This school year I’ve really been trying new things and being intentional about a few specific things. I’m really finding some interesting things about middle school age kids and their learning abilities and habits. By far the most interesting thing I’ve learned about students has been in the area of voice and choice. If nothing else from this year, I’ll always opt for student choice because of the change I’ve seen in student attitudes toward work.
I had read many articles and studies that talk about increasing student engagement and achievement in the classroom. Recently I’d heard a lot about the idea of increasing choice as something that would increase both. I decided that it couldn’t hurt, so I decided to try it a few times across both of my grades that I teach. With my sixth graders I noticed that the students seemed more energetic and excited when given the opportunity to choose from assignments that both show the same knowledge and skills in different ways. I decided to kick it up a notch and started using different learning styles and ways of communicating knowledge and what I noticed was that the kids did not complain as much (which is relative) and were being more creative in the things that they turned in. When I combined that with the ability to work in collaborative groups my sixth grade classes are buzzing with active learning.
The more difficult class, or so I thought, was my 7th grade classes. The majority of these classes had me the previous year, so I figured they would be more set in their ways when it came to the work they turned in. What I found was that similar tendencies happened with them even despite their comfort level with me. I did find that I needed to tweak my wording just a little bit to encourage creative and out of the box thinking.
Overall, I think that voice and choice over the course of the fall semester was a huge success. It is also so simple ti incorporate into my class that I see no reason to take it off of my lesson plans. I highly recommend trying it out in class.