Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand. -Chinese Proverb
Would you want to work in a place that gave you no voice? Would you want to teach in a school that allowed you no autonomy in how you teach? What if your every day was prescribed as to what you would do, what you would say and how you would say it…
As professionals, we become offended when the “higher ups” in education make decisions that affect us without including us in the decision making. Even professional development is terribly ineffective when we just “sit and get” without any input. Would an artist paint very often or very well if the subject of the painting was always assigned? Of course not. So why are we so reluctant to give our students choice in how they learn?
Choice. It’s meaning is clear: an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities. Choice. It’s not just for adults. Alfie Kohn writes a good article here about choices for children in learning.
To be clear, there is a difference between choice and free reign. Without some control and teacher facilitation, it can be pure anarchy. Setting up the learning environment to allow for student choice is critical. You would never open a closet to a 3 year old and ask them what they want to wear. You would ask, “Do you want to wear this or this?” In my room, we begin with simple choices and through a gradual release of responsibility, students eventually have multiple choices all throughout the day.
Last week we were working on the pumpkin life cycle. By Friday, everyone was ready to show me what they had learned. They were given 2 choices. They could show me in Pic Collage or in Explain Everything. Later, they will have other choices, but for now, 2 is all they need.
Instructions were on the Smartboard and everyone was hard at work!
This is one of the examples from Explain Everything.
When given choices, students engage and take ownership. By learning how to make choices and make decisions at a young age, they are better equipped at these skills as they get older. When children learn to think for themselves, they are also less likely to be easily led by others whose choices may not be as desirable.
We want our students to love the content…to love learning. By giving choices we lessen the chance of burnout (for both students and teachers), and we increase the chances of engaged, independent thinkers. None of us like to be told, “You have no choice in the matter.” Instead, let’s work toward, “The choice is yours!”
Today we will do exciting new things. Let’s get to it!
One Way Sign Photo Credit: Creative Commons