Thursday, June 15, 2017

Let Students Choose! Highlighting Talents with Student Choice

Imagine this scenario. Your Principal wants you to share with the Board of Education the awesome way you handle classroom management in your classroom. You have about a week to create all the materials, write your dialog and your Principal wants the presentation done in the style of interpretive dance. Seems a bit ridiculous right, since you know you can make a much better presentation using PowerPoint, Google Slides, ThingLink, iMovie, etc. And your talents can be showcased in a much better way.

This is what we do to students all the time. We limit what tools students can use for a specific activity. Let students choose what tools to use to share their knowledge with their classmates, you, and the world. Let them choose the tools they feel more comfortable using. Let students use tools that highlights their talents.

I taught Middle School computer classes for about eight year. I was having my students work through an end of the semester WebQuest I created that focused on bullying. My students primary focus was Cyberbullying. I had everything set up. All rubrics made. We were going to make some AWESOME posters to hang up around the school. The day after I introduced the projects, I had a young lady approach me with an odd request at the time. “Hey Mr. True, could my friend and I write a song about cyberbullying?” My first thought was, I’m not a music teacher. I know nothing about writing music. How will I be able to help them do this? I asked her to give me a day to think about that request and I would let her know the next day.

So I began thinking. I knew this girl was a very talented singer and her friend was very shy (at least in my class, not so much in the hallways). At that point I decided to give up control to my students. The next day during that class I announced that we were not doing the poster project. Since it was the end of the semester, I wanted to see how well they could use tools we worked with. Most of the students didn’t know how to react. I had my singer explain the situation to the class then you could see the lights pop on in the kids. I had some of the best projects from this activity that I had ever seen, because I let the students choose. I gave up control.

In the following years, I controlled their choice a little bit. I created a “menu” of tool options they could choose from. But I was still giving them a choice of tools to use. I am not a classroom teacher any more. I am a Technology Integration Specialist for my district. I talk with teachers about letting go of the control. Let students choose the tool that is appropriate for their project and their talents.

Example of “menu” I originally used in 2007
Students would choose projects that equalled the number of points on the menu.

Example of “Show What You Know Bingo” card teachers use with students today.
Student would choose tools to use and create a BINGO. 3 across, down or diagonal.

Travis True
Curriculum & Technology Coordinator
Topeka Public Schools Topeka, KS
Google Certified for Education Trainer
Apple Learning Specialist
Twitter: @travistrue


  1. This is a fabulous way to get kids engaged! Loved the analogy of a presentation using interpretative dance! :-)

  2. This is a fabulous way to get kids engaged! Loved the analogy of a presentation using interpretative dance! :-)