Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Choice Boards: Personalized Learning in the Elementary Classroom

By Lisa Henriquez

We all know the importance of differentiating assignments for students of different ability levels, but differentiation goes beyond taking off a few questions for less able learners or giving the gifted students an extra project to complete. Differentiated Instruction should reaching different levels but it should also meet specific needs and be student centered. All students learn differently so they should be given different ways to show mastery. One way to address this need is the use of choice boards. They offer students a way to make decisions about what they will do in order to meet class requirements. A choice board could be for a single lesson, a week-long lesson, or even a month-long period of study.

According to Fair Isn't Always Equal: Assessing and Grading in the Differentiated Classroom by Rick Wormeli in order to create a choice board:

O     Identify the most important elements of a lesson or unit.
O     Create a required assignment or project that reflects the minimum understanding you expect all students to achieve.
O     Create negotiables which expand upon the minimum understands. These negotiables often require students to go beyond the basic levels of Bloom's Taxonomy.
O     Create a final section that offers students the opportunity for enrichment.

I use choice boards in all grade levels. The younger students need more detailed instructions and resources in class. I will work on the research and back ground information during class and send the student’s research pages home for parents to help pull everything together in the project. My 1st and 2nd grade classes have approximately 25 students. The individual, creative activities can be difficult to accomplish in class. I feel that it is more important for me to spend class time, helping them get the information. I can assess their understanding of the different assignments and topics and research skills in class.  Older students are given the choice board and class time and resources, but can work at their own pace to complete the activities. They have the freedom to work at home if needed or bring in the needed project supplies if they aren’t in the classroom.

I also use the same choice board for all students in class, special education – gifted.  All students are working on the activities they feel comfortable completing.  I conference with students to help pick activities to make sure all are working at their ability level and pushing themselves to try different types of activities.  I also offer a Pick your Product opportunity for older students. They are much more creative than I am so they come up with some great ideas!          

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