How do you motivate students to learn in the classroom?  The answer may be simpler than you might think.

Provide choice.

When students have a choice of how to learn new material or how to represent their learning, they feel they are in the driver’s seat. Students are more actively engaged when they pursue their own interests and work in a medium that matches their learning style. Offering students a choice fosters ownership, independence, and creativity. In addition, when students present a variety of finished products at the end of a lesson or unit, their peers are able to make more connections to the overall concepts because one topic is presented in many different ways.

This does not mean expectations and standards are abandoned or that your guidance is no longer crucial to student learning! It points to a shift from being a ‘sage on the stage’ to being more of a ‘guide on the side’.  As you can imagine, choice without structure will lead to chaos and it is still your role to provide the type of structure needed so the choices that students will make will make sense and will allow that deep understanding to develop.  A simple suggestion to begin offering your students choice is to start the school year by introducing students to the various activities that they can do when exploring different topics.  At the same time, discuss what standards will apply to the various tasks – this discussion is a good opportunity to collaborate with your students in developing rubrics and other assessment tools. The key to providing choice in the classroom is offering options that are appropriate for their ability, grade level, and learning goals.

As mentioned, allowing students to choose the tools they use and products they produce gives students a sense of ownership and control of their learning. They won’t feel that school just happening to them, they become active participants in their own learning. Students are then motivated to learn because they have a say and they care about what they are learning.

In this following video, teachers discuss how crucial choice has been in engaging and connecting with their students.  The students reveal the enthusiasm they have for learning activities when they can choose from different options.

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