Tuesday Teacher Tips
November 10, 2015
The Power of Student Choice in the Classroom, Plickers for Formative Assessment, and New Professional Readings in the Library
Engaging Students through Student Choice
Benefits of Student Choice
Alfie Kohn, in "Choices for Children: Why and How to Let Students Decide" cites research that suggests there are many benefits to providing students with more choice can reduce burnout and have an overall effect on a student's "general well-being" by giving them control and helping to improve self-esteem. Students who are given choice also display better behavior and greater "buy in" to the content, because as Kohn points out "... if we want children to take responsibility for their own behavior, we must first give them responsibility, and plenty of it. The way a child learns how to make decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions". There are also numerous studies that point to the idea that students who are given choice perform better than counterparts who are not given choice.
In the article "Student Choice Leads to Student Voice" by Joshua Block for Edutopia, claims that: "Learning that incorporates student choice provides a pathway for students to fully, genuinely invest themselves in quality work that matters. Participating in learning design allows students to make meaning of content on their own terms."
How can you Incorporate Student Choice?
Student choice can range from decisions like seating assignment or class job to something a little more complex like choice in summative projects. One thing that can be uncomfortable for teachers is giving up some of the "control" and giving students room to be a little messy.
The Edudemic article "7 Ways to Hack your Classroom to Include Student Choice" by Amanda Ronan suggests giving students choice when it comes to homework. Perhaps allowing students to choose 5 math problems out of 10 would improve their likelihood of completing the assignment, or offering students an assignment contract where they choose to do 6 out of 10 assignments for entire unit might make them more accountable. You can also incorporate "choice boards" and unstructured "innovation time".
How I've Been Using Student Choice
You also might try giving students open ended choice on the kind of project they would like to do to "show what they know". Instead of giving students a list of projects they could choose from to do for a unit, talk to them about what makes a good project that demonstrates learning and ask them to come up with ideas for what they would like to do. You could use something like a single point rubric to help generate discussion. You can see an example of a project rubric here. For example, when working with first graders last year, I asked them to come up with some ways to show what they learned about character, setting and problem/solution in an author study we did. Students proposed projects like puppet shows, Lego models of settings, and stuffed animals of characters. See how we did that in my post "Using Super 3 Research Model and our Makerspace to Inspire 1st Grade PBL"
Most recently in the library, students across all grade levels have been learning about how to be a good digital citizen. Kindergarten and 1st graders were given the choice to show what they learned about staying safe online through building with legos, using apps like Tellagami and Chatterpix, creating murals, and performing puppet shows. Students built computer labs with the Legos that showed students being accompanied by an adult and behaving nicely, they created puppet shows that explored the idea that students should always ask a trusted adult before using an iPad or computer and should only use safe apps and websites like PebbleGO and PBS kids. Students in 5th grade are currently working on multimedia projects that show what they learned about a research question they developed. The projects range from creating collaborative Powerpoints to news style public service announcements to Lego stop action movies. This very approach to teaching digital citizenship will be explored in an ISTE sponsored webinar - find out more here.
How to Start?
If you would like to get started with including more student choice in your classroom, you don't have to start big. Start with small things like letting students pick their class jobs or letting them choose a reward a project from a list and in time build towards giving students more freedom to dream up and choose research focus or entire project design.
Plickers: A Second Look
A few weeks ago I began to give it a second look with my 2nd grade classes as a way to assess what they know and don't know about features of nonfiction books.
Plickers is a teacher tool that makes use of a website in coordination with an augmented reality based application that is downloaded either on the teacher's smartphone or tablet. Teachers use the website to build multiple choice questions and assign those questions to a question queue for a particular class. You can organize questions you create by topic or unit and use them year after year.
To administer the questions to the class, each student is assigned a number and gets a Plickers card, that can be printed from the website. It's easiest to pull Plickers up on your interactive white board and show students the question in Live view. Students respond to the question by holding their Plickers card with their answer choice facing up, and the teacher uses his or her device to scan the cards.
As answers are scanned with the device, the teacher can see immediately who has answered correctly, and it displays a bar graph with percentage. This would be a great way to quickly assess whether a topic needs review.
When it's time to give an assessment my 2nd graders have been cheering, and I overhead one of them saying "This is the only way to take a test!"
The only downfall in my mind is that the reports generated in Plickers is a class overview report per question. You have to individually click on each question to see a student's response, so it won't really give you a "grade" on an assessment for an individual student. But this is an excellent tool that you can use for an exit or entry slip or after introducing a concept that may need some additional review.
Check out the quick overview below to see how it works.
Professional Readings - New in the Library
Science: Formative Assessment by Page Keely
The book includes "75 practical strategies for linking assessment, instruction and learning." The goal is to "help educators weave formative assessment into daily instruction in learning" and connects to current research in formative assessment and NGSS. Follow Page Keeley on Twitter for ongoing discussion.
Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess
Excellent and engaging reminder of ways that we can easily engage students in their own learning using PIRATE as an acronym. Read about creative ways you can transform your classroom through: Passion, Immersion, Rapport, Ask & Analyze, Transformation, and Enthusiasm. Also read about some ways to craft lessons to include "hooks" that tap into things like movement, art, student centered ideas, and acting. You can follow some pretty amazing discussion on Twitter through #tlap and follow author Dave Burgess himself on Twitter and check out his website.
Number Talks by Sherry Parrish
This is a multimedia professional learning resource that includes "more than 850 purposefully designed number talks" for grades K-5 and a DVD featuring number talks from actual classrooms. The book is designed to help build "mental math and computation strategies" and was "created in response to the requests of teachers - those who want to implement number talks but are unsure of how to begin". You can follow author Sherry Parrish on Twitter and find more resources related to the topic at Elementary Math