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Strategies for using Khan Academy with students

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As educators, we are always seeking innovative ways to enhance our teaching and engage our students. This article will provide teachers with practical guidelines and effective techniques for integrating Khan Academy into their classrooms. Whether you're new to this platform or an experienced user looking to optimize its features, this article will offer insights into how Khan Academy can be leveraged to support diverse learning needs, promote student engagement, and facilitate personalized learning. We will explore various strategies to maximize this dynamic educational tool.

Supporting your classroom structure with Khan Academy

Teachers use a variety of strategies to integrate Khan Academy into their instructional routine. Below you’ll find a few recommendations from teachers experienced with in-class use.
Whole class
Many teachers recommend having the whole class work on the same topic as a great starting point for those new to Khan Academy. Start by assigning the same course or unit mastery goal to the class and provide at least 30 minutes per week for students to work on that goal. At the beginning of a new unit, creating an assignment where all students have the same set of questions is a good idea. You can display these questions for the entire class to work on together or have students break into small groups to discuss them. This approach encourages collaboration and facilitates meaningful discussions among students.
Skill groups
Once you begin to feel more comfortable using Khan Academy and students are able to work independently, try breaking students into groups to address their needs better. Use Khan Academy’s Skills report to identify strengths and learning opportunities in student skill sets. Then, assign specific skills to small groups of students, and allow them to work both independently and as a group to strengthen weaker areas. Many teachers use this time to work with a specific group of students who are struggling; this approach allows them to provide more individualized attention to students who need it while also providing the right content at the right moment to all students.
Station rotation
This approach is particularly helpful if you have a limited number of devices for students. Use Khan Academy’s Skills report to identify strengths and learning opportunities in student skill sets, then break students into small groups. Set up stations around the classroom for students to visit. These could include application activities for integrating skills into real-world practice, reviewing content from the core curriculum, or small group sessions with the teacher. Be sure to include Khan Academy as one of the stations. Have students work at each station for a specified number of minutes and then rotate to the next station. Students at the Khan Academy station should work on their current mastery goal to reach proficiency or mastery of all skills. This allows students to work on necessary content, keeps all students engaged, and reduces the need for all students to have a device at all times.
If you are confident, all students have reliable devices and internet access at home, assigning Khan Academy for homework may be a good option. By assigning mastery goals and supporting assignments for at least 30 minutes a week, you’ll quickly have access to a good amount of student progress data. Then, use in-class time to discuss common problems, reteach specific skills, and celebrate successes. Using the Assignment responses report is helpful for identifying the most commonly missed questions, and the Progress reports can be used to display unit and course progress for the entire class. When using Khan Academy for homework, but sure to have regular data chats with students to ensure accountability and increase engagement.

Recommended Supplies for student success

Khan Academy is designed to work in conjunction with the other resources in your classroom. Teachers experienced with Khan Academy suggest the following approaches when preparing classrooms already equipped with devices and the internet for using Khan Academy.
Headphones for students
As students work through questions on Khan Academy, they may choose to watch videos to help them better understand the skills they are working on. In a class full of students, all the video sound can easily become a distraction. Providing a pair of headphones for each student helps that student and their classmates maintain focus. If headphones are unavailable for your students, an alternative is to ask students to mute their video and use the closed captioning by selecting the CC in the bottom right corner.
Image of a video from Khan Academy show how to use closed captions.
Small whiteboards for everyone
Khan Academy provides a digital scratchpad for students to work through questions. However, many students find it easier to take notes outside the platform. Many teachers have found personal whiteboards with dry-erase markers and erasers helpful for students. Teacher tip: Buy a bulk bag of small, dark-colored socks for students to use as erasers; they double as marker storage.
Provide space for student collaboration
While each student may be working on unique questions based on their learning journey, most experienced teachers recommend setting your classroom up to encourage students to support each other when they are stuck. This helps students become advocates for their own learning and provides them with the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding to peers, building confidence.

Student empowerment, goal setting, and progress monitoring

Discussing Course and Unit Mastery Goals with your students
Setting Course and Unit mastery goals is a recommended first step to using Khan Academy with students. Course mastery goals allow students to have a clear, long-term focus on what they want to achieve throughout the year, and unit goals provide the smaller, short-term goals are the steps to reaching the greater goal of mastering the entire course.
When discussing the importance of Course and Unit Mastery Goals with students, here are some suggestions:
  1. Explain the Purpose: Make sure students understand that Mastery Goals are not just tasks to complete but also designed to help them gain a deep understanding of the subject matter.
  2. Set Clear Expectations: Let students know what you expect from them regarding progress and completion dates. Explain how these goals align with your overall teaching plan and how they will be used in assessments.
  3. Show the Benefits: Discuss how these goals can help them track their own progress, identify areas they need to work on and see their improvement over time.
  4. Encourage Consistency: Emphasize the importance of consistent study and practice in achieving these goals.
  5. Provide Support: Assure students that you are there to support them. Encourage them to ask questions and seek help when they encounter difficulties.
  6. Celebrate Achievements: Recognize and celebrate when students reach their goals. This can motivate them to continue working towards their next goals.
Remember, the aim is to make students see these Mastery Goals as valuable tools for their learning journey, not just additional work.
Student-driven goal-tracking
While Khan Academy provides some ways to track skill and course progress, long-term goals can feel overwhelming for students. Teachers recommend setting smaller interim goals and including students in the goal-setting process. Providing students with a goal-setting sheet (like the one seen below) and/or tracking student progress through a classroom display can help build student ownership in their learning and increase motivation to make progress. (Goal-setting templates can be found here)
Image of a student progress monitoring template.
Course Challenges: The Role of Reflection and Repeated Attempts in Mastery
Another way to use the Course Challenge to support goal attainment is to provide 3 - 4 opportunities for students to take the assessment per year. Prior to each challenge, ask students where they think they are. Once they take the challenge, ask what surprised them and have them set a goal for the next challenge. This reflective goal setting helps students identify what they need to do to be successful in Course Mastery.
Empower students to monitor progress
To foster reflective learning, it's crucial to utilize Khan Academy's reports. These tools provide insights into student progress and can be used by both you and your students for growth tracking.
Students can monitor their progress by checking their Course and Unit Mastery Goals, viewing the Progress tab, and observing their Skill Mastery levels. These can be accessed from the Learner home after logging in to Khan Academy.
As a teacher, you can track course and unit progress and skill-specific progress for all your students using the Progress and Skills reports. Encourage students to regularly check their progress and make use of these tools for self-improvement.
Remember, these tools are designed to empower students to become reflective learners, so sharing and discussing them is key!
What should I encourage students to do when they get stuck?
We encourage teachers to establish their own classroom norms, and many teachers have recommended a three-before-me approach when supporting students who are stuck on a question. Khan Academy has made this simple with the following embedded structure:
Image showing 4 steps students can use when stuck on a problem.
Step 1: Watch a video—each question on Khan Academy has a corresponding video that helps the student learn the skill(s) needed to answer the question.
Step 2: Take a hint—each question on Khan Academy has the option to take a hint and walk step-by-step through the exact question. However, if students use the take-a-hint option, the question will be marked incorrect as the last step in the hint is the answer to the question.
Step 3: Ask a friend—this step encourages students to ask the question of a peer. In this situation the asking student embraces the idea of asking another student for help, and the answering student is given an opportunity to share knowledge and build confidence.
Step 4: Ask the teacher—Only after the student has engaged in steps one to three should they then approach the teacher for one-to-one support.
How can I involve parents/guardians in Khan Academy?
Communication is key, so take time to tell parents/guardians about Khan Academy. Here is a sample letter to parents to help get started.
Some teachers and administrators recommend having a back-to-school night session to help families better understand what Khan Academy is, how Khan Academy can support student success, and what families can do to get involved.
Help parents and guardians set up their own Khan Academy parent account to track student activity. Use this parent quick start guide to get started. Open house or back-to-school night is a great time to set up a parent account!
Khan Academy is available in over 50 languages (more on languages here) so families can learn at home in the language they are most comfortable! Parents are empowered to monitor and support their children and watch their success grow!

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