Friday, January 3, 2014

Empowering Students through Choice

Okay--- I'm going to admit it right here...

Choice? Give my students CHOICE?
All kinds of crazy would ensue!

And besides that-- it just sounds like a lot of work! Yikes!

Yep- that's what I used to think. Then I heard other teachers talk about how they offered students choices and how great it was. It sounded exciting.  I started thinking about how I could provide choices in my classroom. I dabbled in it a bit. 
Then my district implemented a new teacher evaluation rubric. I am in an awesome district & we have a really good rubric. Really. It's a good rubric. We actually choose the areas in which we want to work towards improving. I choice offering student choice. I've been so pleased with how providing choice seems to be improving student learning. 


Planning for student choice in your instruction offers these benefits:
  • Gives students a greater sense of control = happier, more actively involved students
  • Increases engagement and motivation = more attention to work, more meaningful learning
That's not a difficult equation up there. ..providing student choice increases student achievement. 
I have noticed that my students are indeed more involved. They do take more ownership of their learning, they're more engaged and are performing well academically. 
And they're not running amok. 
Nope- not a bit. My fear of all kinds of crazy? Didn't happen.

Are you like me?  Have you been hearing about this student choice thing & ready to start dabbling? Ready to implement some choice into your instruction?

Here's some reassurance: You don't have to dive in all at once. You can start small and add on when you feel comfortable. A good way to start (and the way I started, too), is to add choice in your workstation or center time. I don't mean it's center time....everyone go make your choices and get started. 
Just choose one or two groups each rotation to make choices.
Just offer two choices to start out.

Here are two ways you can offer choice during your workstation/center time:

During ELA centers, I have kiddos in small groups. This is the chart that I use for our two rotations on Monday. I'm a very visual person, so I use icons. The blue, purple, & orange shapes signify tables in our room. These are assigned tasks whatever activity I have placed at the station is the activity this group completes.

The green C's signify CHOICE. I only put out a max of 4-5 choices per day, and sometimes fewer. It depends on what the kiddos need to work on. On Monday, for example, these choices might be:
  • Rainbow Writing Phonics Skill words (a favorite!)
  • Snowman Roll & Write
  • Possessive Nouns Dice
  • Listening Center
  • Independent Reading



Here's another way to start out with choice.....
 This is the system I use in Math. This will work for you especially if you want to offer multiple choices, but only one rotation.

It works well for me for math because I do math warm up, mini-lesson, then most kiddos move into independent work while I work with a small group. After they've finished their independent work, each kiddo checks the chart. I have some assigned to an activity/station each day; you can see in this chart that I have 3 children already at each station. These kiddos don't get to make a choice today, but they will get to choose the other days of the week. This is actually a powerpoint slide. I project this on our smartboard and those who are down at the bottom just go up and slide their picture up to their choice.


We did actually try letting everyone make a choice, but we ended up getting bogged down with a line of kiddos waiting to move their picture to their choice. That's not the way we want to spend time. We actually met all together and this is the plan they helped come up with: assign some to each station each day so there aren't as many making choice. Smart cookies, aren't they?!

You can grab your own copy of the Check In Board above! There are a couple ways to use it: you can insert pics of your students like I have, or you can insert text boxes and type in the names of each student. They really love moving their slide around! OH! And I'll let you in on a secret....you don't have to have a Smartboard to use this. Believe me- our Smartboard isn't always working 100% of the time. They're just as happy to move their pic on the computer! Just click the image below to download directly from my dropbox! I'd love to hear how you plan to use it in your room!



If you already provide choice in your instruction, I'd love to hear about it! How does it work in your room?


27 comments:

  1. Great post. I love giving my students choices as often as possible. Thanks for the PowerPoint. I will definitely use this in my classroom!

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    1. You're welcome! I'd love to hear how it works for you and your kiddos!

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  2. Awesome ideas! Thank you for sharing the PP!

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  3. Thank you, thank you. I am still a bit confused on how you keep track of who has gone to each station and how you pick your 3 kiddos. That is always my problem and why I haven't started rotations.

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    1. HI, Alicia! Actually, I don't really keep track...I make sure that the activities I' ve chosen support the same skill (for instance, you notice above I have Snowman Roll & Write & Rainbow Writing-- same skill. I also have Listening Center & Independent Reading- both reading opportunities). I leave these stations as choices for a couple of days. That assures me that each child has had practice for each skill across the week. I usually pull Rainbow Writing after two days...but if I notice we're still not solid with the phonics skills, I'll leave it as a choice longer. Does that help clarify?

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  4. I should have checked the document first. I see that you have one for each day. Problem solved - I hope ;) Giving it a try after the break.

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  5. Thanks for making me think today! :) I do provide choice and have also found more engagement and even flow in my classroom. I REALLY LOVE your powerpoint~clean and easy to use and read for my little students! Thanks for sharing!

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  6. LOVE LOVE LOVE this idea! I am a self contained special education teacher and giving my students choice has been a part of what I do for many years. Sometimes the freedom to choose is what helps my kiddos balance between completing their work and pouting or tantruming. It is amazing what the freedom of choice can do for a struggling student.
    Thanks so much for the file and for sharing.
    www.superteachsspecialedspot.blogspot.com

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    1. You are so right! I can't tell you how happy I am that I finally jumped on the student choice wagon! It is amazing how much smoother my workstation time is now that I allow choice!

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  7. Interesting post that really got me thinking! I think this will be a great way to keep the kids involved in their learning. Thanks for sharing your ideas and for the powerpoint!

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    1. You're welcome. Remember....you can start small! Offer just one choice at first. Enjoy!

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  8. THANK YOU so very much! I love this and am thinking about how to incorporate this into my RtI time. One group would be assigned to start with me while the other groups would go to stations. Thanks for providing this--so very generous. May I ask a favor (and I am doing so respectfully as I recognize you've provided it as a freebie!): If or when you update the file, might you add one more slide making the day of the week box editable. In other words, instead of having "Monday" in a box, I would be able to change it to "weekly" or "Math" or "Rain Forest" for example. Again, many thanks for this. I'm always inspired by your ideas!

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  9. Sure thing! It's done already (the beauty of using dropbox for downloads!). Your plan to implement choice during Rti time sounds spot on! If I can help you with any questions or concerns...just let me know! You can email me at primaryinspire (at) gmail (dot) com.

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  10. I already do centers during small group, instructional time, so I feel like this would be easy to incorporate into my daily routine. I have my power point presentation with their pictures ready to go. I hope it goes well and if it does, I plan to implement it into my math instruction as well. Thanks for sharing this idea.

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    1. That's great, Jessica!! Please come back & share how it goes! I'd love to hear how it works in your classroom!

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  11. You are so right about student choice. Love the PowerPoint!

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    1. Oh, thank you, Jen! Hope it works well for you in your classroom!

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  12. Thank you for breaking down chioce in such an easy and accessible way!

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  13. Thank you, Brenda! You've made this look easy. ~Denise

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  14. Thanks so much for the center check in board! Would love to know more how you incorporated their pictures into it? Thanks again. Jackie
    jmcmanam@w-sioux.k12.ia.us

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  15. Thanks for the tips! Think I need to find a way to incorporate free choice!
    Dirt Road Teacher

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    1. You're welcome! Stop by & check out my All About Choice series for more tips!
      Primary Inspired

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  16. This has been amazing of my SPED kiddos during our Daily 5 time! Thank you for creating this.

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    1. I'm so glad to hear that! I'd love to hear more about how it's working in your classroom! Stop by & let me know....
      Primary Inspired

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  17. This year I actually let all my kids choose their independent work activity during literacy. We have it down to a science, and it goes very quickly. My students all have class numbers, and the person of the day changes every day, so we start with that person and they tell me their choice, which I record on my white board. They know the order, so they are ready to tell me what they are going to work on. A nice feature of this plan is that I can take away their privilege to choose if necessary!

    Deb
    Not very fancy

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  18. The link to download says it has been disabled. Could you possibly re--post or email it to me at borazi7585@gmail.com Thank you so much!

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