Choice Boards – Key to Differentiation

Wouldn’t it be nice if the students who walked through our doors came prepared with all the content knowledge from previous years they were supposed to have? If this were the case, teaching would be a lot easier.

At times our job as teachers can feel extremely overwhelming, if not impossible. How in the world can we possibly be expected to teach 25 to 35 students at different levels and abilities?   I asked this same question to myself over and over again during my first years as a teacher. I had implemented a variety of differentiation strategies just like they taught me in my undergraduate program like leveled readers, centers, and literature circles. However, I still didn’t feel like it was doing enough.

I then started doing research and discovered the world of learning menus and choice boards. Choice boards are an amazing graphic organizer that enables students to choose how they will learn or show their understanding of a concept or topic.

Here is a list of 10 reasons why choice board are a great tool for any classroom.

  1. Effective and Easy

Choice boards are by the far the most effective and easy ways to differentiate that I have found. There are so many wonderful resources available to help teachers plan meaningful activities to learn and showcase their learning like HERE.

  1. All Content Areas

What other resource can you use to differentiate across all content areas?  I have integrated these boards for units on space exploration, the Oregon Trail, measurement, and even as an alternative to standard reading logs. No matter what you are teaching, you can create a choice board to match.



  1. Empowers Students

Choice boards are an amazing tool that empowers students through choice. Students are able to take ownership of their own learning because they had the opportunity and freedom to choose which activities to showcase their understanding of the content or topic being covered.   I always put in a “Your Choice” option for students. This way if they have the freedom and flexibility to create their own activity if none of the options appeal to them. Before students can begin on the activity they created, they must complete a project proposal graphic organizer to help them plan out their activity. Students then must present their proposal to me for approval. This way I can help them polish their idea or get them on the right track if they are completely off base.



  1. Highly Personalized

Based on the interest, learning preferences, and readiness of my students, I can create personalized menus that include activities at the DOK levels and learning styles that meet my students’ needs.   This is extremely powerful because I have the power to


  1. Instant Engagement

According to Morzano, one of the most effective ways to engage students is to give them choice. Students will find more meaning and will be more focused if they are given the flexibility and freedom to choose how they learn.    

  1. Content, Process, and Application

Choice boards can be integrated into the content, process, or application portion of any lesson. The content can be differentiated through accelerated, remediated, or enriched content

  1. Time Flexibility

Depending on the amount of time that is available, choice boards can be used for a single lesson, a whole unit, or even as a homework assignment. I loved using choice board as apart of my Weekly 5 reading centers (my way of adapting The Daily 5). There were choice boards for the writing, vocabulary, and word work centers.   For each center, student had one day to complete one of the activities on the menu. Other menus I have created, students have had an entire month to complete it like my Independent Choice Board Project I created to replace reading logs.


  1. Set High Expectations

Students can help create the choice board and/or scoring rubric with their teachers so that they are active participants in their own learning and can set high but attainable expectations for themselves. This definitely helps students develop their metacognition, which is extremely important

  1. Many Types of Choice Boards

Teachers can choose from many different choice board formats like learning menus, tic tac toe, 2-5-8, baseball, and many more.   Click HERE to find dozens of examples.

  1. Scoring Rubrics

These menus can be evaluated using scoring rubrics that can be applied to every project imaginable.   I created my own activity and presentation rubrics for the and pretty much use them for everything. You can also give students more ownership by asking them to create the rubric together as a class.



There is no doubt that integrating choice board project into my classroom has been a huge game changer. All students, especially gifted and reluctant learners, have benefited because they have developed a greater sense of ownership, the ability to work at their own pace, and the freedom to choose or design activities based on their own interests and readiness.

Now that I am the gifted and talented resource teacher at my school, I collect choice boards across all grade levels and subject areas. This way if teachers come to me for help, I can pull out a surefire way to meet the needs of all the students in their classrooms that is both effective and easy to implement.


Biography Research Project

I was so utterly impressed with my students hard work this year creating their Biography Research Projects.

This project is unique because students created authentic artifacts (primary sources) to represent the major life events of a historical figure instead of writing a typical research paper. Students made birth certificates, awards, diplomas, portraits, letters, postcards, wedding invitations, photographs, birth announcements, and so much more! To make each piece, students looked at student samples from the past as well as real examples. This way they could make their artifact as authentic as possible.

Here are some examples of their amazing work:

Obituary 20160420_101926

Marriage Invitation20160420_124711



Movie Ticket Stub20160420_124758

Birthday Cake20160420_124848

Post Card

I assigned each grade level a different continent in which to choose their historical figure. My third graders were assigned Europe, fourth grade was given Asia, and my fifth grader had Africa. My only other criteria was that their figure be deceased and had made a positive impact on the world.

After creating their artifacts, students had to create and store all of their artifacts in a container that represented their historical figure.

Here are some of the cases students brought in this year:





Students displayed their projects at my school’s annual Fine Arts Night and created beautiful and integrate banners for each of the continents represented.


All of the projects and containers were displayed on tables for parents and students to enjoy.  Take a look at the great projects students created:






This project is great for strengthening higher order thinking skills and giving children a sense of ownership because they definitely feel a deep connection to their historical figure.

If you are interested in doing this project with your class, you can get it here.



Multiplying Fractions

I love teaching fractions.  I remember years ago when I would teach my students a jiggle to remember to the steps to multiplying fractions.  They would chorally sing the chant together and then solve the problem. What could be better, right? All my students got the answers correct and could do any problem I threw at them as long as they sang the song. However, after taking a life changing professional development workshop, I realized that my students didn’t understand the REASON behind the steps they were singing.  They couldn’t visualize what they were actually doing. WOW! ! !


Teaching this concept using visuals can definitely be challenging.  My gifted learners often wonder why they need to draw a picture when they know how to solve the problem using the standard algorithm (often times in their heads).  I always explain that it is important to know WHY the steps work and to be able to PICTURE it in their minds.  This way when the problems become more complex, they will have a better understanding of what they are doing.

20151123_131307 I have been working on a unit that teachers could easily implement into their classroom to help students grasp these sometimes challenging concepts.    After months of working them, they are finally available!

You can grab each of these practice packs by clicking on the links below:

20151208_212950 Each unit includes

  • Pre and Post Assessments with Keys
  • Objective Poster
  • Interactive Notes and Foldables
  • Student Samples and Instructions
  • 3 Different Practice Pages and Games with Answer Keys


  These practice packs are also available in a bundle. You click here to find it on TPT. Slide01


Ordered Pairs Drawings

My fifth graders just finished their ordered pairs projects, and I am absolutely amazed by their creativity!


The assignment asked that kiddos create a picture that included a minimum of five shapes, used only straight lines, and was located in all four quadrants.


Students also had to create an organized table for each shape that included the quadrant number and ordered pair for each point.  This paper would later be used as a directions page for another student to recreate their picture.


Take a look at their amazing work!




For board work the next day, each kiddo was given a blank four quadrant graph and another student’s direction page.  It was so much fun to see how the images were redrawn.  Some directions were spot on (all ordered pairs and quadrants were accurate) and the redrawn picture looked identical to the original.  Others though, not so much!

I will definitely be doing this project again next year!


Adding and Subtracting Fractions Lapbook

My class is now in the midst of fractions.   This is a huge (and I mean huge) standard in fourth and fifth grade!  I currently use an interactive notebook for math but decided to change things up this year.  I saw a great video online on lapbooks and decided to make my own to teach adding and subtracting fractions and mixed numbers.  

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My students have loved creating the foldables and inserting them into their lapbook. They constantly pulled it out as they worked independently and in small groups as an easy reference tool.

To begin, I had each student fold a manila folder so that both sides folded out from the middle. Then they created the cover and decorated it.

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Next, I used Four Column Flipbook to review the steps to adding and subtracting using common denominators and then had the practice using the Visuals Envelope Pockets and number lines stackable book.


Once they had the basics down, it was time to introduce adding and subtracting mixed numbers with common denominators. Students loved making the wheel which made this sometimes tricky concept easier to grasp.

Now that students understood common denominators, we began adding and subtracting unlike denominators. This has always been a challenge in the past because so many concepts come together (LCD, equivalent fractions, +/- fractions, simplifying).

I used the flow chart and handprint to teach students the steps to +/- unlike denominators. I love breaking math concepts into simple easy to follow steps and had students put up each finger as we reviewed the rules on their own hands.. They then practiced using the swinging ovals which they put fastened together using a brad. Starting with visuals is always a great way to lay the foundation for abstract concepts.


Students continued to practiced using other organizers as they moved onto mixed numbers.

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I definitely feel that that this lapbook was a great alternative to worksheets and interactive notebooks.

I included in this lapbook pack student samples, answer keys, and graphic organizers with step-by-step directions, so that other teachers who make this lapbook will have an easy and hassle free time.


Sometimes it is fun to change things up!