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Student Voice and Choice

It doesn’t matter if you’re a headstrong toddler, adult, or somewhere in between…. we all like to do things our own way. Our own opinions matter! Sometimes we forget the importance of providing students opportunities to have choice in how they learn or how they want to be assessed.

Some students love technology, some would rather build a model. Some students love to write, others would prefer to do an oral presentation. Some students love working in groups, others would prefer to work alone.

I’m not saying you need to completely loosen the reins in your classroom- I’m very type-A and need structure. However, there are plenty of ways to provide students choices without giving up control or having 10 different types of assignments to grade. Below are some ways to include some student choice. I encourage you to try a few that fit your comfort level!

1. Let students choose their lab groups or seating arrangement
Do you always use a seating chart? And base lab groups off that arrangement? It’s a great classroom management strategy. But once you have your class up and running, do you ever let students choose their own seats? Sometimes when you let them sit by their friends they will surprise you! I always tell students I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt, and if they choose to socialize instead of learn then I get to choose the seats again.
Not willing to completely let the seating chart go? Try it just for a day during a group activity or lab. You can also try “clock partners” where they get to choose different students they’d like to work with (just Google “clock partner template” and you’ll find a ton). Once they have their clock chart filled out you say “today we are going to work with our 3:00 partners” and they go find that person. It’s a great way to change things up.

2. Digital choice boards
Choice boards are an excellent way to let students choose how they want to demonstrate their learning. Essentially they look like a tic-tac-toe board and include 9 different assignment options. They can range from watching a video and writing a reflection, completing a virtual lab, filling out a crossword puzzle, or even taking pictures of a scientific phenomena. The possibilities are endless. As the teacher you can choose the options and how many you want students to complete. I have biology and earth science digital choice boards already completed, check them out!
3. Mode of presentation
Assigning some sort of presentation? You will have some students that LOVE to present to their peers and others that would rather get a tooth pulled. I’ve found the English-language learners especially get nervous and struggle with oral presentations. Try offering different ways they can present that will make them more comfortable. Options could include:

  • Presenting live for your more outgoing students,
  • Pre-recording an audio-only presentation in vocaroo for your more shy students,
  • Pre-recording a video presentation in flipgrid or uploading to a YouTube class channel.

student-voice-and-choice-ideas

4. Form of note taking
At the first school I taught at, students were required to take Cornell notes. I came to love them and I enjoyed that they provided students with structure, but not every student likes to take notes that way.
Offering students different note taking pages gives students the opportunity to learn how they retain information best. Do they like to doodle? Try doodle notes. Do they like structured Q and A style notes? Try Cornell notes. Do they struggle with vocabulary or keeping up as you lecture? Try fill-in-the-blank cloze notes.

5. Project based learning
Have you ever tried out project based learning? This method of instruction allows for a lot of student voice and choice. I have a series of blog posts on PBL, so start here if you are interested.


6. Early Finishers
If students finish their work early, allow them to fill those last few minutes of class with an activity of their choice. Check out this blog post for a list of options students could choose from.

What other ways do you allow for student voice and choice in your classroom? Leave me a comment!

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Hi, I'm Becca!

I help busy science teachers get your prep back by providing you time saving lessons, labs, and resources.

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