Increasing Student Engagement Through the Use of Choice Boards.
When students aren’t physically present in the classroom, how can effective, engaging, and student-driven learning be achieved? We’ve been contemplating that question for some time. You may already be aware of a solution that a group of education leaders in North Carolina came up with that significantly altered instruction throughout the state.
The English language arts (ELA) team created choice boards that teachers could copy and modify to meet their students’ needs as they moved to fully remote instruction. The boards, which could be assigned virtually or printed out in packets, were arranged by grade band and contained activities that were aligned with the standards as well as scaffolds that allowed children to complete the work on their own.
Choice boards enhanced remote learning in our virtual classrooms, increased student ownership and engagement, and even increased students’ eagerness to tackle their homework and assessments.
Whether students are in-person, learning remotely, or a combination of the two, here are some pointers for starting with choice boards and some lessons learned along the way.
By providing students with the freedom to choose how they demonstrate their mastery of a subject and providing an alternative to standard assessments, choice boards add a new dimension to your classroom. Additionally, they offer educators a variety of methods for assessing student comprehension. This could be the refreshing twist you’ve been looking for if you’ve ever had your eyes glaze over as you stared at the night’s looming stack of 120 freshman essays to grade.
Imagine that you and your middle school English class are working on an analysis of The House on Mango Street’s complex characters. You can go over the standard with your students, create a rubric with them (we like this idea of success criteria), and then come up with activities.
Try getting your students involved in the process and asking them how they’d like to show what they’ve learned. Students might, for instance, suggest making a movie trailer to demonstrate their understanding of the standard, writing a series of diary entries from the protagonist, or making a series of podcast episodes. Including students in the design of the choice boards boosts their sense of ownership and commitment.
A few suggestions:
– Keep in mind that some students prefer traditional assessments, so include them in the choice board as an option.
– You do not need to start over; On the internet, you can find free choice board templates.
When used in place of a homework packet, choice boards give students the freedom to choose how they practice skills they learned during the day.
However, choice boards can also be used to interact with parents and other caregivers. A family homework choice board can inform parents and guardians about the subjects and skills their children are learning at school while also encouraging education-centered family time at home.
How might this appear? Let’s say a parent has asked you to assign homework to a third-grade class. Share the optional homework choice board; activities could include reading high-frequency words to a family member, practicing high-frequency words on an online app, or finding three examples of this week’s syllable type in books from their book bin.
A few suggestions:
– Give your students time to practice using a homework choice board in the classroom before sending them home with one. Consider it a mini-lesson.
– Look into any restrictions or accessibility issues that working from home might cause for some students. Access to technology, materials, and the amount of time required of parents or caregivers to assist are all factors to consider.
The days of remote learning are far from over. Schools can be proactively prepared by creating choice boards that teachers can easily access, whether these days are scheduled ahead of time in the school calendar or used instead of closing the building for severe weather or recurring Covid outbreaks.
Ideally, teachers would be able to easily modify these so that students could complete them multiple times. To bring the lessons up to date, teachers can alter the activities and text at their discretion.
A few suggestions:
-Be deliberate about aligning learning outcomes with state standards to move from fluff to rigor.
-Get a group required to make the lift lighter. Teams of educators from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction collaborated to create a universal set of choice boards that could be accessed by teachers across the state.
We have utilized choice boards not only with K–12 students but also with our upcoming teachers. Our graduate students do send us a lot more emails when they have more options for their assignments. However, we were more than happy to take on that task.