Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Importance of Having Choices

I have been striving to give students as many choices about their work as I can. Even though it can increase the work I have to do, there are big benefits.

When students in my lab have choices, I hear:
"I love this one!"
"Can I use..."
"Will you show me how to...?"
"I was thinking..."
"Would this be good?"
"Can I work on this tomorrow?"
"I am trying to..."

Some examples of choices I give students:

  • Selection from a menu of word or number games such as Curious George or Everyday Math Games
  • The order in which they will do sections of a project in Glogster or Google Sites
  • Animals to research and create habitat maps
  • The historical figure they will create an interview with using Scratch
  • Deciding which tool to use for a project, such as Comic Life or Garage Band
  • Tell A Story or Make A Movie in Kerpoof
  • Selecting a tool for drawing between Tux Paint or Seashore
  • The country they will research and tour in Google Earth
  • Resources to explore to get information

During most of my 22 years as a classroom teacher, I used the Responsive Classroom approach. One of the key components is Academic Choice, in which students select how they will demonstrate their learning and understanding. According to Paula Denton, author of Learning Through Academic Choice, it teaches the intellectual skills necessary for independent learning and fosters the need to feel competent.

With the widespread availability of so many options though technology, I really believe that we need to minimize the cookie cutter approach to student work.

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