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Thursday, January 08, 2015

Limited Choice Leads Young Students' Learning

Typically I employ "limited choice" often to give students a chance to make wise decisions about their learning.

Today as students work on their crossword puzzles to learn math vocabulary, I'll offer the following choices with this language:

"People learn best in a variety of ways. Take a minute to think about how you might complete this task and learn the vocabulary well.  You may work alone, work with a friend, work with a "student teacher" (a student who is willing to teach another), or work with a helping teacher. Also you may choose to try the crossword puzzle first without the word list, and then use the list, or you may use the list from the start."

Then I'll dismiss students from the listening space to work spaces with the following questions:
  • Who would like to work with a helping teacher? Those students will be assigned a teacher and space.
  • Who would like to work with a student teacher? If anyone raises their hand, I'll then ask if anyone wants to be a student teacher today, and assign spaces and partners.
  • Who would like to work with a friend?
  • Who would like to work alone?
Our class is at a place where the students make good choices and no one is left out so I can open up these choices now. At the start of the year, before I knew the class, I may not have given the "friend" choice. Instead I might say, "Who would like to work with other students?" and then assign partners so no one is left out.

This kind of "limited choice" empowers student learning.  Once everyone is situated, then I'll start to move from group to group to assist, refine spaces/groups, and teach. 

At the end we'll gather to wrap up by sharing successful strategies and then move on to recess.