“Choice strengthens all.” By Neal Prescot
Allowing students to make choices in the classroom not only empowers them to make great choices about their learning but it also motivates them. No one likes to be told what to do, sometimes having a simple choice between two items makes all the differences. Below are some ways you can start adding in choice and some tips to help make the transition smoother.
- Tasks: Have students pick how they want to practice a skill by allowing them to choose the task they want to complete. This can be done by providing a standards based choice board or a self paced pathway.
- Seating: Have students chose where they want to sit to learn. Having expectations and teaching students about making right choices is apart of the learning process.
- Homework: See my views on why I don’t believe in homework but if you are going to give it, allow for students to choose what they need to work on based on their needs. I promise you that you will actually get homework turned in if you provide choices that are engaging and authentic.
- Product choice: Have students chose how they want can show what they know about a topic. Allowing students to make this decision allows for not only ownership but gives them room to be creative!
- Genius Hour: Genius hour is based on Google and 3M’s 80/20 theory, 80% of the time you work on the tasks you need to complete in order to move the company forward. The other 20% you work on something you are passionate about. This applies great in the classroom as the students work on the standards for 80% and then they get 20% time, genius hour, to learn about something they chose to learn about that is not tied to a standard.
- Reading: Research has shown that letting students choose their own books, makes them not only better readers but also they will want to read more when given a choice. Often times I am given the excuse but I want to have whole group academic coversations. You still can have class discussions about books by allowing students to choose based on theme. For example, having the topic be leadership and the book choices you give them all have leadership embedded in them.
- Morning Meetings: Many classrooms start off the day with morning meetings; why not have the students run morning meetings! Have the leader of the day chose the greeting and the activity. You can provide a safe learning environment by providing them options to choose from by listing different greetings and activities on the board.
- Classroom Environment: Have students chose how they want the classroom to look/feel as it is their learning environment too. You can start off small by having a suggestion box somewhere in the room and invite students to use it to express thoughts, concerns, and opinions regarding classroom policies and procedures.
- Note Taking: To often I see teachers telling their students how to take notes. Having students chose how they want to take notes will create ownership in understanding the content. Modeling different note taking strategies will help students to make the best choice for them such as Cornell, sketchnotes or interactive note taking.
- Assessment: Having students take an assessment when they are ready allows students to feel confident in the content. This tends to scare a lot of teachers but start off small by allowing them to take the assessment anytime during a certain week or provide two days. You can take it on Friday or if you need the weekend to study/practice, you can take it Monday. If we as teachers are truly looking for mastery, we need to remember not everyone masters a concept at the same time.
Tips to Think About:
- Start small and only chose one way to add choice into your classroom.
- For any choice you provide, explicitly teach your expectations and think about potential roadblocks before issues arise.
- Do not make the mistake of giving too many options as that can be over whelming.
- If you do a choice board and you have the students pick one choice a day, make sure you have six options because if they do one a day for five days, then it is not really a choice.
- If providing a choice and it “goes bad or fails” before saying it doesn’t work, analyze what could you do differenty to make it succcessful. Also make sure you are giving it enough times.