Student choice boards are a fun and engaging tool to use in the classroom, and they come with many benefits. They are versatile and can be used in many different subject areas for many different year levels. They are easy to use for assessment purposes, as I outlined further in this blog post on using student choice boards for ELA assessment. They are a simple tool to use to encourage student agency in learning, and they are great for differentiation.
When it comes to differentiating for the many learning needs of our students, it can be a challenge to know where to focus first. Student choice boards allow you to easily adapt tasks to suit your learners, while also keeping them engaged and giving them a say in how they learn. Plus, they don’t require much extra planning time for you.
Today I’ll show you how you can use student choice boards to differentiate for your learners, and I’m going to use an example of a reading choice board to help walk you through this process. The reading choice board pictured below is just one of the choice boards available in my Student Choice Board Set for Upper Primary / Elementary. As you can see, there are lots of fun activities included, which means lots of ways students can go about sharing their reading skills with you. This makes it easy to slip in differentiation strategies. Let’s start by talking about how we can cater to students working at different academic levels.
Differentiating for different academic levels
Student choice boards enable you to easily cater to different academic ability levels because they allow students to work on different tasks, therefore taking away the element of comparison. This means that students can both work at their own pace and also receive extra support as it’s needed. This might look like providing extra resources to the students who need them, spending more time with students requiring extra support or having a different set of expectations for each student, depending on where they sit academically.
Using the reading choice board example above, you could also cater to students’ academic ability level by asking students who need extra support to complete less tasks from the choice board than those who are able to work more independently. One way you can do this is by simply sharing your expectations with students individually. Another way is to let your students know that they will be working on this reading choice board during reading lessons throughout the next 2 weeks and then allow them to see how many tasks they get through in that timeframe.
Differentiating for different learning preferences
Student choice boards lend themselves well to covering different learning preferences. The reading choice board pictured above has already been designed for this purpose. You can see that task options 1 & 5 are better suited to linguistic learners, task options 2 & 3 to visual learners, task options 4 & 8 to more communicative learners, task option 7 to collaborative learners and task options 6 & 9 to logical learners. You could extend this further by allowing musical students to include music in their presentation for task option 4, or by giving students the option to work with a partner or independently. Once you get to know some of the learning preferences that your students have, you’ll be able to find creative ways to allow them the freedom to use their strengths as they work through different tasks.
Differentiating with Technology
Finally, student choice boards can easily be adapted for virtual teaching or simply to incorporate more technology use in the classroom. Using the reading choice board example, students could record their pitches or presentations for tasks 4, 6 & 8, they could use graphic design skills for tasks 2, 3 & 5, they could type their responses to tasks 1 & 9 and could create a quiz online for task 7 that the rest of the class could then try out. These simple tweaks allow you to incorporate technology use into student choice boards, and provide an opportunity for students to try things that they don’t often get to do in other lessons.
So, if you’ve been looking for ways to provide more differentiation in your lessons, why not give student choice boards a try?
If you’re short on time and would prefer something that’s ready to use, take a look at the full set of Student Choice Boards for Upper Primary / Elementary that I have available here.
If you’re after more teaching ideas, then take a look at this post on organising an engaging morning routine.
Have a question or a request? You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.