Day 11: You Pick! Integrating Student Choice

Prompt: How do you integrate student choice into your classroom? What impact does it have?

 
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There have been times when I have been better about integrating student choice than others.  I have been the most successful with choice in theatre class.  Each semester students have to self-select a monologue to learn and perform from memory.  The process goes like this: 
  •  Day one: overview of the unit and present ALL monologues to students.  I have done this a couple ways- in the past, I have read all the monologues.  Other times I have given monologues out ahead of time to strong readers to prepare who then present all the monologues to the class.  At the end of the lesson, they each pick their top three choices and submit their request.  
  • I go through and group.  Usually I have 4-6 kids doing the same monologue. I also always try to give a first or second choice.  If a kid selected a monologue that no one else did- I will give them their second choice if that means I can successfully partner them with someone.
  • Then rehearsal begins.  
  • Allowing students to pick the monologue they are working with gives them a sense of ownership of the text and the work ahead.
  • Every semester EVERY student gets up and performs a monologue in front of their peers.
  •  Choice is also built in to performance.  The rule is: everyone must attempt a performance in order to be eligible for a make up if they are not happy with their grade the first time.  It is their choice if they want to try again- however the first attempt must be made.

This fall I did all Shakespeare monologues for the first time (I know..) and it was a huge success.  "Will has bars, Miss." Indeed he does. :-)

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Ultimately, choice is tricky- especially where a class is content heavy and there are culminating exams like Regents that we have here in NY.  But it is important to find space and time for students to have some ownership of their learning.  This is what leads to independence at the college level.  Will your kids be able to self-select a research topic?  Can they pic an appropriate text that connects thematically to the content to supplement the work being done?  Both are things kids will have to do once they leave us.  Giving them the power of choice now will prepare them for later.

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