I’m participating in the Fresh Ideas For Teachers Blog Hop and Giveaway hosted by Amy Menzi.
Thanks so much for stopping in to learn about how I started using choice boards!
This year, I’ve been privileged to explore the world of personalized learning. Students in my classroom get to choose a pathway to their own learning. They deconstruct the standards that we must learn, discover their current proximity to the end goal and then complete tasks that they choose–to demonstrate mastery. This style of teaching is definitely a departure from a traditional approach. We use worksheets sometimes, but mostly the students are creating thinking maps organically, solving word problems on white boards, responding to text through computer based programs like Padlet, etc. I would be remiss if I neglected to pause here for a brief word on management. I’ve written extensively on management in the last year. On the pitfalls of discarding traditional seating, the necessity for standard operating procedures, and on the importance of consistency in the little things that relate to managing tough classes. Offering autonomy and choice could be the best, or worst decision of the school year if you’re not ready to manage the kids. When you’re starting out with personalized learning, its important to start SMALL. You are probably more familiar with PL (personalized learning) than you think! Choice boards, flexible seating, differentiated instruction, teaching with scales or rubrics, project based learning…these are all elements that can flow into a PL construct! If any of what I mentioned is a strength of yours, you would probably LOVE PL.
Today though, we’re going to jump in with choice boards. For the most part, there are LEVELED choice boards, and MODALITY choice boards. You may also see some SUBJECT SPECIFIC choice boards, but often times, those are also created based on modality. Leveled choice boards are based on the level of learning that a student is on at a time. Activities are crafted at that level so that they can work independently. Modality choice boards are based on students interests and unique giftings. Both styles can work. My preference is a leveled board, for most things, but I have used modality boards for homework or review.
Start with a learner profile.
A learner profile gives you an idea of how your students like to learn. Learner profiles should be crafted to not only student interests, but teacher interests as well. For example, this year, I’ve been working on integrating more technology into my instructional time, and also requiring students to utilize tech to respond to learning. When I created a learner profile for my students, I added some of the tech that I’d done with them to gauge which programs they enjoyed best. Here’s a sample of a learner profile I created for K-1 students. To use this, I’d tell the students I wanted them to think about how they learn best. They can only choose one answer. They must wait to circle. You will go through all the choices once, and then on the second time through…they can circle. You will not repeat a third time. So they must listen carefully. Ask your students to put their finger on the apple. Read the prompt, then go through the choices. Tell them to circle the picture that matches the way they like to learn. Move on to the bus, and then the pig. Should take about 15 minutes. Want an extension? Graph the data and discuss the results. Ask the students, based on the data what types of activities you should be building for them. My students LOVED that!
Focus on one standard. Build a leveled rubric to align to that one standard.
In my humble opinion, although choice boards built on modality are lots of fun for the kids, leveled choice boards–at least when you’re getting started are the best way to ensure that students are choosing activities that lead them toward mastery. Often students at the beginning of the process will want to choose what feels ‘easiest’. This is not always what is BEST. Once you understand leveling, and THEN you switch over to modality, you’ll find yourself embedding tasks that will truly lead to standards based mastery.
Create activities that increase in complexity based on the rubric you created.
Here’s a quick look at some basic activities that you could use at each level to get you started with your thinking in this direction. In my classroom, Level 0 is for students who have had no exposure to the standard previously. It encompasses building background for the learner. Level 1 is a vocabulary level. I work on helping students to understand the salient vocabulary for mastery. Level 2 is all about using that vocabulary in concert with tasks that lead toward mastery. Level 3 is the full intent of the standard, and Level 4 is for students who can perform the standard and need enrichment. All of my students either pretest for the standard, or I use information from diagnostic tests to place students in a level. I listed some generic activities that you could use at each level. Of course, any activities could be used at any level depending on the level of complexity embedded in the task.
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