I think as teachers we are pretty comfortable with providing choices for students in our traditional classrooms, and we understand the importance of choices. Children need choices to feel a sense of ownership over their schoolwork and decisions. Children are stretching their independence and learning what they need to be successful students. However, it can be difficult to know how to provide choices in a remote environment.
The Remote Environment
With so much unpredictable about teaching remotely, we as teachers can feel the desire to control as much as possible. We are also very bound to the decisions our district has made for these new methods of instruction. Some districts are doing all asynchronous videos and work for students, whereas some districts, like mine, are doing the full length of the school day on zoom the entire time. With all these decisions being made for us, how can we provide choices for ourselves and students?
Choice for where we work
One of the best choices that children can have is the choice over where they work. This is not something that we as teachers can really provide, but you as the teacher can talk to parents about the need for students to have multiple spaces to work. Not only do students need a choice of where they work, they need to be able to change where they work throughout the day. Children need to move and changing their spot will help them stay focused. You can read more about helping children stay focused at home here.
Now, not every child will have a variety of spaces to work in their home. Teachers should be flexible in allowing students to work in many different spaces, including spaces you may not find “appropriate,” like their bed. I personally, do not mind if they are in their beds. There are only so many spaces for them to go! What I do make a point of is helping them to recognize if their body is ready for learning. There is a big difference between sitting up on the bed and curling up under the covers. In fact, I work best at my bed – that’s where I’m writing this blog post right now!
Choice for how we work
This is one of the biggest ways that teachers can provide choice in the remote classroom. Teachers can provide choices for how students work on their assignments. For example, some of my students like being in breakout rooms. They like the silence. They like the fact that they can ask for help if they need it, but don’t have to hear other students asking for help. They like the fact that someone isn’t staring at them while they complete their work. However, some students prefer to stay in the main room on Zoom. They like that they can hear the questions others are asking. They say this helps them stay focused on their task at hand. They like that they can quickly ask me questions or chat with me about their work.
One of my colleagues made something like this for their students and I loved it so much I had to try it! My students love having these options to work on their assignments.
One tip I have for you that has worked well for me, especially if you are the only teacher for your classroom, is to have a second computer or device on zoom at the same time. I leave one account in the main room on zoom while I hop around from breakout room to breakout room. This means that I can always hear if students have questions in the main room.
Choice for what we work on
Choice for what students learn or what assignments to complete is not always up to the classroom teacher. Although, teachers can still provide choices to students, like what order they complete the assignments. Teachers can also make some assignments “must-dos” and “can-dos”. I always make a To-Do list for my students and make it clear what the “must-dos” are and my students know that it doesn’t matter what order they complete them in, as long as they get done. For help with keeping track of Google Classroom work, check out this blog post.
If you’re interested in these Google Slides, you can check out some samples in this morning meeting slide pack!
Choices help students take ownership over their learning and helps them to be more independent and successful in their work. Choices were a powerful tool in the traditional classroom, and they continue to be critical in the remote learning environment. Which type of choice do you want to work on providing more for your students?