Today’s Contributor: Sara Springer is a Kindergarten teacher and CIC at Cowan Elementary.
This spring I completed my final semester of the Technology Leadership Pathway. I learned a lot over the 4 semesters, but one common thread through my work in all 4 semesters was the implementation of Authentic Student Choice in my classroom. Authentic Student Choice was key to the blended learning practices that I implemented because it gave ownership to students, inspired their excitement, grew their passions, and activated their learning. Students were pushed to try new skills and to expand their learning. They were able to feel empowered and capable by the choices they made and had ownership over. Students had choice in topics and learning paths, but also in materials and design along the way. Encouraging authentic choices gave students the excitement and confidence to stretch beyond their typical comfort zone to create and share in ways that allowed them and their unique talents to shine.
One example of authentic student choice was the project my students worked on during my 4th semester of leadership pathways. Students had the opportunity to have authentic choice by designing their own character for their writing. They designed a character, wrote a book about their character, and created a physical model of their character. They shared their work by recording a book trailer on Seesaw and by holding a gallery walk of their work.
I asked a student if he liked getting to make choices on our character project.
“Yeah, but also my favorite thing about it is that everything that we used was different and that we got to take it easy step by step. And that there was so many choices to choose from, you can make almost anything that you want. And you couldn’t stop where you were supposed to stop, you could make many accessories, anything you want with your character.”
This student enjoyed the extension aspect of having many choices in his learning. He liked that he didn’t have to just stop when the character was created, but that there were options to add more accessories. He enjoyed how open ended the project was and that we took a lot of time doing each step in small pieces so that they had time to think and add detail.
Throughout this Leadership Pathway experience I have become more passionate and committed to giving students authentic choice in their learning. I believe that it encourages learners to grow and push themselves further than they would otherwise. It allows them to dig deep into a topic or skill set that they enjoy and allows them to find their own strengths and interests. It is amazing to see those interests emerge and their strengths and talents shine when they are given the opportunity to make choices and have ownership in their learning.