Monday, June 18, 2012

Give Them Choice!

Giving students choice is another effective teaching strategy that will increase engagement in the classroom!  Many of us prefer to have some type of choice when doing a task.  For example, just the other day I asked my husband, "Do you want to dust, or do you want to sweep?"  Without hesitation, he said, "I'll sweep!"  He immediately got the vacuum and got the sweeping done.  He very much appreciated being able to choose which chore he did, and he did it without putting it off for two hours!  

Kids are the same way.  (No, no I'm not saying men are just like kids!)  When we offer them choice in the classroom, they feel they have more control over the situation, and they are more willing to get on with the task.  Choice can come in many forms.  In terms of academics, students can choose what book they read, which problem they solve (as in the CGI problem in the post about differentiating learning), which partner they work with, which activity they complete that day, what topic they research, etc.  In terms of behavior/discipline, students can choose which consequence they feel is most appropriate, which classroom they want to go to for their timeout, which students can help them solve their problem, which student(s) they feel they can work the best with, etc. 

Obviously, there are some situations where we have to make the choice for them.  For example, my teaching partner and I had two students last year who could NOT work well together!!  Even when we had our student intern with them, they could not resist the temptation to goof around.  So, they lost their privilege of choice in terms of working together.  When students' choices impede their academic and/or social growth, then we must step in and "help" them by making choices for them.  However, while the students I just referenced lost their choice of working together, they still had many other forms of choice throughout the day.

There are some kids who may just want you to make a choice for them.  While I feel this is certainly okay if it will help the child academically or socially, it should be our ultimate goal to build their decision-making skills, as the ability to make decisions is something they will need throughout life!

Think about different ways you can increase student choice in your classroom!  The students will appreciate it, and you will be pleased with their increased engagement!


  1. While it seems like such a simple concept, I can imagine the profound difference that this strategy can make in a classroom. In my opinion, as you mentioned, this strategy would also be a beneficial concept for more parents to use in their homes. Encouraging children to make choices will not only aid their ability to successfully function as adults, but create a realistic bridge between choices and consequences. What better way is there to teach our children a sense of responsibility?