Choice boards and distance learning are a marriage made in the crazy world of Covid. I was going to say heaven, but that word just doesn’t seem to work right now, does it?
So what are choice boards and how will they help you with distance learning? Like a menu, they offer students a selection of learning opportunities and activities. These activities should ideally be based on a similar concept or be leading the kids toward the development of a certain skill. They do so in a way that offers students a choice in how they learn or develop that skill. Because of this, they are often used to differentiate learning for students.
In general, students tend to like these learning menus because they get the freedom to choose. And we humans, whether we are sixteen or sixty, like to be able to make our own choices.
Choice Boards Help Engage Students in Distance Learning
That’s why choice boards are the perfect tool to use right now with distance learning. It’s been really hard to get students to engage from home. In many districts, like mine, teachers can’t hold students accountable for completing work, nor can we give them a grade. Teachers are hoping that their students will sign on and learn because it’s in their best interest, but that is not always happening.
Even we are struggling with motivation right now, so it’s no surprise that the kids are too. Therefore, it only makes sense that we offer them activities that will give them some freedom to choose how they are going to learn and to choose things that they find interesting.
A Way to Practice ELA Skills
My first two choice boards were designed to give kids a variety of learning experiences, from visiting a virtual museum and writing a response, to listening to podcasts and sketching scenes. The kids could choose to do a certain number of activities within a two week period, ones that were created to keep them busy and interested. However, they weren’t focused on one particular skill, just a collection of reading, writing, and listening activities.
My newest choice boards are more focused on particular areas of the ELA curriculum. For example, I wanted something to get the kids building their speaking and listening skills, as that is the hardest thing to work on in our new distance reality. I searched out podcasts and Youtube channels that covered a wide range of topics, so students would be able to choose something they would find interesting.
Choice Boards for Reading and Writing
I tried the same thing with the menus for reading and writing too. I have three different writing choice boards – two require the kids to choose a photo prompt to write a draft. Then, they get a menu of revision tasks they can choose from to improve their draft before they pass it in. The third writing menu provides them with mentor texts they can use for inspiration for a variety of writing tasks.
The reading choice boards have options too. There is one that kids can use when they are reading their own novels, and one that focuses on nonfiction texts only. The combo board provides options for both.
In all cases, the tasks are designed with links that can give students a little more information if they need it. For example, if the task asks them to identify the metaphor used in the text, there is a link to literarydevices.net, so they can remind themselves what a metaphor is. The tasks are fairly basic, so the kids won’t need much help from you, but they still provide ample opportunity for them to do some skill building.
If you are doing reading workshop with your students, be sure to read this post on workshop and distance learning.
Assessing The Tasks
As I already said, many of us aren’t giving grades, but if you are, the choice boards offer a very basic grading option – students can choose a certain number of tasks and earn five points for each task. These instructions are editable, so you can adapt them as needed. The main goal is to keep the kids interested enough to practice reading, writing, speaking and listening. And hopefully they will do some critical thinking too!
If you have questions about how choice boards work, please feel free to reach out. In the meantime, good luck with the rest of your school year!