Popularised in the late 90s by Bennett and Smilanich (1994) and still widely used today, this tactic is a mid-level response which places the responsibility for poor behavioural choices and the resulting consequences squarely on the student. Here is an example:
Dewi sits next to Clara for silent reading. Dewi whispers to Clara several times. This is very distracting for other students who are all silent and still. The teacher uses a few silent, low-key responses. Dewi is then heard whispering and giggling. The teacher decides to escalate and gives Dewi ‘a choice’. It goes like this:
Teacher: Dewi, you can choose to sit there and read silently, or you can move to this seat. Choose. *
Dewi: I will stay here Miss.
Teachers: If you choose to stay AND choose to make any more noise, you have chosen to sit here.
Dewi: Yes Miss.
Teacher (optional): Right, choice made.
Dewi whispers to a friend 3-4 minutes later.
Teacher: Dewi move over here – not a word, no arguing. You chose to make a noise, so you chose to move. Now please.
* The teacher could have also said, ‘I suggest you move here now so you don’t get into more trouble’.
Hint: Another option for ‘choice made’ is ‘locked in’ or ‘decision made’. Whatever you say, be consistent so students learn the process. They may argue a few times to begin with, but that will pass as they learn that there is no fighting the process.
As with many of the best behaviour management techniques, providing a choice takes a while for students to learn how it works. It may take a few weeks, but after a while students will soon make a joke of it (for example, they may ask you a question and reply with ‘choice made’). A consistent application of this technique means that the teacher might simply provide a warning such as, ‘Dewi you know the rules and therefore one more time you are choosing to move. Your choice.’.
Another effective application of this technique is to use it as a precorrection. It would sound something like this: ‘Dewi, before you sit down, remember that if you talk during silent reading, you are choosing to get into trouble so maybe you should choose to sit here instead – up to you but I know what I would do’.
Hint: Choice is most commonly used when students are off-task and when the teacher wants to relocate them to another position at some point in the very near future. It makes the relocation process much easier because the student has been provided with multiple opportunities and warnings, and then (in effect) chooses to move. If the student argues, the teacher simply repeats, ‘you chose to move – so move’.
Bennett, B., & Smilanich, P. (1994). Classroom management: A thinking & caring approach. Bookation.
Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and a #1 best selling author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of ITAC, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.
Source: Behaviour Management Skills and Strategies for the Modern Classroom: 100+ research-based strategies for both novice and experienced practitioners.
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