on in class.  They needed help and more individual attention but would have to move on without either into the next world of confusion.  My students understood and related to the Swiss cheese holes that Sal explained.  Sal’s words, Bill Gates, my introductory set, the ability to relate, and word that they would be using their very own laptops made for a class that was “ooing” and “ahhing” and completely sold on the idea.  The students’ vulnerability with each other about their own math histories brought our class closer, and this was an integral step in developing a safe classroom environment.  Students were beginning to share, empathize, sympathize, and “know” each other.  In this type of setting, peer tutoring thrived because no one felt judged and ashamed, nor did anyone act haughty and pretentious about their math dexterity.  Help was requested and help was given in a very natural and sincere way.  

At the very beginning, the whole class started at the very top of the knowledge map, reviewing basic skills starting with addition.  Twice a week, for forty-five minutes, I gave students free reign on Khan Academy.  Because the first exercises were extremely easy for the students, their confidence and motivation levels soared as they easily breezed through the top portion of the knowledge map. High-fives, clapping, dancing, laughing, and smiling filled the room as students passed effortlessly through addition, subtraction, and the beginnings of multiplication and division.  They marveled at the fact that they needed no help, could do everything mentally, didn’t have to watch any videos or show any work.  This state of confident bliss was short-lived as more and more students began to struggle with concepts and topics that were never learned or forgotten.  This was the time to introduce the Khan Academy Journal and the Need Help/Can Help board.  


The Khan Academy Journal is a place for students to name and list the exercises they are working on.  It’s also a space for them to show work when necessary and to also take notes while watching a video.  I had to devote a whole day’s lesson to teaching the class how to use the journal, how to set up each day’s work, and how to watch a video lesson.  For the journal, I simply modeled what to write and how to set up each day’s work on the projector.  For the lesson on how to watch a video, we did an “active listening” lesson.  In short, this lesson guided the students through notetaking, how to pause a video to take notes, how to rewind a video if something was missed or even replay a video for extra help.  We also discussed the benefits of video lessons in comparison to live lectures by teachers.  Again, I put a video on the projector and modeled how to take notes, what to write, and what not to write.  I paused, went back, and even showed them how to forward the video to the particular spot where extra help was needed.  At this age, students need so much modeling and step-by-step instructions.  So, watching a video was established as a resource to turn to when help was needed.  

Khan Academy Journal

  • name/record daily exercises
  • show work when solving practice problems
  • take notes while watching video
  • look back to reread notes and past work samples


I also spent time discussing peer tutoring as another resource for help. In this lesson, we discussed the difference between helping someone by explaining as opposed to just giving out answers.  We also discussed the benefits of peer-tutoring to both the helper and the recipient.  Part of this discussion also included revisiting the classroom culture we were striving to achieve in our class.  I reminded them about acceptance and respect for each other, and I reiterated the different learning styles and paces represented in the classroom.  It was very important for me to validate the importance of peer-tutoring as a norm in our classroom and to make sure that it was to be done in a way that would be respectful, caring, and all the while preserving everyone’s dignity.  

What is a need help / can help board?

  • make a T-chart on the board
  • one side is titled “NEED HELP”
  • other side is titled “CAN HELP”
  • students write their names and the exercise names on the “need help” side if they are struggling
  • students regularly check the chart to see if they can help
  • if a student can help, he/she will write their name on the opposite side of the chart and then cross off both names to signify that help has been found
  • if teacher notices that the same person or the same few students are always doing the helping, teacher can identify other students to help by looking at the dashboard data
  • helping is good, but remind students that they need to do their own work as well; spread out the help


I also identified myself as another resource for help.  I explained how I would be holding mini-lessons for small groups and individuals who needed extra support.  I showed them where in the classroom we’d be meeting for this extra help.  I told them that I’d be determining these small groups based on data from the dashboard, from my own observations, and from questions they were asking themselves.  I also pointed out that the students themselves could ask to be part of a mini-lesson if they knew they were struggling.  In addition to small groups and one-on-one support, I told my class that I’d be teaching whole group lessons to introduce certain concepts, to intervene when a large portion of the class was struggling on something similar, or to guide the class through projects.  I told them that whole-group math would happen at least twice a week, and that other days would be devoted to independent learning with Khan Academy.  It was important for me to let the students know that they were still part of a math class even though they were simultaneously traversing their own math journeys using Khan Academy.  


  • identify units and unit objectives for the year
  • collect ideas and activities for developing classroom community
  • develop introductory lesson to introduce Khan Academy
  • inform parents about Khan Academy, becoming a coach, new model
  • create active listening and peer-tutoring activity
  • create unit packets for each unit
  • align Khan videos, Khan exercises, textbook lessons, textbook exercises for packets
  • purchase folders and journals
  • create pre-tests, post-tests, “land” posters, and Swiss Cheese documents for each unit
  • identify and prepare projects for each unit that will tie together the content in a meaningful way and require students to use problem solving and critical thinking skills
  • frequent and regular dashboard viewing to identify student progress and/or struggle
  • use dashboard data to determine whole-group lessons, peer-tutoring combinations, and best use of tutor help
  • lead whole group lessons, mini-lessons to small groups, and provide one-on-one support
  • grade pre-tests and discuss “holes” with students
  • grade post-tests and provide support for low-performing students
  • revisit with students who did not pass post-tests; assess again with retake
  • check student journals and folders for upkeep and organization
  • help students develop goals (daily, weekly, monthly) for themselves
  • check in with each student to note their progress and make adjustments
  • identify students who need more time and need access to internet outside the school day
  • frequent check-ins with IT person at your school
  • schedule evening presentations or events where students share their math progress with parents, community, etc.  (Math Mania, Decimania)
  • communicate with math teachers of previous grade levels and upcoming grade levels to ensure fluidity
  • ask questions and reach out for help
  • share what you’ve done


Other sources of help and support while working on Khan Academy came from lessons from the math textbook.  These lessons were identified and listed on the unit packets which were distributed at the beginning of each new unit.  I also assigned practice problems from the textbook as well as pulled additional worksheets for students to practice the material and concepts.  

I was also fortunate to have volunteers from the community come to my classroom during the week to support Khan Academy.  They roamed the classroom to answer questions while I was teaching a mini-lesson, they provided individual support based on information from me or from dashboard data they had as a coach, and they helped me grade post-tests.  These volunteers were a tremendous help and gift.  

UNIT SEQUENCE OF EVENTS:  Unit Beginning to Unit End

For every unit, each student would go through this sequence:

  • take pre-test
  • grade pre-test (with teacher or teacher alone)
  • identify holes with Swiss Cheese worksheet (with teacher)
  • receive unit packet
  • fill out cover page of unit packet (name, start date, school, goal date for completion, pre-test score)
  • receive unit folder and decorate with title, name, designs
  • begin working on Khan Academy exercises, textbook practice pages, unit project(s)
  • review for post-test
  • take post-test
  • grade post-test (with teacher or teacher alone)
  • 70% or higher is passing
  • go over post-test errors with teacher; make test corrections
  • record post-test score on unit packet
  • fill in Swiss Cheese holes
  • move clip to new unit land
  • congratulatory remarks
  • move onto next unit

Content included in each unit packet

  • Name, Date, School
  • Unit Objectives
  • Target (Goal) date for completion of the unit
  • Pre-test grade
  • Post-test grade
  • list of all videos to watch
  • list of all exercises to complete
  • list of lessons from the textbook
  • list of practice problems from textbook
  • students highlight each video, exercise, textbook assignment, textbook lesson after each is completed
  • important note:  always preview the videos and lessons to make sure the content is appropriate for the grade level


In teaching, it is common to use a consistent introductory set and closing set to cap off the ends of the lesson. Outlined below is my routine.

Opening Ceremonies (daily)

  • students take out Khan Academy journals, folders, textbooks, computers, pencils, highlighters
  • teacher leads class in setting up the day’s math time
  • teacher takes notes on board:  different units that are being worked on, # of students in each unit, # of students taking pre-tests and/or post-tests, mini-lesson groups, list of students who need one-on-one help
  • students share their goals for the day with their tablemates and then with the whole class
  • teacher identifies how the classroom space will be divided:  space for each unit, space for test-takers, space for mini-lesson, space for those needing extra concentration space
  • bell rings for official start
  • students disperse around the classroom

Closing Ceremonies and Share-Out Time (daily)

  • 2-minute bell rings to alert students to wrap up and finish up
  • bell rings again to notify time has ended and that it is time to clean up, put everything away (computers, folders, journals, materials), and return to regular seating arrangement
  • teacher asks students to share-out any accomplishments, successes, or anything they are proud of or have learned (students raise hands and share one by one)
  • teacher asks students to thank others who helped them (students thank each other one by one)
  • teacher asks if anyone wants to compliment someone for something they noticed
  • teacher wraps up time with final closing words and reminders

Student Materials

  • Khan Academy Journal (composition book)
  • Khan Academy Folder
  • Khan Academy Unit Packet
  • headphones
  • pencil
  • highlighter
  • computer
  • textbook and additional worksheets
  • project materials

Khan Academy Folder (one folder for each unit; each folder different color)

  • homework assignments
  • additional worksheets
  • project materials
  • Swiss Cheese document
  • pre-tests
  • post-tests
  • unit packet

Swiss Cheese Document

  • one slice of cheese for each unit
  • teacher and student fill out together after grading pretest
  • identify holes of each unit
  • write the name of struggle area inside each hole
  • fill in the holes after post-test is graded and passed

Classroom decorations: Curriculum Unit Lands

  • posters hanging from ceiling
  • each poster represents one unit
  • sign on poster should identify the unit
  • each student personalizes a wooden clip
  • students hang their clip on the “land” they are currently working on
  • after students pass the post-test, they move their clip to a new unit (land)
  • after the whole class has passed and mastered the unit, everyone signs the poster
  • 6th grade math curriculum- Data and Statistics Land, Number Relationships Land, Fraction Land, Decimal Land, Percent Land, Proportions/Rates/Ratios Land, Geometry Land