By Teachers, For Teachers
Differentiated instruction is a popular buzz phrase in the world of educators. It isn’t a new strategy by any means, but its success in aiding students of differing abilities within the classroom has pushed it to the forefront of what we consider essential within our teaching toolkit.
There are many ways to differentiate learning: Flexible grouping, tiered assignments, and choice boards, to name a few. Choice boards have become extremely popular with students because they are given the option to choose how they will learn a concept.
Teachers love this technique because choice boards keep students more engaged. These boards—in large part because they are given free choice—also seem to let students challenge themselves more. Furthermore, choice boards give teachers the opportunity to tap into their students’ interests, find out how they like to learn, and how best to reach them in future lessons.
Here we will take a look at what choice boards are, and a few ways that you can use them to as part of your toolkit of classroom management tactics to differentiate instruction.
Choice boards (some instructors call them learning menus) are activities or assignments that give students the option of choosing what they will do to meet the your requirements. As a general rule, these boards outline a variety of instructional options that are targeted towards a specific academic goal. You as the teacher direct the choice board, but your students are given control over their choices and may select the option(s) that appeal most to them.
Students with higher abilities will most likely implement these choice boards as more of an extension tool to hone and refine their knowledge while struggling kids can use these activities as a way to review or practice concepts.
Choice boards (or learning menus) can be set up in a variety of different ways: By ability, intelligences, learning style, student interest, readiness, learning preference, or even questioning. As a tip, it’s best to focus on just one of these types when creating your board.
As far as appearance is concerned, a choice board is essentially a graphic organizer that mimics a game of tic-tac-toe—a nine-square grid with activity choices in each row. Pro Tip: if you’d like to give your students more choices, feel free to add more squares, but nine is a good place to start. Have your students complete one activity from each row, depending on their interest. Much like the game, the goal here is to select adjacent or diagonal tasks to complete. Each exercise should vary in content, product, and process, and can be tailored to address different levels of academic performance.
Choice board menu options are endless—you can create a menu for any subject, topic, or concept that you want or different boards altogether based on student readiness. Here are a few examples of the different options from which you can choose:
The tic-tac-toe board can also be used for shorter, open-ended questions. For example, you can use Bloom’s Taxonomy to create different level questions for each square. It can also be used to review one main concept for each subject students are studying. For example, one square would be dedicated to reading where students must write about a main character, and another square would be dedicated to math, where students would have to name ten prime numbers, and so on.
Empowering your kids through choice ensures that they are meeting learning goals, as well as digesting material in ways that best suit their learning styles.
How do you differentiate instruction in your classroom? Do you use choice boards or learning menus? Share with us in comment section below, we would love to hear your thoughts.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.