Every year that I taught kindergarten, the third week of school would roll along and I would inevitably lose my voice. Generally, I wasn’t an overly talkative teacher; I spent a great deal of time and effort emphasizing routines, rituals, and visuals, so that my words were only a portion of classroom communication. The beginning of the school year, however, always required me to go verbally above and beyond; I overexplained everything.
My dual goals in those early weeks were to familiarize the students with the classroom resources and routines and to promote opportunities for them to engage in student-directed activities. “Choice Time” was where I would initially invest a great deal of time—and words.
Choice Time was a daily kindergarten activity that involved students selecting areas and projects to engage in, such as block building, dramatic play, the writing area, makerspace materials, puzzles, books, and drawing. I wasn’t emphatic about what activities the students selected, but I tried to encourage new choices by rotating materials within those activities to spark interest, encourage exploration, and initiate problem-solving opportunities.
Integrating Choice Time into an early childhood school day has numerous benefits for young students. It empowers children, by suggesting that the teacher values their capacity for making decisions, and additionally offers opportunities for children to learn from each other. In making decisions about activities, students must not only negotiate personal wants and needs but simultaneously accommodate the wants and needs of their peers.
At the beginning of the school year, the newness of everything can seem overwhelming, and all students struggle to some extent to make choices. The six picture books that follow offer a beginning-of-the-school-year introductory course in decision-making.
This foundational picture book collection is meant to assist children in defining what making a choice actually means and offer examples of what making a choice can look like. As back-to-school classroom read-alouds, these books set the stage for classroom social and emotional discussions about strategies and resources for making personal and group decisions at school.
Here are some general post-reading discussion prompts:
- Can you name some choices in this book?
- Does this book remind you of a time when you had to make a choice?
- Were there any suggestions for what to do when you have a hard time making a decision?
- Were there any helpers in this book? Who are some people who you could ask if you have a hard time making a decision?
- Does this book remind you of any other book? How?
Books About Making Choices
88 Instruments, by Chris Barton, illustrated by Louis Thomas. A child visiting a musical instrument store has a colossal choice to make: choose one instrument (out of 88) to learn to play. After trying out each instrument, the child ultimately makes an informed and logical decision. Here’s a link to Random House’s Educators’ Guide for the book. (Preschool–grade 2)
Charlie Chooses, by Lou Peacock, illustrated by Nicola Slater. Charlie struggles to commit to making choices throughout most of the book. In the end, when Charlie finally commits to an important birthday choice, he is rewarded with canine friendship that ultimately helps him make some of life’s choices much simpler. Nicola Slater demonstrates here how she draws Charlie and Sparky from the book. (Preschool–grade 2)
Choices, by Roozeboos. A little girl spends the day at the pool, and everywhere she turns there are big and small choices to be made. Here is Anne Roos Kleiss, aka Roozeboos, demonstrating her process for creating her book. (Preschool–grade 2)
The Favorite Book, by Bethanie Deeney Murguia. This book offers suggestions for how children might evaluate and ultimately select a favorite choice. (Preschool–grade 2)
I Voted: Making a Choice Makes a Difference, by Mark Shulman, illustrated by Serge Bloch. This book about voting begins with examining what it means to make an informed choice. It offers scenarios about how to join others in a group decision and navigating acceptance when your choice does not win favor. Teacher resources for this book are available here. (Preschool–grade 2)
This or That? A Story About Choosing, by Kell Andrews, illustrated by Hector Borlasca. Alexander is filled to the brim with indecision. He overly considers every possibility and doubts his ability to make the “right” choice. His parents offer suggestions, but it’s ultimately Alexander who comes up with his own strategy to make a choice all his own. (Kindergarten–grade 2)