We teachers of young adolescents learn early on to grab our students’ gratitude when we can: their glee over a clever assignment, their pride in a hard-earned grade, their bashful “thanks” as they hand over a holiday gift probably bought and wrapped by a parent. It’s a rare treat indeed when our students communicate their gratitude to us in writing.
Even better is when a student thanks us for something that we had hoped would be a valuable teaching strategy or meaningful lesson.
This student’s thank-you note was especially sweet: not only did he remember that I love dark chocolate, but he also recognized the value in having choices in the work he did in my class.
When my students write literary analysis, they get to choose which part of the literature they want to address and through which lens they will analyze it. When they join National Novel Writing Month, they completely own the novel they write: the genre, the plot, the characters, the conflicts. When it’s time to develop their expository writing skills, they create a magazine on a topic of their own choosing. In digital media class, my students choose what kind of project they want to create: architectural design, computer game design, movie-making, animation, computer coding, etc.
I am staunchly pro-choice in my classroom. I am pretty sure that the best learning happens when students have some say in how and what they learn.
How do you let your students own their work? What kinds of choices do you give them in the classroom?