You know that feeling that you get when the excitement wells up on the inside of you? I’m talking about the level of excitement that makes you want to give out the most gitty giggle you’ll only do around those most closest to you? I felt that this past week. What made me feel that way? Choice.
I’ve tried to make levels of choice happen in my classroom before as explained here and here. This year, inspired by a visit to a Montessori school, I’ve tried upping my level of choice for students. I’m going to explain things in reverse.
Every student was engaged and on task completing one of the activities within the calendar. The options were: live mini-lesson or video mini-lesson followed by a Hands-on Standards worksheet everyone was required to complete on Line of Best Fit. As I walked around observing students working in small groups, pairs or independently, I felt the excitement welling up. Before I gave off a squeal that would have reduced my cool points 😎, I calmly stated, “you all are working so well, I’m so proud of you right now.”
We worked at this level of choice all week. I’ve coined it Choice Learning and the students caught on quickly to where to go to find the activities for the day. Most of them use their phones to access the materials. I provide 2-5 iPads and a desktop computer for students who do not have their own technology.
This is where we started.
One day a student made a comment about having choice and I ran with it. Not a wise decision in hindsight. We were reviewing for our unit assessment which covered 6 concepts. I instructed students to develop a learning plan which would be implemented over two days. For the plan students had to pick 3 concepts in which they need more practice to “sure up” their understanding. I would pick a 4 which would be based on the data from their most recent concept quiz.
Based on their learning plan, they would pick activities to work on while I pulled small groups for remediation. It was short of a disaster. Why? Not enough support on my part. Day one I spent most of my time working at a station trying to help students understand how to find the missing coordinate when give slope and one point. I never pulled small groups and there was ALOT of redirecting happening.
What did I learned from all of that?
- Too much choice can be chaotic and overwhelming.
- Have support materials for students to access helps to free me up for small group instruction.
- But most importantly, assess the situation in truth and make adjustments. (Don’t just strap the idea.)
Here’s the plan for next week that has me excited all over again: