​Using Choice Boards to Increase Student Ownership


Over the past few weeks, we have offered guidance on building 21st century classrooms, including a discussion of the importance of creating a student-centered environment. An excellent way to increase student ownership of learning in your classroom is through the use of choice boards.

Choice boards allow students to choose how they will learn. Structured like a Tic-Tac-Toe board, choice boards offer a series of activities that focus on students’ specific learning needs, interests, and abilities. Students decide which activity they are most comfortable completing first, and once they master it, they can move on to more challenging activities.

Choice boards are easily adapted across disciplines and grade levels, and give students an opportunity to showcase the skills they’ve mastered, practice new content and skills, and extend their learning.

How to Create a Choice Board

  1. Identify the instructional focus and learning outcomes of a unit of study. What do you want students to know and be able to do by the end of the unit?
  2. Determine student readiness, interests, learning styles, and needs using assessment data, student surveys, and learner profiles.
  3. Design nine different tasks that meet your students’ various interests, needs, and learning styles determined in Step 2. Arrange each task so it has its own grid on the Tic-Tac-Toe board.
  4. Select one required task for all students. This task should be placed at the center of the board.
  5. Ask your students to complete three tasks, one of which must be the one in the middle. Students should complete their tasks in a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal Tic-Tac-Toe row.

Click on this free choice board template to get started.

In addition to providing student ownership, choice boards are a great way to differentiate instruction. Here are ways to adapt choice board activities to better support students in your classroom.

Adaptations to the Activity

  • Allow students to choose which three activities they want to complete even if they do not complete a Tic-Tac-Toe row.
  • Work with students to determine specific tasks based on their abilities and learning needs.
  • Design different choice boards based on learning style (e.g., visual, kinesthetic, and auditory learners each get their own boards, or one choice board can include three tasks from each category) or type of student population (e.g., English Language Learners, students with special needs, gifted and talented learners).
  • Create choice boards based on the three learning domains (cognitive, affective, and psychomotor) so students can develop skills and knowledge in each area.
  • Add additional spaces to your choice board to increase the number of opportunities students have to demonstrate their learning and practice skills.

You can find great examples of choice boards across content areas and grade levels at these links:

We want to hear from you! Share your choice board ideas with us on our Facebook page. To learn additional strategies for engaging your 21st century learners, visit our Essential Teaching Practices for the 21st Century Teacher course.

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