Should Elementary School Students Have a Say?

Kids in classroomTeachers in grades K-5 often spend a great deal of summer “break” time planning for the upcoming school year. Are you in planning mode yet? If so, how often do you consider allowing for a student’s preference in your lesson plans?

Obviously it’s your job as the teacher to remain in charge of the classroom. However, when it comes to planning teaching strategies and activities, it’s a good idea to try to create situations that can really engage the students. One way to help a child pay attention to or even become excited about a topic is to let him or her have a say in how to work through a concept.

Giving students choices is likely something you’re already doing, especially when it comes to handmade projects. It’s intuitive to let students decide which U.S. state to feature on a poster, or which colors and materials to use on a holiday craft. But what if you started creating options for your students when it comes to lessons involving math, reading and writing?

For example, when it comes to homework in the elementary grades, many teachers develop the habit of offering several at-home tasks per week and then allowing the students to choose the three or four that they want to complete. Why not apply that same strategy to lesson plans?

It’s easier than you might think. Consider the many different approaches to teaching math facts. Some students will benefit the most from basic flashcard practice, filling out worksheets, timed tests or online games or apps. Why not set up stations during math time and let students choose how they want to learn?

Another way to give students a say in how they work through a lesson is to re-think options for book reports or posters. Instead of displaying information about a topic on paper, you can encourage kids to choose from a variety of options, including a PowerPoint presentation, a speech or a skit.

Not only does offering options help to engage the kids, but allowing them to choose their own method of learning can help them understand the material quicker as well as develop an overall deeper understanding of the concept. In addition, some education experts even advise that allowing for student choice can lead to greater problem solving skills.

Need more ideas for creating choices within your lesson plans? If you’re stuck, don’t spend all of your free time wracking your brain for new strategies to try. A great way to find options to engage your students is to ask the kids themselves. They will likely be bursting with suggestions regarding how they want to learn and how they want to demonstrate their understanding of your lessons.

Planning your classroom’s activities and lessons is definitely a daunting task. Take notice during the school year of strategies that engage your students the most. If offering choices seems to be a hit, consider the ideas above for incorporating a student’s preference in the way he or she masters the material.