As a teacher, it can sometimes be difficult to let go of the control that we feel we have over our classroom. However, control over classroom management is very different than control over student learning. Trying to micromanage and control every aspect of our teaching may not always be the most effective strategy for student learning. I have noticed students develop more confidence in their learning and writing when they are given more control and choice over the work they complete.
This can be done in so many different ways. Throughout this blog, I will highlight some of my favourite strategies for integrating more student choice in my classroom. Whether you choose to do this through projects, open-ended tasks, or choice boards, you will notice a greater sense of interest and confidence in your students’ abilities.
In this blog post, I will explain how I incorporate student choice in my program and how I maintain the same expectations and the integrity of my program when doing so. When you give students choice, you are not modifying the expectations. You are simply offering students a variety of ways and formats to demonstrate their learning.
The first strategy that I use to incorporate student choice is choice boards. I use choice boards for journal writing, culminating tasks, novel studies, online learning and so much more. I also use a choice board with my early finishers. Using a choice board gives students the opportunity to choose what they want to work on, based on activities with similar expectations and objectives. Having that choice increases the odds that students will choose something they enjoy and therefore complete it to the best of their ability, remain on task, and feel successful. This motivates students to work, build their confidence and take more pride in what they create.
An example of a choice board that I use is a book report choice board. In this choice board, students have nine ways to demonstrate their learning. One option is not better than the other. Students must choose three ways to demonstrate their learning and I strategically place all of the options on the grid so that students aren’t completing three assignments that are very similar. They would still be demonstrating their understanding of the text by applying their thinking and demonstrating some creative writing.
You can sign up below to receive a copy of the book report choice board I use with my students. It can be used with any book or novel.
Here is another example of a choice board I use during journal writing. You can download this free activity from my free virtual library. Students need to choose three writing prompts that form tic-tac-toe.
EARLY FINISHERS BOXES
A second method I use to incorporate student choice is through my early finishers activities. When students finish work early, I try to make sure that they have something meaningful to work on. There’s only so much silent reading I can assign to early finishers. If students don’t have a specific task, it gets easier for them to get distracted and start engaging in conversations with other students in the classroom.
I use my “J’ai fini” early finishers bulletin board and give students a choice between a variety of activities that they can complete. These are fun and interactive activities that are all literacy and math-related so that students are learning at the same time. It is a great way for them to demonstrate accountability and independent work because they understand the responsibility of choosing a task and completing it.
Here is an example of my September “J’ai fini” box. Each box includes between 10 – 12 activities. Once the activities in the box are prepped, you are good to go for the month! I usually like prepping my boxes over the summer months so that I don’t have to worry about them during the year (and once they’re prepped, you can re-use them from year to year!).
I have a bulletin board dedicated to my early finishers. I use this bulletin board to display the activities that students can choose from. In the box, I make 5 copies of each worksheet and 1 copy of the task cards. If a student is already using the task cards, they must choose a different activity. If all 5 copies of one activity have been used, students have other activities to choose from. This prevents me from having to photocopy more than I need to. You can learn more about my Early Finishers “J’ai fini!” boxes here.
R.A.F.T (Role, Audience, Format, Topic)
I love to use a R.A.F.T choice board when my students are completing a writing assignment. Oftentimes, students don’t know where to start when we give them an open-ended task such as writing a short story or a newspaper article. Furthermore, some students require prompts or ideas to get them started. A R.A.F.T. choice board does just that. It doesn’t tell the student exactly what to talk about but it provides them ideas that they are able to incorporate in their writing.
If you are interested in giving this a try in your classroom, you can download a free sample of this activity from my free virtual library.
Lastly, I think it is important that we give students choice by allowing them to form their own groups. I don’t let students choose their groups all the time but I also don’t like to be the one who always forms groups. I think it is important for students to have the ability to choose who they want to work with. Working with someone they have a good connection with and can relate to is a big motivator for students.
If you are looking for a fun alternative for pairing students, I also love using these partner cards. Though students don’t get to “choose” their partner because it is random, they still enjoy the process of finding their missing pair. I find that sometimes, that alone is enough to engage them and help them build a positive connection with their partner.
These are just a few of the strategies that I used in my classroom to keep students engaged and help build confident writers in French. In a future blog post, I will share some of the ways that I offer students choice during open-ended activities.