A choice menu or choice board is a set of tasks created by the teacher that offer a variety of options for students to demonstrate their learning of an instructional goal.
Choice allows students to practice decision making. It gives them freedom to choose activities that are suited best to their learning style and interests. Think about it. Even as an adult we like the option of choosing what we are going to do. There is a fine line between given enough choices to work with or being overwhelmed with a list of things to choose from. It is important that the students are given a variety of choices but not so much that they are in an analysis paralysis of decision fatigue.
A good balance is between 6 to 12 choices that touch upon different learning styles. When introducing choice menus do it slowly by allowing the students to first choose between 3. Once they are used to the system, introduce more. This allows the teacher to still design learning experiences that meet the standards but allows the student to take control of their learning and design a product that showcases their understanding. Choice boards help students find and display their passions.
To become proficient in designing great menus it is good to refamiliarize yourself with Bloom’s Taxonomy and Gardners Multiple Intelligences. It is important to develop activities that are appropriate to different levels of blooms and incorporate different types of intelligences. You might want to have a code that you use to indicate which intelligence and blooms level it address so that you can help students with choosing (especially helpful when students are not sure what they want to work on).
Sometimes for a choice you will need to create a rubric. I think these are useful for kids to have during projects, so they know how and what is being graded. You might also consider a contract between student, teacher and parent. This is helpful for identifying constraints such as students that might not have access to something they need to create a project, for example access to a video recording device if they wanted to make a video. It is also good to line out your own set constraints such as setting a cost for the project. Something along the lines of not spending more than $2 to complete the project, etc.
Types of Choice Menus
Tic Tac Toe
This menu has free choice as the center and eight teacher designed tasks. The student would choose 3 choices to complete their board across, down or diagonally. You can add more boxes to make it 4×4 when students are confident with decision making in their choices.
List of Tasks
Choose the topic that you would like the students to do a deep dive in and create a list of tasks that can be completed. Each task has a point value. Students will choose.
Students will choose any task as long as it adds up to 10. To design this menu you will choose 2 choices for 2, 4 choices for 5 and 2 choices for 8.
Each of the spaces will be filled with choices at different point values – the student will choose the tasks that add up to 100.
Student Designed Choice
Students will design their own project which requires approval before the student pursues it. In a proposal format they would include information about what they would like to study, the criteria to grade their project, the product they will produce, and what materials will be needed for their project. You might even have them include a timeline for completion.
I always thought choice boards were a great way to differentiate instruction and allow students that may lack confidence in their academics a way to display their intelligence in a way that they know is their best. Differentiation by choice boards helps students to take charge of their learning and work to produce a product that displays their knowledge. Choice boards have a way of building success for all learners and I would encourage you to try choice menus in your classroom.