When I look around my classroom, I see students making choices. The first graders I teach make choices all through the day, from the time they arrive until Closing Circle.
The choices are simple, but meaningful: they each decide the order in which they’ll do their Morning Jobs, and in our Morning Meeting circle, they choose where and how to sit: on their knees (Seiza position), half-kneel, cross-legged, or with their legs to the side. During Reader’s Workshop, they choose a learning activity that will help them practice the targeted content for the week. This might be journal work, independent reading, or partner work, and could also involve choosing the materials they would like to use, such as Wikki Stix™, magnets, or stamps.
In our classroom, students choose where to do their work: at a low table, sitting on the floor with a clipboard, lying on their bellies on the carpet, or at a traditional first-grade table. When they line up, they choose where to stand. At lunch, they may choose a lunch buddy.
At Quiet Time, they choose an activity and a place to complete that activity. During math, after a lesson, they choose the order in which they take care of “Must-Dos” such as practice worksheets or math games that reinforce skills. At the end of the day, when they pack up, first graders choose whether to visit mailboxes or our backpack area first, and then they choose where and how they sit during Closing Circle.
These are just a few examples of learning choices I’ve taught my students to make. Some of them are folded into the formal structure of Academic Choice lessons, while others provide children with opportunities to practice academic, social, and emotional skills. Having such choices helps students take charge of their learning and makes school more engaging for them. Teaching them to make decisions is the best way I know to nurture autonomy, self-awareness, and confidence in the classroom.
What are some simple ways you offer choices throughout your day? I’d love to hear about it!
Candace Roberts is a Responsive Classroom consultant, kindergarten teacher in Rhode Island, and Early Childhood Generalist.Tags: Academic Choice, Engaging Academics, First Grade, Independence, Quiet Time