The Power of Student Choice
July 30, 2021
I consider myself to be a generous tipper. Ever since the pandemic began, and we discovered how many service workers were struggling to make ends meet, I’ve made sure to keep some extra bills handy whenever I run out for coffee. I’ll admit though, this hasn’t always been the case. Maybe it’s because there wasn’t enough interaction to fire up my tipping conscience or maybe I just didn’t carry cash that often. Whatever the reason, I tended to be a bit stingy. There was, however, one instance where I couldn’t help but search the depths of my purse for $2 to contribute to the coffee jar.
The tip jar was presented as a “Tip Debate” with the simple choice “Mustang or…Camaro?” and a jar dedicated to each choice. This simple change not only compelled me to give money but made me feel great about it. For the 90 seconds I waited for my drink, I was transported into a daydream of riding in a Mustang along a winding mountain road. By offering a choice, I was authentically engaged with the activity of tipping rather than obligatorily participating or outright ignoring it.
A “Tip” for Educators
I thought maybe this barista should be a teacher. Isn’t authentic engagement over obligatory participation what we’re after with our students? If we want to engage them in our content, we must find ways to incorporate student choice whenever we can. Student choice offers instant ownership of learning, investment in the outcome, and positive outlook on the content.
Student choice doesn’t mean you turn over the curriculum to the class or you give up all classroom management. Like the example with my barista, sometimes simple opportunities for choice can go a long way. Here are a few places to add student choice (across all grade levels and content areas) into your lessons without creating chaos and mayhem.
Choice in Language Arts
- Studying cause and effect – Let students choose a phenomenon or a text that illustrates example. Consider how many students have found that comic books are great sources for theme, foreshadowing, and vocabulary!
- Learning consonant blends – Let students find and present items that start with that blend. It’s estimated there are roughly 21 consonant blends. Can your students find examples for them all?
Choice in Math
- Learning parabolas – Have students find and take photos of real-world examples. Give them bonus points if they can find a Fibonacci sequence in nature (like a pinecone, sunflower, or seashell)!
- Working on multiplication facts – Have them make their own story problems. Allowing students to present their own work gets them personally invested and builds confidence at the same time.
Choice in Science
- Collecting data – Let students decide how to represent the data. They can choose from charts, to infographics, or even colorful presentations!
- Conducting investigations – Have them determine some of the variables. Be sure to present them with challenges, like considering what constitutes a fair test.
Choice in Social Studies
- Studying the Civil War – Let them choose a historical figure and present the war from that figure’s perspective. You can even incorporate this idea into the Blue Apple project, Take a Stand, and teach students how to debate respectfully.
- Learning parts of a map – Let them choose the map location. What drew them to this section? What do they know of its people’s langue, culture, or history?
Looking for more ideas to reinvigorate your classroom this year? Be sure to check out our free strategies and resources at Blueappletreacher.com!
*Image by moneypantry courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.