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As an educator and teacher coach, I am always learning new strategies to help with classroom management. It’s a bonus when that strategy can also be used to level up my parenting skills.
This week I attended a district-sponsored professional development. One of our conversations reminded me of my favorite classroom management strategy–choices.
The Power of Choices
The strategy that I learned that changed pretty much everything for the classroom (and my parenting) was the power of choices.
It is an easy and simple strategy, but for some reason, we tend to forget to apply it. That’s what we’re going to go over today.
Research Backs It Up
We’re gonna start with a little bit of research. In 2008, Patel, Cooper, and Robinson found that offering choices in classroom activities led to greater intrinsic motivation and engagement among high school students.
Another study by Deci and Ryan in 2000 focused on the self-determination theory. The theory suggests that allowing students choices or autonomy can foster intrinsic motivation and decrease apathy.
These are two big things that we are always trying to do in our classroom.
The Impact of Choices
Think about your students’ motivation.
There are many things that choices are made for our students every day.
They may or may not have chosen their schedule. Also, remember that things are happening outside of the classroom that are limiting student choice.
Allowing students to have that little bit of control can help cut classroom behavior issues.
Filling the Bucket
One of the parenting classes that I took taught about filling a child’s “bucket.” Children have the need to fill their bucket to the top every day with positive things.
If their bucket was filled and if their needs were met, then they didn’t have to demand them.
Allowing students to make choices, even if they’re tiny choices, helps create a sense of freedom and autonomy. And it fills their buckets.
How to Implement Choices in Your Classroom
Now, you’re probably thinking, “That’s great. I should be giving choices. What in the world does that look like? How can I do that in my classroom?”
The biggest thing with choices is that you, as a teacher, need to be okay with either option that you give your students.
You need to be okay with both possible outcomes. Here are some guidelines to remember as you give choices to students:
- Choices should not be threats in disguise: Avoid using choices as a way to manipulate or control students. Make sure the choices you offer are genuinely beneficial for both you and the students.
- Give small choices: Allow students to make small choices while you make the larger ones. You don’t need your students to run everything.
- Choose for students if they can’t decide: If a student doesn’t make a choice within 10 seconds, or if they are indecisive, you can step in and make the choice for them. This helps prevent decision paralysis and keeps the momentum going in the classroom.
- Ensure choices are meaningful: Offer choices that have a genuine impact on the students’ experience or learning. This could include options like selecting a topic for a project, choosing a reading assignment, or deciding how to present their work.
- Provide clear parameters: When offering choices, establish clear boundaries and expectations. Let students know the limits within which they can make their choices. This ensures that the options are realistic and manageable.
Remember, the goal of offering choices is to empower students and foster their intrinsic motivation. By allowing them to make decisions, you are acknowledging their autonomy and creating a positive and engaging classroom environment.
Examples of Choices in the Secondary Classroom
- Whole Class
- due dates: offer two choices, making sure you are happy with both
- Example: “You can turn in your assignment on Friday or Monday.”
- music or no music (while students complete seatwork)
- time limits (for reading, seatwork, etc.) e.g. two more minutes or five more minutes
- work alone or with a partner
- “There are ___ questions/problems. Feel free to choose and do ___ (amount) easiest.”
- “You can review your notes before you take the practice test or review your notes as you take the practice test.”
- “The goal of this unit was for you to _________. Choose how you would like to prove this. (Essay, video, etc.)”
Implementing the power of choices in your classroom can significantly impact classroom management and student engagement.
By offering meaningful choices within clear boundaries, you empower students and foster their intrinsic motivation.
Embracing the power of choices can transform your classroom into a space where students feel empowered and invested in their learning.
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