Motivating Students with Choice

There are many ways and many ideas out there to help with motivating students.  I’m sure I have tried at least a dozen or so throughout my adult life when working with youth or even adults.  My favorite way?  Give them CHOICES.

My students love it when they have options!

Find things in your curriculum, your content, your home life.  Whatever you are using to influence and/or teach others to give choice.

Today, we did just that!  After our warm-ups, both physical and vocal, I gave each class choices.

Here’s how it went:  “1) Grab your music. Put in a stack on your lap.  2) You have a decision to make. You cannot discuss this decision because it is your personal opinion and need.  Look through your pieces and put the piece you think  you need the most help with on top.  This could be a piece you don’t feel comfortable with the notes, the rhythms, the style…whatever.  [Give the students time to think!!!!] 3) When I count down from three, show me the piece you need help with.  3, 2, 1 Show me”

If you haven’t realized, this is an extremely simple way to give choice.  Plus, it shows you really quickly how well they have been listening to your suggestions, your thoughts about notes, rhythms, style, interpretation, etc.  Can anyone say…Formative Assessment? It also shows you how in tune with how well they are individually doing.  Most of the students help up the same piece or some split to show two pieces.  This almost always aligns with what you are already thinking needs to be worked on, but now the students are invested because of that simple thing called CHOICE.

In almost all of the classes, students had a question about a specific area I knew needed help but I had not been able to get them to process it.  This way, they knew they had a problem and had control of the situation and felt free to ask for help.  It also gave me a chance to teach them a musical concept that would not have been as well received nor would it have been understood if it had not been in context with the music.

In a couple of classes, I even got to give them two choices! Some of the pieces were written in a way that section(s) could easily be sung as a whole group, as written or using small groups or solos.  So this time, I asked them to close their eyes.  I even said, “If you are one of those individuals that has a problem with peeking, “some might call that cheating”, cover your eyes with your music.” Some did! I then gave them the three choices and told them they would choose by raise of hands.  It was just a fun activity that took a couple of minutes but again, gave them choice.  All I had to do was say the options one at a time giving them time to raise hands and be counted, then tell them the results.  It was really interesting to watch.  It gave me a really good look at who these students were when it came to feeling camaraderie, inclusive or something else.  It was pretty cool!