In my school district, the administrators have been big proponents of the idea of student-driven instruction. Student-driven instruction, also called learner-driven education, refers to the practice of embracing teaching methods that put students at the center of their own learning. As this Wikipedia article states, ” Student-centered learning puts students’ interest first, acknowledging student voice as central to the learning experience.”
And when the governor of my state closed all school buildings and teachers started preparing lessons for remote learning, my administrators told the faculty to make an effort to include student-centered activities in our remote learning plans. I’m glad to have found some options for student-centered learning in the form of a choice board.
A choice board is a page of activities from which students choose a variety of assignments to complete. It is considered to be student-centered because they are the ones who get to choose which activities they want to do.
One of the first choice boards I was able to find was this one made by Jennifer Jones Zapach:
While teaching remotely, Jennifer still holds live classes over Zoom, so this board is designed as enrichment in addition to her synchronous Zoom classes. Students are asked to complete any of the activities on the choice board for at least fifteen minutes daily and keep track of their enrichment activities by filling out a log every day.
I fell in love with this choice board the first time I saw it, but I knew that it would not work for me, for two reasons. First, unlike Jennifer’s students, my students are not getting any synchronous Zoom classes. They don’t need additional input on top of the input they are already getting from their Zoom class. Any activities I give them consist of all the input that they are getting that week, so I needed to provide them with something meatier. Second, I wanted students to be held more accountable so I could verify that they were actually doing the work they said they were doing.
After searching the Internet for a while, I came across a choice board template available for free from Pura Vida Language Resources on Teachers Pay Teachers, which I adapted for my French students. Here is what my first choice board looked like:
My students had to complete a variety of activities, all worth a different amount of points, until they had amassed 30 points total. They recorded their activities on a tally sheet and submitted evidence that they had completed the activities they chose. Students could access directions to each assignment by clicking on the title of each choice (So for example, clicking on “Lire” in all capital letters brought them to a reading assignment, “Culture” brought them to a culture assignment, and so on). Here is a link to the video I made to help them navigate the choice board.
Just so you all know, I am very much aware that some of the activities on my choice board don’t look like they are input-driven. I admit openly that the “Créer” assignment is an art project, but I wanted some of my weaker students to have an assignment that they felt that they were able to do. The “Vocabulaire” activity is another assignment designed for my weaker students, because it asked them to label items in their bedroom in French. I also included a grammar-based activity, but part of the activity obligated students to listen to a grammar explanation in French. Maybe that’s not rich, compelling input, but it is input nonetheless. Also, my students will be studying traditional grammar with the high school teacher next year, so it serves some benefit.
Even with a few low-input choices, students still couldn’t earn enough points for the week without completing at least one input-driven activity. As the weeks progressed, I configured my choice boards so that students had to do at least two input-driven activities in order to earn enough points. and I replaced those input-weak activities with other assignments that provided more input, such as listening comprehension activities.
Overwhelmingly, the response from students about the choice board was positive. They really enjoyed deciding what activities to do instead of being obligated to do an activity chosen by me. But unfortunately there also were some drawbacks to using the choice board as well.
First of all, even though I had a template, it took me about ten hours to format my first choice board and insert all the links. And that first week, I received a lot of emails from students about links that weren’t working, which they found very stressful. And even though I recorded and posted a video explaining how to navigate the choice board, I had some students who didn’t watch it and then freaked out because they had no idea what they were supposed to do. But as the weeks went on, it took a lot less time to create my choice boards, and most students who were confused at first were able to figure out what to do. But it also got harder and harder for me to come up with eight different activities every week, so I altered the layout so I only had to give six choices (I teach Grade 7 and 8 French, but I use the same activities in both grades, just with more support for my Grade 7 kids).
I must confess, I really love using a choice board, and I am already thinking about implementing the use of one next year when (please oh please) things go back to normal and our school buildings are open again. If this is something you’d like to try, download the template from Pura Vida language resources or search the Internet for other examples of choice boards that other teachers have shared.