Choice Boards 101: Strategies to Ensure Classroom, Professional, and Virtual Learning Success

As of late, I have been working with quite a few districts on personalization through a variety of blended learning strategies.  My experience in this area began over three years ago, thanks to having the opportunity to coach teachers and administrators at Wells Elementary School. As we are now in our third year together, they continue to take feedback and act on it to improve their practice. I can honestly say that I have learned so much from them over the years as to what pedagogically-sound blended learning really is, and, in my mind, they are a global exemplar for others to emulate.

Their influence can be seen and heard in my writing, presentations, workshops, and work with other schools.  Throughout this school year, I have had the honor of working with all the K-12 schools in the Corinth School District in Mississippi. They are a 1:1 district who have really begun to hit their stride and push the envelope when it comes to the purposeful use of technology aligned to research-based pedagogy. They have made some incredible shifts, including a shift towards station rotation and choice boards. You can read more about their progress in this post.  

After my fourth coaching session with them, the principal asked if I could create a choice board for his staff to work through and learn to use even more technology tools effectively. I was excited because I always ask the schools I work with to reflect on the feedback that is provided and determine how to best use my time when I am there next.  Ownership of learning shouldn’t just be for students. I was also equally terrified as I had never created a choice board of my own. Typically, I only share the ones created by Wells (TX), Snow Horse (UT), and Corinth Elementary (MS) as well as Corinth Middle School. As I have stated for years, don’t ask others to do what you have not done or are not willing to do yourself.  Challenge accepted!

On a recent Sunday, I began my choice board journey.  Since I had already provided numerous workshops and sessions in the district, the foundation was already set to move forward with this. First, I did a few Google searches for editable templates, which led me to an array of examples in Google Slides.  I then chose one that aligned to the content, in my opinion, developed a learning target, created nine different activities, and hyperlinked to supporting resources. Since pacing is a pivotal component of both personalized and blended learning, I did another Google search for ways to integrate timers into Google Slides.  In literally fifteen minutes, I had my choice board created.

The key with a choice board to use as a part of professional learning with adults or classroom learning with students is sound blended pedagogy.  In addition, below are some tips that I have used with the schools and districts I coach:

  • Use pre-made templates (just make a copy).
  • Use a timer for pacing and self-management.
  • Behind the scenes, the teacher works with at-risk students or those who need extra help. If you are leading professional learning, this frees up time to answer questions and provide feedback.
  • Add links to your Learning Management System (Google Classroom, Canvas, Schoology, etc.) to see student work and to hold them accountable.
  • Monitor regularly to ensure on-task behavior.
  • Create a scaffolded formative assessment for all students to complete once they are finished (3 questions or more that increase in difficulty). For professional learning, you could have attendees share what they have created or learned using Google Forms.
  • If students or adults finish the required choices and formative assessment, have them choose other activities.
  • Consider using Google Slides and add either anchor charts or essential content for review to assist with completing the board.
  • For more edtech tools, click HERE to access a resource curated by Tom Murray.

HERE you can view the choice board activity that I created based on the story at the beginning of the post.  You will see numerous slides before that actual board that allows access to the presentation as well as some content slides to review prior learning. The iteration that you see was updated and tweaked numerous times thanks to the feedback I received from the Corinth School District, Jill Bromenschenkel, and my wife. Going forward, I will definitely be integrating more choice boards and station rotation into my workshops. It’s vital that anyone leading professional learning practices what he or she preaches. 

Choice boards, both digital and non-digital, represent a pedagogically-sound virtual or #remotelearning option, especially for our youngest learners. If they have been implemented prior to extended school closures or breaks consider incorporating them into a distance learning plan.  In the case that they haven’t been used, I would suggest creating a short video explaining to learners how to complete the board and how to submit or show work when finished.