This month, I have decided to participate in the #Aprilblogaday challenge. To help with topics, I am using the prompts provided by Meredith Towne (@BklynMeredith) a teacher in Brooklyn, NY. Today’s prompt is: How do you integrate student choice into your classroom? What impact does it have?
In my days as a students, I was seldom given a choice as to how I would fulfill an assignment. Over thirty years after high school, I can still remember at least one teacher who allowed me to complete an assignment in my own way. It was the fall of 1985, and I had been assigned a two-page paper. I asked and Mrs. Withey granted me the opportunity to write mine as a poem. I am still thankful to Mrs. Withey for allowing me to choose another way to express myself.
Recently, my students and I completed a unit on independent reading. At the beginning of the unit, I told students could read whatever they chose, within reason. In English 9 and 12, students repeatedly said they couldn’t remember the last time they were allowed to choose a book to read for class. I had students reading many genres. The excitement generated from choosing their own novel, helped to drive students through their books. The choices made the unit more enjoyable for all involved.
Even though, I had not read all of the books students chose, I was able to listen to students discuss the books. I could tell from the discussion, whether students were actually reading their book. If I suspected they weren’t reading, I would have a one-to-one conversation with the student. I would ask them questions about the novel, and I would ask them to make predictions about what happens next. Usually, the students admitted, they weren’t reading. We then had a discussion about whether they should choose a different book or get to work reading the current book.
During an informative writing unit, students were given the opportunity to choose a social issue to research. Students chose many interesting topics. Some of the topics were surprising, but they presented about everything, such as abortion, gun control, gender identity, and victim blaming.
Another choice for students was how to present the information. They could give the traditional presentation with slides, create a Web site or create a video. Some students challenged themselves to learn the technology to create a record a video, while others chose to use Weebly to create a Web page. One student use the PowerPoint record feature to record and share their presentation. A well-designed rubric, created as part of the Oakland MAISA Literacy curriculum (K-12) let students know the information needed for the presentation. This rubric helped me to grade, with consistency, the variety of presentations.
Choice isn’t always incorporated in my units. However, I am a strong believer in the need for providing choice in learning and assessment. At a previous teaching position, we did independent reading, to provide students options and to reach the diverse reading levels. In addition, we did many units where the students worked in groups to research a topic and create a presentation. They were given total control over the elements of their presentation. Many groups created strong, informative presentations. Students completed a group work assessment form to share their thoughts about the group process and how well their group worked together.
I am interested in incorporating more student choice in my classes. I believe the option to choose the topic and assessment method helps to inspire students by giving them the chance to choose a topic where their passion lies. I plan to take time this summer to review the units and implement more activity and assessment choices. I believe choice helps students to engage their passion for a certain topic or app.
Please share your thoughts about and experiences with student choice. Or let me know your thoughts about my blog. Your feedback is important in helping me to reflect, learn, and grow.