One of the best parts of my job is that I get to visit classrooms and observe our amazing teachers and students in action! Today, I’d like to share some simple ways that I have observed teachers bringing in student voice and increasing choice in their classrooms. There are two huge benefits to including these things in our classrooms. Student engagement and motivation increase and, in turn, students drive more of their own learning.
Create a “We Wonder” board.
No matter what content you teach students naturally have lots of questions. One classroom I visited had a spot on their board where kids wrote things they wondered about. The teacher spent the first week modeling good thought-provoking questions and then turned students loose. They could add I wonder questions throughout the week and once a week they took a fifteen minute research break to see what they could find out about these questions.
Admit you don’t know everything.
One of the most powerful things we can do as teachers is to admit we don’t know. The next time a student asks a great question that you don’t know the answer to, toss it back to the class to explore. This might sound like, “Does anyone know something about that topic?” or “Would anyone be willing to research that and report back?”
Poll your students to find out what they know and what they want to know.
Don’t underestimate the power of a simple Likert Scale to help you find out that students know and are interested in. I recently watched a teacher write five big concepts up at the beginning of a unit. Students were able to rate each concept with what they knew about it using these descriptors:
Next, students were asked to rate their interest in the topic using these descriptors:
The teacher used this information to decide on which order to teach the concepts as well as how to approach the topics. Although students needed to learn all of the information, she knew that she’d have to plan a “ hook” for the one that had the lowest student interest.
Add choice whenever possible.
Humans love choices! Often we can build in more choice than we realize with a bit of creative thinking. Here are some simple choices I’ve seen teachers provide in their classrooms in just the last two weeks:
The key with choices is to give two choices that are equally rigorous and that you are comfortable with. Try looking for at least one opportunity for choice in every lesson.
If you're looking more more ways to provide choice, watch the following two minute video by author John Spencer where he lays out ten simple choice strategies.
As you work on adding more choice into your classroom, consider working with your instructional coach or one of us from Curriculum & Instruction. We'd love to help you tweak your instruction.
This post brought to you by Heather Willman, APOSA overseeing Secondary Curriculum and Instructional Coaching
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