It’s only two months into the school year, and teachers are exhausted. This year has made everyone, regardless of their years of experience, feel like a brand new teacher. Teachers are designing learning experiences for a range of learning landscapes. Some are navigating a hybrid schedule that blends synchronous in-class time with asynchronous online time. Others are teaching entirely online. And a growing number of teachers who began the year online are now shifting to the concurrent classroom where they are juggling the demands of teaching students both in class and online simultaneously.

In addition to feeling drained and overwhelmed, it may feel like there are not enough hours in the day to connect with students in a meaningful way. Yet, teachers and students need those touchpoints now more than ever. In my research, it was clear that the teachers’ relationships with their students significantly impacted their engagement at work. So, how do teachers create the time and space to connect and conference with individual students?

I’d like to propose using a creative strategy to free the teacher from needing to be “on” presenting information or orchestrating the lesson. If teachers design a “choose your own adventure” learning experience, students can enjoy some voice and choice in the experience and control the pace at which they process information and complete tasks.

Below are two options for creating a choose your own adventure learning experience. The first is a simple choice board format and the second is an interactive Google Slide deck.

Choose Your Own Adventure Choice Board

First, teachers will want to select the topic to be the focus of this choice board. For example, an elementary teacher may want to focus on a specific season or weather pattern while a secondary teacher might focus on cell division or energy sustainability.

Next, teachers must organize the learning experience. I used the engage, explore, and explain progression for the choice board below. Students must select at least one activity from each column.


In the “engage” column, the goal is to provide students with three options to engage with information (e.g., texts, videos, audio recordings/podcasts).

The middle “explore” column is designed to encourage students to investigate, research, explore, and dig deeper into the topic. Teachers should consider offering both online and offline options in this column to give students a break from the screen. Perhaps they could conduct an interview with a family member, make observations in their backyards, tinker/build with recycled materials in their home.

The final column is the “explain” column should give students three different options for sharing what they learned during the engage and explore (e.g., produce a piece of writing, record a video explanation, create a flowchart or concept map, design a multimedia slide deck).

Below is a quick video tutorial walking you through the parts of this choice board.

Choose Your Own Adventure Google Slide Deck

The second option I created to help teachers design a choose your own adventure learning experience is using the Google Slide deck below.

The second slide asks students, “How do you want to learn?” and asks them to select one strategy from each column. Once teachers make a copy of this template, they can click “View” at the top of their copy and select “Master.” Then they can hyperlink the images to online resources or digital document with directions

The third slide presents questions for students to consider and asks them to select a strategy to think about and process what they learned.

The fourth slide presents opportunities for students to practice. Teachers may want to have students review key concepts or vocabulary at this stage in the learning experience. I’d suggest providing a mix of online and offline options.

The fifth slide provides a range of strategies students can choose from to demonstrate their learning. As I said in an earlier blog about using the principles of Universal Design for Learning to guide the design of blended and online learning experiences, this choice allows students to select a strategy for communicating their ideas that is comfortable for them. It also yields a variety of products, which may be more interesting for teachers reviewing student work.

The sixth slide is where students will share what they created to demonstrate their learning. They can insert an image or video of their work, or they can type a written response on this slide. This makes the workflow more manageable for teachers. They can use Google Classroom to create an assignment and “make a copy” for each student. That way, students can document their learning in their slide deck, which is easier for teachers to access.

If teachers are “required” to have students in a synchronous session for a specific amount of time during the week, they can ask students to join the video conference but allow them to mute their mics and work. That way, teachers can pull individual students into a breakout room to check-in about progress, provide feedback on student work, or conduct a side-by-side assessment to grade an assignment that students have already completed.

Depending on the scope of the choose your own adventure learning experience, it could span a couple of days or a week. I hope this provides teachers with another strategy they can use to allow students to lead the learning AND create some time and space to connect with and support individual learners.

36 Responses

  1. I think this is a really cool idea. I think giving students the choice allows them the opportunity to master the content but also have a say in how it’s done. Love love love. Thank you for sharing.

    • You’re welcome, Carrie! I always try to build student agency, or choice and voice, into learning experiences because it is the best way to engage and motivate students to lean into the learning.

      Catlin

  2. Hello Sir, I’m a followers from Turkey. I’m working on argumentation in the flipped learning method. Should I do the discussion dimension offline or in the classroom?

    • Hi Cemal,

      I would suggest using online discussions. Real-time, in-class conversations are often dominated by a handful of students. Online discussions (video-based with FlipGrid or text-based with your learning management system) will give every student a voice and the opportunity to share their ideas. Masks are also complicating real-time discussions in many classrooms.

      Catlin

  3. Love this! I’m trying to figure a rubric that could address any product that students would create. Could you point me in a direction?

    • Hi Angie,

      It depends on what the purpose of this choose your own adventure is. If you want to assess their comprehension of a topic or their ability to provide a clear, cogent overview of what they learned, you could create a one or two criteria rubric focused on assessing those skills. Otherwise, the content they are exploring during this choose your own adventure may be something that appears on an assessment in the future and may not need to be assessed independently.

      Catlin

  4. This is such a great idea as I have two grade levels this year in the same class. I can really utilize this for differentiation. Thank you. 🙂

  5. Thank you for the resource. I would like to use this in a PD about standard based grading and model the Choose Your Own Adventure strategy. I have found that so many of my teachers are at different levels of understanding with SBG, this would allow differentiation, choice and voice for teachers, which doesn’t happen very often.

  6. This is really interesting to make learning more engaging experience. You have been an inspiration to me 🙂 to make learning process fun, engaging and pleasant experience.

  7. This is perfect for what my colleagues and I are looking for to drive our inquiry through to our summatives. Thank you so much for sharing!

  8. Thank you, Catlin, for another amazing resource! I’m experimenting with your template by creating an example for teachers on how they might use this strategy to differentiate instruction, personalize learning, and engage students in more authentic ways. I’m also adding resource links to the slides so students can access scaffolds to assist them on this learning adventure!

    Thank you!

  9. Thank you for this template. I am a reading specialist trying to help classroom teachers with their load of work. Hopefully this will help them out. Once again, thanks!

  10. I created a couple models for my dept (Soc Stud), they really liked the format. I’m wondering if you have any suggestions on grading?

    • Hi Liz,

      I would start by identifying your target standards and crafting the learning objectives for students. Then use those to create a rubric if you want to assess the work students do. If your rubric is standards-aligned, the product they decide to create won’t matter. You can use the same rubric for all students.

      Catlin

  11. The individual break-out rooms in video meetings have been very beneficial to student learning, especially this year. I recently had seven students quarantined at home and I frequently used synchronous sessions during my planning period to provide the same guidance and instruction that was being delivered to my in-person students. This allowed for the at-home students to ask questions, show me their work and progress, and allowed me to provide timely feedback to their completed assignments. Although they were at home, they felt included and less worried about “missing out” in class. In some instances, I used the break-out sessions to provided individual instruction to a student while the others continued working. This was a great tool to use during the difficult time for those students.

  12. I love this concept–it meets a lot of the needs my teachers have right now with keeping students engaged and honors Voice & Choice, which is really important at my school. Do you have a template of the boards above that you are willing to share?

  13. To clarify my earlier comment, I can’t find a hyperlink to a template in the post (it sounds like other readers have found this template though!) Sorry if I’ve missed it!

  14. Thank you so much! I used this lesson with a science teacher who was overwhelmed and it went so well, I will be using it with another science teacher for my formal observation. (I am a school media specialist.) Everything’s included! Universal Design for Learning, Project Based Learning, using technology, personalized engagement, collaboration (if you choose), and more! The slides you have created are so helpful and so easily editable – thank you. I know I will be using this platform many times.

    • Hi Tracey,

      I’m so glad you were able to use this idea and template to support your science teacher. I am thrilled that the choose your own adventure went well and that the students enjoyed it!

      Take care.
      Catlin

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