Student choice: How do we give it? How important is it too us? Can students handle it?
Yes. Very. Yes.
Last week, I tried something because my kids have been itching for it (as they should be): a chance to decide their schedule for the day.
I was happy they asked for it because it showed me that they’ve been settling in nicely to a class where they know they’re responsible for their learning. This year, we’ve talked a lot about choice, following their interest, inquiring into their ideas. We’ve practiced being open, taking risks and being active in learning. So, why shouldn’t that include having some decision in their schedule?
Schedules themselves are a huge topic alone, and as my students started mapping out their day, it was very obvious how disjointed our days are. But save that for a bit…
I started by putting up a blank daily schedule except for lunch, breaks and their single subject classes that day (library and Bangla). Then, we discussed projects they were engaged in (a few summatives, book club, a writer’s workshop), and then they were to individually decide what they wanted to do when.
The students were ecstatic. They got out whiteboards and their notebooks and the room was abuzz. A group of boys got all excited that they could have free time if they got it all done. They high fived each other. Of course then they went through the different “tasks” for the day and how much time they needed to spend on each, and they realized that didn’t leave a lot of time. But they still seemed ok with it.
To figure out a book club time, students ran around and agreed on a time to meet. And then they were off.
The morning passed peacefully. I played some nice morning jazz music for them; they sat where they wanted to sit–on carpets, pillow, the tables, in the hallways and they got to work. They were focused and industrious.
One of my girls said at one point in the morning: “I love this! Can we do this all the time?”
By afternoon, however, many were getting a bit squirmy. We negotiated a bit on the end of the day, but rode through it.
On reflection, all of the students said they enjoyed it. They felt proud of their efforts and their responsibility. Just today, a girl in my class asked if we could do it again this week. This is a girl who has suddenly kicked it into gear. She started the year passively, relying on friends to do her work, not actively participating. Now, with our student choice day and the beginning of passion, she is alive.
I think we will do it again this week and see how it goes. We will see if they have more stamina. We’ll reflect at the beginning of the day before they plan it out and then at the end of the day again. We’ll think about why they liked it. I’ll ask what it did for them. I’ll ask them and myself, why don’t we do this all the time?
More on disjointed schedules another time… Have you tried this with your class?