Giving Students CHOICES

Gardening as part of our CHOICES program.

“The major aim of schooling is to enable students to become the architects of their own education so that they can invent themselves during the course of their lives.” — Elliot Eisner

Part of our school goal at a our school is to “develop each student’s unique talents and interests”.  Three years ago, the previous principal and I , along with our School Planning Council (parents) and Staff, decided to try to tap into the curiosity of our students and the strengths and passions of our staff.

Wednesday afternoons at Kent school are often the most exciting for our students as this is when they get to participate in an activity called CHOICES.  Three times a year (once per term) for six weeks, all Kent students  get to choose one of many options of learning activities.  Staff are encouraged to offer an activity in an area of their passion and the hope is that the combination of teacher passion and student curiosity will create learning opportunities that will drive interest and confidence in learning.  The activities that the staff have offered over the past 3 years has been nothing short of amazing.  Here are a few examples:

Flag football Softball Ball Hockey
Cross-Country Running Basketball Mini Hockey
Soccer Track and Field Sketching
Painting Hip Hop Dance Crafts
Spool Knitting First Nation Drumming First Nation Dancing
First Nation Crafts Legends and Stories First Nation Carving
Knights and Castles Odyssey of the Mind Literacy Circles
Creative Writing Theatre games Improv
Pirates! Combustion Engines Build It! Construction
Insects! Crime Scene Investigation Geology Rocks!
Scrapbooking Gardening Mystery Books
Website Design Choir Video Production
PowerPoint Cartoons Hockey Pool 101 Baking
Pre-school helpers Puppetry Flower Power!
Gym games Math Challenges Poetry
Leadership Board Games Strategies Chess

Some comments from parents:

Crime Scene Investigation

“Wednesdays are my favourite day… I don’t ever have to ask my child how school went… he just tells me!” – JH

“CHOICES has encouraged my child to try new things and take risks.  Through CHOICES, my daughter has found a new love of writing!” – KS

“My son hardly slept night because he was so excited for CHOICES”. – CK

A final comment from a student sums it up:

“I wish CHOICES was every day! I love Kent School!” – Kaden

During CHOICES, there are rarely any behaviour concerns and you never hear the question. “is this for marks?”.  When students are given the autonomy to choose a learning activity and teachers are given the freedom to teach an area in which they are passionate, a true love of learning results.

Thank you to the staff of Kent School who have demonstrated inspirational effort to make CHOICES such a powerful, authentic learning experience for our students.

For more conversations around student learning, please visit the Wejr Board blog and follow me on Twitter.

Flower Power

Knights and Castles

Spool Knitting

Spool Knitting

19 comments for “Giving Students CHOICES

  1. January 22, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    Love it Chris. I remember when I came to visit your school in October how proud you were when your toured me around of the many activities that kids could participate in. The garden was simply amazing! There was a sparkle in your eyes as you were describing the many cool things that students could participate in. Why is it that many educators feel they have to have all the control when it comes to what students learn? The CHOICES idea solidifies for me the power in simply letting students (and teachers) choose what they feel passionate about doing in this learning block on these days. A great idea for a great school.

    • January 23, 2011 at 11:16 pm

      Yes, we love the things that are going on at Kent – hopefully some day we can get you a part of it! ;-)

  2. January 22, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    Wow Chris! What a great idea! I love how this activity helps students develop a real love of learning. This is what it’s all about!

    Aviva

    • January 23, 2011 at 11:18 pm

      Thanks Aviva… the teacher spend a lot of time prepping and creating awesome lessons… it shows because the kids love it! My favourite day too!

  3. January 23, 2011 at 12:06 am

    How cool! THIS is mulitple intelligence theory in living colour! I love it.

    I bet your absentee rates are way down on Wednesdays :)

    Did you and staff discuss including parents as CHOICE leaders, or more expert students? I can see pros and cons there. I also love all the First Nations options, and how they’re available for all kiddos.

    • January 23, 2011 at 11:20 pm

      Funny you bring that up because we had a teacher that did her master’s research on multiple intelligences and she was a huge supporter of CHOICES.

      We have had a student come back and teach First Nation drumming – very powerful. Also, I have sent out messages for parents to come and teach CHOICES but have not heard back yet. One wants to do cool science experiments/discovery but works at that time.

  4. January 23, 2011 at 12:13 am

    Wow, cool idea. Can you clarify when this takes place? I was confused by the “three times a year for six weeks” statement.

    • January 23, 2011 at 11:21 pm

      Great question… so an example is that CHOICES is going on right now – January 5, 12, 19, 26, and then 2 Wednesdays in February. We did this in Oct-Nov and we will do it in Apr-May as well. When CHOICES is not going on, teachers do review sessions, catch up learning, and engaging activities for kids.

  5. January 23, 2011 at 12:19 am

    Chris,
    Thank you for detailing your CHOICES program for us! We designed a master schedule to include an “activity period” to attempt to include some of these types of experiences for students, but it definitely needs tweaking. Your school’s program has inspired me to take another look at our schedule and see if we can build more of these important learning opportunities into our days! When I taught at a middle school, our elective periods were some of the most enjoyable parts of the day! I joined in with students to experience everything from Tae-bo to scrapbooking to a class that discussed the world of Harry Potter! If our goal is to have students find and develop their passions, then providing these important choices and ownership in their learning experiences is a must.

    • January 23, 2011 at 11:22 pm

      Looking forward to hearing more Lyn as I am sure you will share ideas that will help drive our CHOICES to become even better!

  6. February 3, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    Chris,

    This is amazing – and there is something extra special about having a student come back and teach. It reminds me of my university experience with the Tufts University ex college http://www.excollege.tufts.edu/, but so more important with young kids!

    Hoping you get parents to teach!

  7. JoAnn Jacobs
    April 20, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Chris,
    Not only is this amazing it is postive for both students and teachers. Students have choice, which is so important even for our youngest learners. Teachers have the opportunity to share another side of themselves, which helps to build postive relationships. Thanks so much for sharing.
    JoAnnJ68

  8. Tia
    July 26, 2011 at 4:33 am

    This sounds amazing! What a great opportunity for the students, their families, and the staff! What an amazing staff you must have to be willing and able to do this with the students! I’m very impressed and would love to learn more!

  9. January 27, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Chris,
    What a wonderful opportunity for your students! No wonder the students feel energized and telling their parents about what they learned each Wednesday. I would love to do this weekly or more often with my students. We have been doing #GeniusHour on occasion (where I saw a tweet about this post). Your CHOICES program is systemic, with so many teachers, and even an alum, participating in leading the CHOICES! Wonderful! Thanks for providing the kind of leadership that so many of us long for!

    Regards,
    Denise

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *