We all know it’s important to give students choice in their learning, but sometimes that can be really challenging. I remember when I was first teaching that this concept scared the heck out of me! How was I supposed to grade separate assignments and ensure all students were meeting or mastering the standards? Or how was I going to make sure the workload was fair? Or how do I even go about doing this to begin with?
Yea, it overwhelmed me for sure.
But, over the years and after lots of trial and error (sometimes I feel like that’s the only way to get better – try, fail, and adjust!), here are some of the simplest and most impactful ways you can provide your students with choice in their learning.
Give them choice in the final assessment.
If I was still a first-year teacher, reading this would give me hives! But, it’s totally possible to allow students the opportunity to show you their understanding and knowledge of the concepts and skills learned through the unit in a variety of ways.
I do still like to provide a standard assessment, as well as an in-class Response to Literature, but 9 times out of 10 I will also give my students some sort of project-based or extension assessment in addition.
Here are some ideas that you can use for this:
- Assign a one-pager choice board.
- Allow them to choose from a variety of projects from a projects choice board. Think things like, “Evaluate if this story really could have happened. Include at least two quotes from the text and justify why those quotes show that the story really could or could not have occurred.” (Clearly, this one is more writing-based!) Or, “Design a map that depicts the setting of the novel. Include at least three quotes from the text that prove your drawing is accurate.” (For this one, you can even require students to justify their reasoning – so many different skills covered!)
- Give them the option to pick their own project – they would just need to provide you with clear guidelines, expectations, and some sort of rubric before you gave your approval. I actually love this one because it allows our students so much creativity, but you’re still giving them parameters!
Give them choice in their daily and weekly writing assignments.
We’re huge advocates of our Reading Response Choice Boards (we have them for both fiction and non-fiction texts). And what we love so much about these choice boards is that they can be used in so many different ways in your classroom.
Here are some suggestions to use choice boards as either reading activities or reading assignments (or both!):
- Assign students a written response at the end of each chapter or two while studying a class novel.
- Use the quilt to hold students accountable for books they read independently.
- Have students use the prompts to write book report assignments.
- Assign a weekly writing assignment focused on your current unit of study and allow students the freedom to choose what they want to answer.
We want to give students the freedom to choose what they want to write about, and this is such a simple (and meaningful) way to do that. (It also makes grading less redundant when you are reading various responses from your students! 😉 )
Give them choice in what they read!
This is a lot more approachable when you utilize this strategy with short stories. We’re not experts at literature circles because we always taught whole-class novels (and really found a lot of benefits in doing so!), but giving students choice with the short stories they read is much less intimidating in our opinion!
A really cool way to introduce the short stories to your students before they choose which one they want to read is to use the concept of the “Five Word Wonder.” We wrote all about this strategy in this blog post.
I’ve used this particular activity so many different times with a wide variety of grade levels, and every time, without fail, students love it! They get into heated discussions about what they believe the text will be about and this creates easy excitement about the text before we start reading!
And what’s great is you can do the Five Word Wonder for each of the short stories students have to choose from. Then, they can pick the short story they want to read based off of this Into Lesson – super cool way to start a new unit!
What other ways do you include student choice in your classroom? We’d love to know – let us know in the comments below, so we can check them out!