While I have always sought to give my students a voice in a variety of ways, prior to the pandemic, I had never incorporated choice boards into my classes. The term was unfamiliar to me; however, I was eager to explore the concept of providing a menu of assignment options. While constantly switching from fully remote to hybrid learning, I was longing for a way to spark creativity and engagement while fostering independence among my students.
In order to design a choice board, it’s essential to consider the goals of the task: What do you want your students to accomplish? What skills should they gain or strengthen? In the context of my own Spanish classes, my goals are consistently content-based and communicative. I typically aim to tap into the four modes of communication: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. I want my students to build upon their communicative skills in the target language and to expand their cultural knowledge in the process.
After solidifying your goals, first and foremost, be sure that all of the choice board options focus on a specific topic or overall theme. Hence, the choice board should ideally be introduced at the middle or end point of a unit. In addition, a choice board can contain anywhere from four to eight assignment options for students, depending on what you want them to do. For example, if you want to have your students select two separate assignments from the choice board to complete, provide six to eight total options; if students are only to choose one assignment, four to six options are more than enough.
Choosing the Right Activities
When brainstorming activity ideas to include on your choice board, consider your students, and strive to provide a variety of options. Some students may want to incorporate visual art. Others might prefer building something, and some students might gravitate to writing. Similarly, do not hesitate to integrate familiar technology tools. During the fully remote learning period, my choice board options needed to be completed digitally; therefore, I relied heavily on tools like Flipgrid, Google Docs, and Edpuzzle, to name a few.
My most recently designed choice board for my Level IV Spanish classes focused on art. After we studied Salvador Dalí’s surrealist works, Pablo Picasso’s cubist works, and muralism in Mexico, I designed a choice board at the end of the unit. I provided six options in total; students had to select one that focused on presentational speaking and one that focused on either interpersonal or presentational writing.
Presentational Speaking Options
1. Replicate any work of art we studied by Dalí or Picasso that impacted you. Post a picture of your artwork (digitally or on paper) along with a Vocaroo recording in which you orally describe what you created and how the original work inspired you. Your work should be saved on the class’s collaborative Google Slides presentation.
2. You are the narrator behind a painting. Choose a work by Dalí or Picasso that we did not review together in class, and tell the story behind it, providing your own analysis and impression of the painting. Record your response in a video via Flipgrid.
3. Select a famous piece of American artwork. Compare and contrast it to a work of art from the Spanish-speaking world, specifically by Picasso, Dalí, or any muralist. Record your response in a video via Flipgrid.
Interpersonal/Presentational Writing Options
1. You are the artist. Create your own original artwork (digitally or on paper) that follows either the surrealist or cubist style. In a detailed paragraph, explain why the artwork you created follows the surrealist or cubist style. Explain what you created and how it’s inspired by Dalí or Picasso. Include a picture of your artwork within the document.
2. In a Google Doc or Word document, write a formal email to your favorite artist we have studied: Dalí, Picasso, or any of the muralists. Tell the artist why you are inspired by his work, and ask any questions you have.
3. Select any mural by Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, or José Clemente Orozco. In a detailed paragraph, describe how the mural addresses global challenges, and explain whether or not it is still relevant today with supporting evidence.
All of the choice board options are communication driven and culturally focused while connecting to a common theme. This allowed my students to utilize the target vocabulary we had studied over the course of the unit as well as to apply the knowledge they had gained. The choice board options prompted many of my students to step outside of their comfort zones and try something new. For example, many of my students who did not consider themselves to be artists were intrigued by the choice board activities that required them to create a work of art because they had never had such an opportunity in any other class. In addition, although my choice board options featured here require the use of technology tools, they can be easily adapted to pencil-and-paper tasks or to in-class presentations.
Overall, the most rewarding part of this process was the newfound excitement and engagement of my students. Seeing them truly own their learning was inspiring to witness. Giving them a choice about their assignments ignited their creativity in an amazing way.