Choice in the Classroom: An Example

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This is the third part of the choice in the classroom series. You can go back and read the first part or the second part if you’ve missed them!

Yesterday we summarized a study about choice, which confirmed the basic conclusion of decades of research: we must give students choice in their learning, even if the choices are trivial. In a Montessori classroom, this is easy and natural. In another post in this series we’ll look at how that works. But, how to incorporate choice in a traditional classroom or homeschool?


La elección en el aula


Today I’m sharing an example. It’s a project in which students will research one of the 16 countries that made it to the second stage of the World Cup. In the packet you will find an instruction sheet, investigation sheets to record information, maps, and a guide sheet to help students design a presentation on their country. It seems pretty traditional, right? Not quite.

What is NOT included in the packet is what makes this project different, and is the way to incorporate choice into the lesson. There are not many specific instructions for students. They choose which country they want to study themselves, and it doesn’t matter how many students in one class choose the same country, because what they learn will be so different. Once they have a country, they find resources about that country, and begin to learn about it. They decide which investigation sheet(s) to use, and what information to find. There is no filling out a worksheet with the capital, population, principal resources, etc. There are maps, but there is nothing on the map. It is just an outline of the country. There also is no list of cities and landforms to identify and label on the map. Students decide what to include on the map. When they have all of their information, they will then design a presentation that is going to make their classmates interested in their country. There is no rubric. Then they are actually going to give their presentation.


Some teachers and parents will say, impossible! Students will not work without specific instructions and rubrics. They will just do the bare minimum! And, it is possible, and even probable that at least one student will take this attitude. But when that student sees the presentations of the other students, they will be ashamed of their own, and will work harder on the next project of this type. The longer a student has been in traditional education, the longer it will take to train him to work from intrinsic motivation instead of extrinsic motivation. But it is possible, and worth the effort!

Last suggestions: if at all possible, do not grade this project. Allow students to learn to love the process of learning, and to value their efforts without needing grades to tell them that they’ve done a good job. If you must grade it, is there a way to make the grading non-intrusive? It is a challenge for you. 🙂

Also, consider allowing students to work in pairs for this project. Elementary children are very social, and love working together. If it’s possible, let  them do all of the project work in the classroom or school building.





Esta entrada también está disponible en: Spanish

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