Why use choice activities? Think about it from the perspective of a student for a minute. As adults, many of us dread the idea of going back to take classes that we are required to complete. You would think that this would make teachers all the more sensitive to the classroom experiences of their students.
Often though, teachers present the information they have to share in exactly the same format that they loathe themselves. Most teachers have been taught by the old “sage on the stage” method of teaching, and that is what they now do themselves. Even administrators and presenters often still do this at in service activities. For students, this can be a truly miserable way to spend the day. In all honesty, there probably aren’t a lot of people who enjoy sitting through hours of listening to someone drone on and on. If there is a written test at the end, that is only motivating in the most negative way.
Choice activities give students options. Even if the options all include doing work, there is something liberating about being able to choose the activity for which you will later be assessed. Students’ interests and learning styles are taken into heavy consideration when preparing choice activities. Even the content to be learned may be part of the choices students get to make. They could be learning facts, concepts or a variety of useful and practical knowledge.
Of course the choices in choosing a process are what most people are going to think of when it come to choice activities. In most traditional teaching, the choices have been worksheets or written reports. Most adults today grew up with those wonderful selections. Do you remember how much you enjoyed the learning process? There are a lot more interesting and engaging ways to teach and assess. Students who are up to it, and working ahead of the others, might enjoy an independent study assignment. Presenting it to the class could be part of assessing what they have learned. If a particular student has a terrible fear of public speaking, you might want to give them a pass on that part though and let them present to you personally. Other activities are more geared toward pairings or groups. These might include using centers, small group assignments, videos, allowing students who “get” the material to work as class experts, or a variety of other choices. Almost any student will find something better than worksheets or a written report from such a selection.
I hope you found something you like here. Please look around and feel free to send along any questions or tips you are willing to share about differentiated instruction in the classroom. As an example, I’m including a link here to a middle school choice activity that covers a subject that leaves some adolescents cold, mythology.