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The Importance of Giving Choices in a Classroom

Students are unique – each in their own way. As teachers, we do not want to stifle their creativity, their fascination with learning new things, or their different problem-solving approaches. We can guide our students to learn better time management skills, take the initiative to begin a project, or reach out to peers. Within the classroom, there are many opportunities to give students choices so they can practice risk-taking skills in a safe environment.

Below are a few examples that education staff can utilize:

  • Let the student choose what tools to use – crayons or markers

  • Let the student choose the technique/tool to use for information gathering – question peers, look up on internet, interview others, use dictionary, work in groups

  • Let the student choose the color, design, or graphics of the finished product – poster book report, artwork, homework

  • Let the student choose the sequence or timing for completion of tasks – first clean up the classroom and then, have story time or have snack before going to computer lab

  • Allow the student to participate in designing activities – planning a classroom party, structuring recess, choosing PE teams, structuring free time after work has been completed, establishing relaxation techniques used in the classroom

  • Involve the student in setting their own academic and behavioral goals

  • Involve the student in selecting the level of risk they are willing to take – PE, art, math, teacher’s helper

  • Involve the student in what alerts/alarms/nonverbal cues/previews that can help them anticipate and prepare for changes – changes in classroom activities, new routines/schedules, transition to next class/recess, preparing for a sub, scheduled practice fire drills

  • Let the student assist in choosing the level of sensory stimulation – lights on/off, window open/closed, proximity of others, background noise, visuals on bulletin boards, number of items presented at a time (only 2 math problems at a time)

  • Let student assist in choosing the pace of their work and/or the length of their work sessions – one page per day, 30 minutes, and then small break, scheduling availability of breaks or time-outs

  • Let students help create visuals as much as possible and place them in common areas

  • Involve all students in the creation of classroom norms, hallway expectation, playground rules, etc.

Students need to take an active part in making choices (as much as they are able given their ages and ability levels) so they can learn the needed skills to participate in their communities. This also allows them to exercise their self-advocacy skills and increases their self-awareness skills. What better place to practice discovering these new talents than in a safe learning environment created by a caring and compassionate teacher?

What changes can you make in your classroom or at home to accommodate these suggestions?

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