How to Create Engaging Choice Boards
News on March 01 2021
Raise your hand if any of these things have happened to you while in the classroom.
- You gave an assignment only for half of your students to immediately decide they weren’t going to do it.
- You explained the directions for an assignment and a student asks if they could do something else instead.
- You had to explain the directions of the assignment multiple times because it’s obvious your students didn’t pay attention the first time.
- You are really excited about a creative activity you planned, and when a kid raises their hand to ask a question during your directions, you think they’re pitching you an idea, but instead they ask to go to the bathroom. Then you quietly die inside.
Yeah… my arm is starting to hurt too. Let’s call it penance for all of the times we created assignments our students thought were a waste of time.
The point is, student engagement is both the most important and most difficult part of creating a new activity. How can you possibly engage a class of 30 unique students with only one activity? The trick is… don’t give one activity. Instead, give a choice board.
Using choice boards to maximize student engagement
A choice board is a collection of activities that students can choose from in order to obtain the same content knowledge, while utilizing different skills. This can be assigned for one class period, or across several. For example, if trying to teach the process of how a bill becomes a law, students can choose to read an article, watch a video, or take part in a simulation you hold within a small group. From there, students can then prove they learned the content by either writing a detailed summary, making an illustration or infographic, or creating a performance to demonstrate the process. Naturally, students with different interests will gravitate towards different activities, and every student will at most love that they got to use the skills they wanted to, or at least, be able to say they chose their activity.
When creating your own choice board, there are two styles to consider: tic-tac-toe and menu.
The tic-tac-toe choice board
The tic-tac-toe style choice board is great for younger grades, but it can also be used in any grade level. The premise is simple. Create a 3×3 board with different activities in each space. A student would choose three activities in a row to complete. Below is an example of a tic-tac-toe style choice board made for middle school ELA students.
Notice how there are activities that would engage different learning styles, while each activity maintains some kind of rigor. Some are easier than others, but generally an easier one is in the same row, column, or diagonal as a more difficult one. You can, of course, arrange your spaces however you think would be best for you students.
Here is a tic-tac-toe template for Google Doc you can use to create your own.
The menu choice board
The menu style choice board is perfect for older students. With this kind of choice board, students are given multiple sections where they select one activity within each section, just like you would order from a menu — one appetizer, one entree, and one dessert.
To truly engage your students, menus can also have a theme that relates to what students care about. Maybe they need to fill positions on a sports team, collect items to build a set, or play the role of a super villain trying to assemble a very powerful glove (your students would get the reference if you missed it). The point is, be creative! For older students, this is where you can foster some buy-in for the activities. Below is an example of the menu style choice board for high school history students.
Notice how the theme runs throughout the choice board. This way, students not only have the ability to choose based on the activities they prefer, but if in doubt, they can brag to their friends about the Dream Team they made. Or, listen to what your students are talking about in the classroom, and then use that as your theme.
Here is a menu template for Google Docs you can use to create your own.
With either style, creating these choice boards can be done easily with Google Docs or Microsoft Word. You can add images, videos, links to send students to particular websites (like YouTube, Newsela, or Pixton Comics), or even create links to the different activities.
To learn how to create these choice boards from scratch, check out our professional learning videos on OTIS for educators.
Now you have an activity that will engage all of your students and will surely be worth your students’ time.
For more tips, tricks, and tools for teaching in and out of the classroom, check out more articles on the Teq Talk blog.
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