It’s always nice to feel validation for the time and energy you’re putting into something. In education, validation can often be difficult to find by looking anywhere other than directly into the eyes of your students, and even then, it isn’t always on the surface. I subscribe to a blog by AJ Juliani, an author in education who I have come to strongly respect and whose opinions always seem to mirror my own. His blog this week highlighted the use of “choice boards” in the classroom and how they “can be an extremely practical way to give meaningful and relevant learning experiences in the midst of emergency remote teaching.”
Boom! What are we using in the AZ right now to further students’ experiential learning while we’re all stuck in our homes? Choice boards! Validation feels good.
We just rolled out our third “Flex Board.” We call them Flex Boards because they’re flexible – students have choice over what they complete. Each board is made of a table of activities ranging in point values from 10 points to 40 points. Lower points = less time/energy/complexity for that task. Higher points = more. They set a “point” goal for themselves to earn within a two-week time period, and they can complete any combination of activities to reach that goal. At the end of the two weeks, they reflect on their achievements and set a new goal for the next two weeks.
We currently have goals ranging from 30 to 150 points. This is personalization at its finest, especially under present circumstances. Some students are motivated and excited to challenge themselves and others are drowning right now. The intent is to help each of them set a reasonable and achievable goal, so they can feel confident and successful under such trying conditions.
All activities on the board relate to a common theme. Our first board’s theme, for example, was COVID-19, so the activities included things like watching and responding to the news, hand-washing experiments, virus exploration, etc. This is our current board surrounding the theme of Wellness:
Validation also comes in the form of student success. While it can be easy to focus all of your attention on those few students who are not engaging as frequently as hoped, it is SO good to direct your attention to those who ARE. Our second Flex Board theme was Create! Every activity on the board had students designing, building, making, and producing. We try to create (pun intended) activities that will engage students with their surroundings, allow them to explore real-world skills, and promote opportunities for family-time and teaching.
Though many of the activities submitted over the last two weeks were not easily captured in an image, I’ll share some that were.
Some students experimented with wood-working.
Some created 3D dioramas of a historical event. Who was I to say, “No,” when asked if the diorama could be built in Minecraft?
One student is painting his thumb green by growing his own vegetables from scraps in his kitchen.
And MANY students are trying their hands in the kitchen, something I wish I had spent more time doing when I was in middle school.
I see the pictures above, and I feel proud and validated. Our use of these Choice or “Flex” Boards has simplified remote teaching and learning for us, and has provided a great opportunity for personalization across our student population. They offer a variety of activity choices, and it mixes things up every couple weeks as we transition from one board theme to the next. I highly recommend the use of choice boards while teaching from home AND while teaching in the classroom, and I also recommend checking out AJ Juliani’s work.