It’s true: Teachers Pay Teachers offers so many resources from which to choose! But today we’re taking a special look at Choice Boards, Tic-Tac-Toe Boards, and Cafe Activity Menus.
“I first learned about these early in my teaching career from my mentor who was passionate about GAT populations. She was always saying that we should give students ‘freedom within structure’ which is exactly what choice grids do,” says Rachel Lynette.
She favors the Tic-Tac-Toe format and says it “forces students to make choices, weighing one activity against another. Because the activities chosen must be in a row, a student may very well find that in order to choose the assignment he most wants, he must also complete an assignment that he will find more challenging. However, that more challenging activity is likely to be met with less resistance than if there was no choice and no more motivating activity to go with it.”
Choice Boards — Freedom Within Structure
1. Great for Differentiation: Teaching With a Mountain View says, “I set them up to differentiate in a variety of ways. I’ve done some where each row or column is specific to a learning style, a different level of Blooms Taxonomy, or a different level of difficulty. The students have to choose one from each row or column, which always requires students to work outside of their comfort zone. On some boards, I place the choices in a random order, but each choice has a different level of difficulty. I then require the students to choose a certain number, but they must be approved by me before they begin. Especially in a mixed-ability classroom, I often give different groups of students completely different choice boards. In these cases, the choices are similar, but the tasks range in difficulty. This helps to eliminate the option of the advanced students always being able to take the easy way out.”
Math Coach’s Corner agrees. “Differentiating is one of the best uses of choice boards. If you’re doing a tic-tac-toe board, you can easily differentiate by making each row (or each column) a different skill level. For example, on my place value choice board, the top row is all 9-digit numbers (on grade level), the middle row is 6- and 9- digit (below grade level), and the bottom row is 12-digit numbers (above grade level). Choosing a diagonal or column creates a mix.”
2. An Alternative to Worksheets: Sarah Tighe LLC teaches at a project-based learning school and says, “Choice boards are a great alternative to worksheets! I like choice boards because they give students an option in applying what’s been learned. I also like when choice boards teach to multiple intelligences. Not every student learns the same way, and choice boards give you the flexibility you need to meet all of your students’ needs.”
Choice Boards — Ownership of Work
3. Improves Student Ownership and Organization: “I love using choice boards in the classroom because giving students choice gives them a sense of ownership in the work. They feel like they have a choice in what they’ll do and when. I prefer choice boards also, because of the organization of the resource. The students can easily keep track of which choices they’ve completed (by coloring them or initialing them) and which ones they still need to complete,” says Jennifer Findley. She uses them for every subject and differentiates by how many tasks per board she assigns to each student.
4. Provides a Motivational Structure: Ashleigh says her favorite thing about choice boards is that “they give students a choice and then more ownership in their work. I feel that students are more motivated to do their best when they feel that they have some choice in what they do. For a choice board to be truly effective, there has to be a purpose behind each of the activities. I know that in my choice boards, my students will all complete some type of activity for a specific standard/skill. However, the final product or the way the student studies that standard/skill will differ. This makes differentiation so much easier for me.”
Choice Boards — All Grades All Subjects
Erika Forth uses them in Language Arts and Social Studies. “In ELA, I give creative ways to respond to a novel. Usually my boards have activities for characterization, setting, inferences, etc. In Social Studies, I tend to use them after a unit of study to see what students have learned. Social Studies kids LOVE them because they get to draw, write, and create about history, rather than just memorize it.”
Two Nuts Teachin’ from the Same Tree shares this nugget: “At the beginning of the year, we teach our students about multiple intelligence and with input from parents and students we help each of our kiddos determine their strengths. We talk a lot about how we can use our strengths to support areas where we may struggle. When we put together choice boards, we make sure that each of the areas of intelligence are represented. The kids enter projects with confidence when they know it’s a strength, and the choice allows them to capitalize on those strengths.”
Sandra Naufal adds, “Students love choice boards. It’s a great way to involve students in their own learning. For example, I use my writing task choice boards in a grid format. Placed at a writing station, it allows students to choose various organizers to assist them, as well as a template for writing genres to choose from. Anything self-selected and student-generated gives students the motivational hook needed to produce quality work.”
How fun to hear about all the different ways to use choices boards, and reasons for it. As Eleanor Roosevelt said: “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.”