Giving students choices can help them be more engaged and responsible for their own learning. But how exactly should this work? Let's explore twenty student choice ideas - and tips for how to share and delegate control without abdicating it.
I’ll be honest. When I first heard the concept of student choice I was skeptical. Doesn’t the teacher know better than the students what needs to be done and why? Wouldn’t this mean giving up our authority in deference to a worldview that worries more about self-esteem than personal responsibility?
(Just me? Well, I do come from a pretty traditional background, so there’s that. But I digress...)
Recently while reading Teaching with Love and Logic, I came across an important key to student choice that got me past my hesitancy and opened my mind to all the incredible benefits of this approach. Here’s the key:
For each choice you offer, give 2-3 options, all of which will make you happy.
Giving choices doesn’t have to mean we abdicate our responsibility or authority. Instead, we simply share control in areas where both options will help them learn and grow.
This doesn’t mean the choice is meaningless. No, these are real choices. But the key is that we’ve thought through both options and know that both would be good for the students and the class. We don’t let students choose when we know one choice is clearly a detrimental one.
In this way, we get students involved and help them be more responsible for their own learning (something we talk a lot about in our new course Beyond Classroom Management: Create a culture of respect, responsibility & engagement). As they feel more in control, they’re also more likely to follow our instructions during times where we can’t give a choice but instead must tell them exactly what to do.
As Teaching with Love and Logic puts it, “Teachers gain the cooperation they need when they give away the control they don’t need.”
So let’s get super practical. What does this actually look like? What choices might we give in our classrooms?
Well, that’s totally going to depend on you, your teaching style, the ages of your students, what you teach, and a million other factors. So, while I’m about to give you a list of student choice ideas, please realize that these are just that – ideas. Some of them would never work with your students. Others may be perfect. The point isn’t to implement them all but to pick out a few that might work for you – and to spark your own creativity to imagine other ways in which you could share control.
Sound good? Here we go….
20 Meaningful Student Choices Ideas
- Work by yourself or quietly with a partner.
- Use pencil or pen.
- Choose one practice problem to skip. (This has the added bonus of allowing you to see which problems the students thought were most challenging.)
- Complete the even or the odd-numbered problems.
- Choose which review game to play. (Remember to give 2-3 good options rather than leaving it open-ended.)
- Walk in two lines or one.
- Practice poetry (or any other memory work) at the beginning or end of class.
- Choose which topic to discuss (out of 2-3 good options).
- Start at center #1 or center #2.
- Take the test on Friday or Monday.
- Deliver their report in writing, orally, or through a multimedia presentation.
- Make your own study guide or review your notes.
- Choose where to sit. (Give the important caveat “as long as it doesn’t cause any problems.”)
- Practice problems on paper or complete a review activity online.
- Choose which ten problems to complete on a worksheet. (They’ll never even realize how much they’re working/learning as they try to figure out which ones are the easiest.)
- Choose which of the two songs to sing at the school assembly.
- Practice spelling words in one of three ways.
- Turn in homework throughout the week or all at once.
- Choose which service project to do as a class.
- Proofread your paper yourself or switch with a friend and proofread each other’s.
These types of choices make it easy to start giving students more control without being overwhelming or intimidating. Once you see your students practicing making decisions, discovering what works for them, and learning to be more responsible for their own education, you may even decide to let your students choose even more.
Want more strategies for engaging your students? Join us in Beyond Classroom Management to end the learning battles & get your students excited to learn.
p.s. We’d love to hear what choices you give students in your classroom. Share them with a comment below.
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