Incorporating Student Choice in Upper Elementary

A huge part of my relationship building is offering student choice. Kids often feel like their voices aren’t heard, and there are many parts of their day where they can’t make choices. By empowering my students in smaller ways, they’re able to have a voice, and they don’t fight me (as often) for control.

Things to consider when giving student choice: Make sure it’s something you truly don’t care what the outcome is. Also, ensure that students will still accomplish what you need in the end. Teaching virtually? Check out this post about virtual student choice first.

Incorporate Student Choice: Person Sitting in a Thinking Pose

How can you use choice to help your classroom management?

Example A: Choice to diminish a behavior. Marcus (not a real student) doesn’t want to sit in his seat. He’s rolling around on the carpet or all around the room. In order to encourage Marcus to sit in a seat (instead of moving around the room and distracting others), provide two options. Do you want to sit at desk A or desk B? OR Do you want to sit at desk A or the side table?

In both cases, I’m getting what I want- a student in a chair. He also is getting what he wants- to choose where to sit. Obviously, I’ll have to work to find out the root cause of why he doesn’t want to sit in his desk (issues with other students at his table group or general control problem or needs attention from me or others).

Example B: Choice to encourage engagement. Recently, we finished The One and Only Ivan, which was the fourth grade’s novel for the quarter (we have one each quarter every class reads). Since we still had half the quarter left, I let my students vote on our next read aloud. I had four books, selected based being different genres and authors we hadn’t read yet. Since being able to choose, they have been so excited about our book every day. (They chose Restart by Gordon Korman, which is an excellent realistic fiction book.)

Example C: Choice to motivate students to complete work. Have you ever looked at your to do list and decided to do the hardest option first to get it out of the way? Or maybe you chose the shortest option, just to check something off. Kids want that choice too! On a day when we have a lot of independent work, or we’re doing finishing up, I’ll offer students options for how they want to get their work finished. I also offer an incentive usually- like more time for a science experiment, bonus independent reading time, a review game like Kahoot or Blooket, or even extra recess if it’s a really nice day.


  1. Choosing a topic. Ask for topic ideas for reading non-fiction. In writing, let students choose their research topic for informative writing.
  2. Selecting a book. This works for read aloud, guided reading, or other novel studies. For read aloud, as long as I can cover the skills, I can use any book. For guided reading, I might need to focus on a specific genre, but then let students vote between two books.
  3. Voting for an incentive. Most weeks, my class tries to earn Fun Friday. Once they do, they get to choose their reward (within reason). I also do this when I do a DIY classroom incentive (read about those here) because it keeps them extra motivated to work on their behaviors.
  4. Tech or no tech. Not all students like to use technology. Offer a print and digital copy of work, so students feel more comfortable showing off their skills.
  5. Representing knowledge in different ways. Can they show their understanding of a skill in multiple ways? Give options. Not everything has to be multiple choice or a paragraph. Often in math, my students can solve a problem any way they want as long as they explain their strategy. One pagers are a great device where students can show everything they know about a topic using any combination of words, symbols, or pictures. I love using choice boards, like this fiction choice board.

Need more classroom management help? Here are two free resources you may like:

Kickstart Your Classroom Management: Five Day Free Email Course

Kickstart Your Classroom Management

Reboot Your Classroom Management Planning Guide

Classroom Management Reboot

Read more classroom management strategies here including the morning messages that changed my life!

Share it:


You might also like...