Differentiating Process with Student Choice Boards

Every student deserves a great teacher, not by chance, but by design! 

Hattie, Fisher, Frey

Teachers in a differentiated classroom understand two things. First, there are standards that guide what is taught; and second, no two learners have the same path in mastering those standards. A differentiated classroom recognizes this and provides various ways through content, product, assessment, and process to meet the needs of all students. And all of this is accomplished by design, not chance!

The one component many educators find most difficult to understand and implement is “Differentiation through Process”. Process is how the learner comes to make sense of and understand topics, concepts, and skills directly aligned to the learning goal. Varying levels of support along with student choice make differentiating process one of the most effective ways to improve student learning.

I write a lot about differentiation and Steven Anderson and I present on how #EdTech can support a differentiated classroom at various events. When we do so, the example of a Student Choice Board is always a favorite with educators!

A Student Choice Board is not a hodge-podge of activities thrown together in an attempt to provide student choice in the classroom. Instead, a choice board is aligned to learning goals, has carefully selected activities to allow students to access and understand information, plus multiple options to apply and demonstrate understanding of a topic or concept.

When designing a Student Choice Board, we like to consider 3 layers of learning, Surface Learning, Deep Learning, and Application.

  1. Surface Learning – Initial exposure. Serves to support and build background knowledge in which students can construct new knowledge upon.
  2. Deep Learning – Students continue to solidify understanding and dig deeper, make connections, see examples, provides practice, and deepen their own understanding.
  3. Application – Students demonstrate mastery of content or skill by applying knowledge and demonstrating understanding.

Here is an example from a science classroom where students are exploring and learning about the Periodic Table. The directions on the side provide the learning goal and student expectations. This clarity provides students the “what” and allows them to own the “how”.

By blending differentiation with the resources provided by #EdTech, educators are able to not only support students accessing information through various modes, but provides a streamlined process in which students are able to choose their process and “own” their learning! Student Choice Boards is one of my favorite ways to differentiate process in the classroom. Why not give it a shot and try it out next year?

Blank Choice Board Template

10 Tenets of a Student-Centered Writing Classroom

 

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Today my work consisted of supporting educators on how to teach writing. Upon reflection, we realized that very few of us remember being specifically taught how to teach writing. Sure, we learned a lot about content, genres, and types of writing; but not one person raised their hand when I asked if they had an undergrad program that explicitly taught them how to teach writing. Empowering kids through writing is my passion, and I am driven to change the writing landscape that is found in many schools!

As a teacher of writing, I believe there are 10 Tenets of a Student-Centered Writing Classroom

  1. Teach the Writer, not the Writing – Focus on the learning, not the end product.
  2. Write in Front of your Students – Dispel the notion that writing is magic. Let young writers see and hear your process as you write in front of them.
  3. State the Why – Explain why Good Writers use specific skills, strategies, and resources when they write.
  4. Focus on Transferable Skills and Strategies – Answer and remind young writers how the skill or strategy can be used today and whenever they write. 
  5. Student Choice – Transfer ownership by letting students choose what they write about. Is it really about the content or is the content the vehicle in which demonstration occurs? Learning to Write, not Writing to Learn.
  6. Student Voice – Developing voice takes practice. Have students write often and in various genres. 
  7. Write for Real – An authentic audience and writing purpose engages young writers, provides relevance to writing, and allows them to share their story with the world.
  8. Surround Writers with Exemplars– Collect and share examples of writers and writings that students can gain inspiration from or that challenge them to apply a similar technique in their own writing.
  9. Differentiate – Pull small groups of writers or confer one to one with students based on needs and goals. While whole class instruction is efficient, small groups or one to one learning is more effective.
  10. Never Forget the Share – Honor the hard work young writers do through the share at the end of the class. Sharing promotes a safe community, builds relationships, and can target a teaching point!