Good day! SO glad to be back with you today for the second part of my three part series, Spotlight on Differentiation. In review, reflecting upon my many years of teaching gave me the idea to spotlight strategies for differentiating in a three-part series. Over the years, I have been fortunate to teach in a self-contained special education setting and a regular division setting with collaboration (students with individualized education plans included in regular division classroom). My experience in these setting has spanned 2nd to 5th grade. In each setting, differentiation has been at the heart of what I do, and I have used oodles of wonderful strategies for differentiating. SO I decided I would spotlight some differentiation strategies I am using this year with my second graders to explore and strengthen their mathematical understanding. The strategies are as follows: cubing, choice boards, and menus.
This is the second installment in the series–choice boards!
What is a choice board?
A choice board allows students to show or extend their learning through a variety of tasks to choose from. A typical choice board is organized in a 3-by-3 array (tic-tac-toe) format. Students may complete individual tasks or those that form a path vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. When teaching fifth graders, I often used a choice board along with a learning contract that required students to choose a path of choice on the choice board. As with all things, whatever works best for you and your students is the way to go.
When do I use a choice board?
A choice board can be used anytime–at the end of a unit of study, after exploring a new concept, as part of a day’s lesson, etc. Students may be required to show what they have learned, provide additional work with a particular skill/concepts, or even venture to higher understanding. A choice board can also be used in any subject area and tasks vary in content, process, and product. Furthermore, choice boards can be designed according to readiness (a student’s entry point in relationship to a particular concept or skill), interest (a student’s preference for a particular topic or skill), and/or learning profile (how a student learns best) (C.Tomlinson).
How are choice boards designed?
Option One: Create nine different tasks based on your assessment of students’ learning and a desired outcome. Place one task you want all students to complete in the center of the board. You may choose to create tasks focused on a variety of learning styles (to take into account student’s learning profiles) or those that require different levels of thinking. Back in my days of teaching 5th grade, Blooms Taxonomy/Blooms Taxonomy Revised was what I used as a guide in creating tasks/activities at different levels. Today, I refer to Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. You can download the Webs Depth of Knowledge Wheel here (PDF). Visit eductopia.org for a helpful discussion of Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. When using this option, students complete three tasks/activities in a path that crosses the center.
Option Two: Create nine different tasks based on your assessment of students’ learning and a desired outcome. You may choose to create tasks focused on a variety of learning styles (to take into account student’s learning profiles), those that require different levels of thinking, or those based on student readiness. With this option, you may allow students to choose any three tasks, choose three tasks in a path, or choose one, or any desired number of tasks. With this option, you may also like to include a student-choice task in the center of the board. This allows for students to design their own task. Of course, student designed tasks should be approved and must achieve your desired outcome.
One thing to keep in mind is that tasks do not need to be lengthy. This depends on your desired outcome. You may also choose to create more than one board based on student readiness.
Create your own option!: In my experience, choice boards are a unique opportunity to differentiate and encourage student independence. Do it your way considering the needs of your students.
Using Choice Boards with Second Graders
I decided to create a subtraction choice board to be used after much exploration of subtraction. I wanted to assess students’ knowledge of subtraction in multiple ways. I let students choose their own path of three activities/tasks (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally), so I strategically arranged tasks in such a way that any path a student chose would be meet my approval. Students completed the choice board tasks at the “Show What You Know” station while I was working with guided math groups. Much reflection took place after students used the choice board–I carefully assessed whether or not tasks/and activities yielded the desired outcomes and decided to make a couple of changes before using the board again. Below, you can see the choice board I created and used with my students. Please feel free to download my choice board and make it your own!
Here are a few samples of my students’ work. I simply asked students to record in their math journals.
Write a word problem that requires subtraction to compare. Then solve your problem.
Make a list of three ways you use subtraction in your life outside of school.
What is subtraction? Write this title at the top of a piece of paper. Then describe subtraction in your own words.
Pick one word–less, difference, compare. Explain how the word relates to subtraction.
Students also created a couple of great subtraction games of strategy–Garbage Can Subtraction and Spending My Money.
I hope you will try using choice boards in your classroom, if you haven’t already. Also, please feel free to share your own experiences using choice boards with your students.
All the best–