Choice Boards for Student Agency

Choice boards give students autonomy and choice in their learning while allowing teachers to differentiate, observe, and assess in real time
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About This Strategy

A choice board is a graphic organizer that allows students to move at their own pace and have choice over what they learn and how they interact with the content. Students are able to choose which activity they are most comfortable completing first, master that activity, and then can move to other activities on the choice board. Choice boards can take several different formats, but all choice boards are focused on students’ specific learning needs, interests, and skills. Choice boards can be easily adapted across all grade levels and content areas. The choice board strategy can be used to present students with new information, to have students practice and master academic content, to assess student mastery, or as a combination of all three. Choice boards increase student ownership and provide teachers with opportunities to differentiate and support students at their individual learning levels.

Implementation Steps

60-120 minutes
  1. Identify the learning focus or learning outcome for your choice board; this is the topic you want students to practice, master, or demonstrate their mastery of. Identify the learning target, and decide how much time students will have to complete the choice board (i.e. one day, two days, one week). This will help you decide what types of activities to create.

  2. Create the appropriate number of different tasks based on student readiness, learning styles, interests, and instructional needs. These activities and assignments should all assess mastery of the same learning focus, but have varying levels of difficulty and styles of engagement. For each activity, students should have the skills to do the majority of the work on their own or with a peer.  

  3. Arrange the tasks on a choice board template based on your use (see “Purpose/Use” below).

  4. Give each student a paper or digital version of the choice board and any instructions they will need to complete the activities.

    • When presenting the choice board to students, you may want to give them specific instructions on how to select which activities they will complete and how to pace themselves through the work. Model and/or debrief how to select an appropriate activity from the board. Remind students to consider their learning style and what activity is appropriate for them.

    • You may also want to provide a packet or designated place for student work, individual calendars for students to map out their pacing plan and work completion, or a tracker for students (and you) to monitor their progress.

      • Optional: If this is a multi-day assignment, consider creating either a calendar for students to track their progress or a daily goal so students can monitor their progress throughout the activity.

  5. Have students complete a designated number of assignments from the choice board.

  6. While students are working through their choice board activities, use the time to individually conference with students on their progress, questions, sticking points, etc.  

  7. Optional: Provide students with a rubric for the areas of growth and achievement you plan to assess. Consider the assessment options for students (self-assessment, peer assessment, formative assessment) and introduce the assessment options to students so they know what they are preparing for.

Blended Choice Board

A blended choice board has the same purpose as the choice board above, but it integrates technology into some of the activity options. Blended choice boards are used to support students to make appropriate choices about what activities to complete during a unit. Students are encouraged to select activities based on their learning style. Blended choice boards can include various technologically enhanced pieces including hyperdocs that link to online activities or assessments, video webcasts or podcasts for learning or review, online tools for research and creation, etc.

Implementation Steps:

  • Build the choice board following the steps listed above. Consider using the Google Slide template, linked in the resource below to construct your choice board. Add in tech tools or technologically enhanced activities when possible such as:
    • Quizz, Quizlet, Kahoot and Quizziz to have students take assessments.
    • Padlet or Googledocs for students to record their learning and collaborate.
    • Screencastify or EdPuzzle to have students engage in flipped learning
  • Model with students how to access the various tech tools and how to navigate the blended choice board.

  • Set clear expectations about internet and technology use.

Digital Choice Boards

Kathleen Rockefeller
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

Digital choice boards allow students to have choice in how they learn by engaging with a variety of digital learning activities.  A digital choice board is different from a blended choice board in that a blended choice board includes both paper/pencil options and technology options for each activity on the choice board whereas a digital choice board is a choice board in which all activities on the choice board are completed via technology tools.  

Implementation steps:

  • Choose a learning focus and learning target for the choice board.  The choice board can include activities aligned to a single standard or multiple standards that the teacher wants the students to practice or master.  The teacher should also decide on a length of time that students will engage with this specific choice board (one week, two weeks, etc.). The amount of time allotted for the choice board impacts the amount of activities that should be included in the digital choice board.  

  • The "Ed Tech Tools - BetterLesson Reference List" document, linked in the resources section below, provides a comprehensive list of technology resources to use for digital learning activities.  As you create the digital choice board, consider the following questions:

    • How many activities will you include on the digital choice board? 

    • How long will students have to complete the digital choice board?

    • Since this is a digital choice board, and all of the activities will be completed digitally, what technology devices and tools will students need?

    • How will I incorporate differentiation into the digital choice board?

  • Some resources for digital learning activities include, but are not limited to: 

    • Assessment: Quizizz; Kahoot; Quizlet; Formative

    • Mastery-Based Learning: EdPuzzle; 

    • Presentation: Google Slides; Google Docs.; Screencastify; Loom; Book Creator; Pear Deck

    • Response: Flipgrid; Screencastify; Loom

    • Collaboration: Google Jamboard; Padlet; 

    • Game Based Activities: Prodigy; Xtra Math;  

    • Language Arts and Reading: Newsela; 

  • Once the activities are planned out, arrange the digital choice board activities on a grid or list template.  Google Docs, Google Slides, and Word documents are all good resources to use as a template for the digital choice board.  There are multiple sample templates linked in the resources section below.  

  • Provide students with a copy of the digital choice board.  The digital choice board can be shared with students via email, Google Classroom, or other learning management systems. 

  • Review the instructions and expectations for the digital choice board with students.  Consider the following questions when setting up the instructions and expectations for the digital choice board: 

    • How many activities should students select to complete on this digital choice board?  Is there a minimum number of activities that the teacher expects the students to complete?

    • How will students know whether to complete an activity individually, with a group, or with a partner?  Many teachers use small icons within each section of the digital choice board to indicate whether the activity should be completed individually, with a partner, or with a group.

    • Will there be a rubric and/or instructions for each activity explaining how to show or explain their work?

    • How will their work on the digital choice board be assessed?  

    • Is there a way for students to track their progress and reflect on the level of difficulty they had completing each independent activity?  The "First, Next, Then, Last Choice Board Template", linked in the resources section below, provides an example of what this self-reflection could look like.  

  • Have students complete the digital choice board.  

  • As students are engaging with the digital choice board activities, provide time (daily, every other day, etc.) to conference with individual students to provide feedback and/or answer questions they may have.   

    • Consider using Padlet or Google Forms to allow students to submit questions or concerns specifically related to their work on the digital choice board.

Tic-Tac-Toe Choice Boards

Tic-Tac-Toe choice boards give students the opportunity to participate in multiple tasks that allow them to practice skills they’ve learned in class or to demonstrate and extend their understanding of concepts.The choice board is set up like a tic-tac-toe game, where students have to complete 3 assignments in a row (vertical, horizontal, or diagonal) to complete the game. The teacher can either designate the middle spot as a “free space” where students can choose what to complete or can pick a specific assignment or assessment for the middle spot that all students must complete.

Implementation Steps:

  • Create a 3 x 3 choice board. Follow the steps above for deciding what assignments or activities to create.
  • Model with students how they complete the board: complete 3 assignments in a row (vertical, horizontal, or diagonal) to finish the choice board.

  • Optional: Select one required task or assessment for all students and place it in the center of the board.

Additional Resources:

Choice Boards - (Source: perry.kyschools.us)

Tic-Tac-Toe Choice Board - (Source: T. Karten)

Choice Board for Leveled Groups

One purpose of Choice Boards could be to place students into leveled groups and then provide them with scaffolded materials and activities through the choice board based on the group’s level. This allows students to work on activities within their proximal zone of development and to be challenged with meaningful, rigorous content aligned to their level or interest.

Implementation Steps:

  • Group students into small leveled groups based on their needs, abilities, interest, or mastery level.
  • Follow the steps listed above for creating a choice board, but create several choice boards focused on each of the leveled group's needs, abilities, interests, etc. Be sure to pick or create activities for each small group that are challenging, but are within the group's proximal zone of development (with support, scaffolds, or their own knowledge, they could complete the assignment with minimal support from the teacher).

Special Education Modification

Nedra Massenburg
Special Education Specialist

Choice boards are a great option for students with disabilities because they allow the integration of activities that are appropriate for these specific learners while still giving them choice. 

Effective use of choice boards require a variety of skills: emotional regulation, executive functioning (task initiation, prioritization, working memory, etc.), written expression, reading, and/or verbal skills.  In order to support students with disabilities who have difficulty in these areas consider the following modifications:

Modifications:

  1. Students with disabilities could be provided a similar choice board with a smaller set of assignment choices or a smaller number of assignments to complete. Students could also be given a choice board. See the "How to Adapt Your Teaching Strategies to Student Needs" and the "Resource Gallery of Interventions: Choice Boards" resources in the resource section below for more information.
  2.  Use visual aids, timers, and verbal reminders to help students with task initiation and task completion when using choice boards. As an example, a teacher may say, “Now you will have 30 seconds to choose your first activity number on your choice board.  After the timer for 30 seconds goes off, everyone will have five minutes to complete your first activity.”

  3. If multiple teachers are present in a setting, consider having one teacher work in a small group of students with disabilities to provide them more modeling and more frequent feedback during their practice.

EL Modification

Shannon Coyle
English Learner Specialist

Choice boards are a wonderful way to engage English learners in choosing how they will practice skills. Learners are granted the opportunity to follow their own path and teachers are able to differentiate activities based on students' needs. 

English learners using choice boards are required to listen to and follow directions. Students may use all four domains of language: reading, writing, speaking and listening to interact with the activities on their choice boards. In order to support English Learners consider the following modifications:

Modifications:

  1. Ensure English learners understand all directions on their choice boards before beginning independent work e.g., ask for learners to restate directions. If the activities are new to learners, consider previewing or partnering with learners’ language specialist to preview for learners at lower levels of proficiency. See the "Teacher Tool: Leveled Question Stem" resource in the resource section below for more information.
  2. Provide a variety of ways for learners at lower levels of proficiency to express learning including drawing, short phrases, matching words and pictures, multiple-choice, and cloze worksheets. Aim to create activities that use all four domains of language: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Use data about learners’ language levels to determine appropriate activities. See the "Descriptions of What Learners "Can Do" at Various Language Levels" and the "How to Use "Can Do" Descriptors in Designing Learning Activities" resources in the resource section below for more information.
  3. Consider creating an alternative choice board. Use data about learners’ language levels to determine appropriate activities. Consider partnering with English learners’ language specialist to discuss what topic or skills you are targeting and work together to design appropriate activities. Aim to create activities that use all four domains of language: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. See the "Descriptions of What Learners "Can Do" at Various Language Levels" and the "How to Use "Can Do" Descriptors in Designing Learning Activities" resources in the resource section below for more information.
  4. Perform 1:1 check-ins with English learners. Use the independent work time to give English learners an opportunity to use their academic language, and teachers a chance to formatively assess content language use. 
  5. Provide English learners with familiar reference sheets such as graphic organizers, word banks, sentence stems, formula sheets, etc., to use as needed during activities.
  6. Provide comprehensible content in activities that require learners to read-to-learn. Consider providing home language content as available during independent or technology-based activities. When available, home language content can be a powerful tool in developing and progressing skills. See the "Research and Bilingual Content Resources" in the resource section below for more information.

Questions to Consider

  • What is the goal of the choice board?

  • Are the activities at the student’s developmental level?

  • What could be challenging about this activity and how could you address these challenges in advance?

  • How could you ensure that students are getting consistent feedback throughout the unit?

  • What types of activities and assessments could you create for the choice board?

  • What activities could you choose to represent various learning styles?

  • How could you support students to understand their learning style?

  • How will you support students to make choices that are best for them?

Tech Tools

GoogleDocs

  • Google Docs is an online word processor (part of Google Apps) that allows you store, create and edit documents collaboratively in a web browser.
  • Googledocs supports this strategy especially for a blended choice board as teachers can use a Google Doc to create a hyperdoc of the Choice Board.

 

Research Base

Strategies That Differentiate Instruction (Source: Kentucky Department of Education)

Impact of Student Choice and Personalized Learning (Source: Hanover Research)