USA Hooray! Teaching Students Using Choice Boards and Workstations

For 10 years, I taught first grade students. I learned the importance of modeling for my students early on. Now as an instructional technology specialist, I have continued this practice, but while working with one of my 5th grade groups, I realized very quickly that some of my students were getting a little put out with me. They didn’t want me to tell them which app to use and to provide them with step-by-step instructions. They had their own ideas and their own unique perspectives. I taught in this classroom several times, each time feeling as though something was missing from my lesson. The kids weren’t buying what I was selling. When it was time to start their new unit, I decided to talk to the teacher about a different approach. Rather than telling them what to do and how to do it, why not let them choose the activities on their own? Let them show what they know about the topic in their own way. At first, their teacher was a little concerned. How much freedom should we provide? Would their behavior get worse? She decided it was worth a try. So we began the unit on the American Revolution by reading the story George Vs. George.
The first thing we did was ask the students and allowed them to decide how they would demonstrate their understanding of each section. We used a Tic Tac Toe Board display and drew it on the board. We asked students to decide ways they could explain their knowledge and thinking from the unit when comparing King George III to George Washington in each section of the book. This is the board they came up with when we finished. 
If you would like to have a copy of the Tic, Tac, Toe board, storyboard, and self-reflection, click {here}.
So each day students read each section from the story, discussed as a group, and then chose an app to explain what they learned from the section read. Before students started the project, we created a rubric to keep students on track as a class. Students would begin their self-reflection sheet to write out their goal for the project and then fill out a storyboard (images above) to organize their thinking.
Throughout the creative experience, students would share, edit, and reflect on their work. This continued throughout the unit. An interesting finding about allowing students to choose was that most of them chose the apps they felt most comfortable with (the ones that I modeled for them). However, the students that drove me to this activity in the first place were the ones that stepped out of their comfort zone and tried something new. Also, classroom behavior and engagement were absolutely wonderful. Here are some of examples of the students’ work:

So what do you think about allowing for student choice in this way? It can be difficult to teach subjects that require a deep understanding of background knowledge. I know that many times it is hard to get in social studies and science with so much emphasis on literacy and math. By providing students with options and choice, students can become more independent and self-regulated. 

How do you usually teach social studies to your students? Do you think your students would enjoy having more choice in the classroom?


  1. says

    I love the idea that you taught first grade since that is what I teach. I would like to know how to incorporate more of this idea with Tic Tac Toe with my firsties for President’s Day with Lincoln & Washington. Do you have any ideas to help me out?
    We only have 4 ipads in our classroom, but would love to do MUCH more technology in our classroom, since our tech guy does nothing but fix things if we have a problem:(
    Would love any help…please email
    Thanks, Jackie

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