Sunday, August 5, 2018

Student Choice

Mike Anderson LEARNING TO CHOOSE CHOOSING TO LEARN — The Key to Student Motivation & Achievement

I picked up Mike Anderson’s book Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn: The Key to Student Motivation & Achievement because I needed to refine an instructional routine that has become ineffective for our learners. Creating a perfectly aligned blocked schedule for core content is a painstaking endeavor and one that can be posted for all to adhere to its unwavering time frames. What was missing in this traditional schedule was allocated time for students to have more choices in their learning and create meaningful projects that allow them to demonstrate and apply their new skills and understandings. For clarity purposes, this doesn’t mean student choice cannot occur during core content time, but I needed to understand the concept of choice at a higher level and to allocated more time during the instructional day for student choice to occur more often.  

Anderson just completed a blog post reviewing the three conditions needed to set up student choice including considering the learning environment, student ownership, and teaching our students how to learn. I highly recommend reading his blog post as a general overview on how to utilizing students choice as a pathway to motivating students to be owners of their own learning and even better reading the Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn book in its entirety. In addition to these foundational conditions for student choice, my takeaway from Anderson’s book included an important reminder on the power language has when setting up opportunities for student choice. “Language is a primary vehicle for setting the tone of the room. If a teacher’s language is kind, sincere, supportive, and professional students feel safe. They also take their cue about how to treat others by how teachers talk to them” (p.36). I would add this applies to school leaders too.

The subtle use of the language teachers, support staff, and principals use makes an enormous impact on our students. Throughout Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn Anderson reminders the reader exactly how we can change the use of our language to support more opportunities for students to make their own choices. Here are some of his examples I am adding to my list of refined instructional practices to help me continue to motivate our learners and empower their achievement.

Discipline Practices & Setting the Tone: (p. 37)
Avoid: Look at how well Marcus is cleaning up!
Try: Remember everyone should be cleaning up
Suggestions for Shifting Voice & Rethinking Praise: (p. 49)
Avoid: I’d love to see some great effort on this project.”
Try: “Some great effort will help your work really shine in this next project.”
Suggestions for Positive Feedback: (p. 50)
Avoid: “I love the way you are working as a team.”
Try: “You’re really working together as a team.”
Suggestions for Constructive Feedback: (p. 51)
Avoid: “I’m so disappointed in you. You could have done much better.”
Try: “I know you’re upset. Let’s think together about what you can do to improve this?
Suggested Language for Students as Learners: (p.70)
Avoid: This poem is amazing! You are such a talented writer.”
Try: “This poem has such depth of feeling with so few words! Tell me about how you wrote this?”
Suggestions for Guiding Students Thinking: (p. 101)
Avoid: “If you really want a challenge, this one is for you.”
Try: “Think about the level of challenge that is the best fit for you.”

School is starting in exactly four weeks from tomorrow. The start of the school year is such a critical time to return to building positive relationships with our students. I look forward to changing my words and my mindset and to model to our learners the power choice can have on their learning with additional allocated time in the instructional day for this to occur.

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