Choice Boards: A Great Choice Anywhere Learning Is Happening
BY CARRIE FRIDAY
My favorite activity to do with students in the library is taking them through STEAM stations that are tied to the content they’re learning in class. When offered a choice of hands-on activities, students are engaged and find learning so much fun. Plus, it’s an amazing way for them to show what they know. As we’ve adjusted how we teach, it’s been a challenge to figure out how I can still do these great activities with students in a safe way and to make sure that students learning both in person and at home still have lots of great options that can be done with a variety of materials.
Building Your Choice Board Identifying Your Needs You’ll want to make sure you have a clear objective in mind when building your choice boards. As you think through your objective and purpose, you need to consider the students too. Below are the questions I ask myself as I map out my choice board.
What content needs to be covered? Is it a review or an introduction to material?
What materials do I have that can be easily cleaned between use? (LEGO, magnet tiles, Ozobots, Dash and tablets, KEVA blocks, etc.)
What materials do I have that are more difficult to clean? (Makey Makey, littleBits, etc.)
What web tools can be used? (Tinkercad, OzoBlockly, Custom Ink, Google Drawings, etc.)
What materials might students who are learning from home have? (Q-tips, pasta, Legos, blocks, etc.)
What computer-based tasks can I include for students who have no STEAM materials at home?
How many learning styles are represented with the options I am presenting?
How many skills will need to be taught for students to complete these activities?
How much time do we have to work with?
How many tasks should students complete?
Once you’ve addressed the questions above and you know what resources you have available (maker materials, online tools, materials that could be found at home), you can start building your challenges and choices.
Map It Out It can be as simple as you want. You should draw out how many boxes you want and what sizes each will be. Then, decide on a title and add directions. Some choice boards are like tic-tac-toe or bingo where students need to complete a column, row or diagonal line. Some choice boards offer students more options than others, so you may ask them to complete a certain number of tasks. It’s up to you.
Pick Your Platform Once I’ve identified my objectives, materials and template, I start building. I build my choice boards in Google Slides and publish through Google Classroom. Previously, I used engineering sheets that students completed when we did rotating stations. I wanted something similar and found that using Google Slides is great! You could also use Microsoft Word or Google Drawing to create your choice boards.
With Google Slides, the students each get their own copy of the slides, and then they add a slide for each activity they complete. They can insert photos or screenshots, write reflections and submit their final product.
Repeat and Revise Once I have one great template, it’s easy to build more. Simply copy the slide, change the background and adjust the challenges and activities based on the course and content. As I go through the instructions and expectations, I try to give my e-learners ideas for things they can find around their homes and how they would show us their work.
The students LOVE these activities and get so excited each time they come in and see a choice board pulled up on the screen. The really great thing is that choice boards can be adapted for any subject area and any set of available materials. They can also be used online, in person or a combination of the two.
Make Them ADA Compliant There are some issues with using slides involving graphics to make them ADA compliant. There are some simple things you can do to make adjustments for this. I use Google Slides all the time and Google Support has some great tips for making things ADA compliant. To make slides compliant:
You can leave out additional graphics that are just there as added bells and whistles.
Use high contrast coloring.
Use a large, simple-to-read font.
Add comments into the slides for additional information that may be needed.
You can add in alt text and you can present the slides with captions.
Other great options are to offer a pdf copy that works with screen readers or provide printed copies of the choice boards.
Also, be aware as you create that you should use hyperlinks and not just the web address, and be mindful of your text boxes as most screen readers read text boxes in the order they were created, not just left to right.
Examples of Choice Boards: Versatile for Every Subject I started by building a choice board for the book The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman. Once I saw how well it worked, I knew I had a new go-to product to use with classes. Since then, I’ve created choice boards for algebra, a Spooky Stories unit for ELA, a Thanksgiving choice board, a winter-themed choice board, and I’m working on building one on space for our Grade 8 science classes.
Below are some choice boards I’ve created around different topics. You can see the different tasks and designs for each.
Choice boards can be used for any subject. Here is one I built for algebra on functions.
My favorite one so far has been the Spooky Story unit. The students LOVED making the Origami bats and flying them!
Shannon Miller also has some amazing choice boards here that are ready to use for many different areas.
Choice boards are great because they meet students where they are while still providing an engaging activity that really builds their critical thinking skills. If you have questions or would like to brainstorm some ideas with someone, please feel free to contact me! I’d love to help you.
CARRIE FRIDAY Media Specialist Southwest Middle School Palm Bay, Florida
Carrie Friday is the Media Specialist at Southwest Middle School in Palm Bay, a 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year Finalist for Brevard Public Schools, and a 2019-2020 Space Coast Public Service Heavy Lifter award winner. She isn't afraid to take risks and will do just about anything to encourage the love of literacy in students and teachers. She is a co-founder of the #swms20bookchallenge and total YA author fangirl. Carrie is a Follett Community contributor and has presented best practices at the district level, FAME, AASL and FETC. Most recently, Mrs. Friday’s library program was awarded the designation of a Florida Power Library School by the Florida Department of Education. She believes in innovation, collaboration and the power of really good books. She is also a wife to a rocket scientist and a mom to the sweetest two girls you'll ever meet. She loves Gilmore Girls, Pinterest, coffee, and porch swings. She is a proud graduate of Auburn University. War Eagle! You can reach her through email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow along with her adventures in the media center on Twitter or on Instagram.
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