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Monday, June 25, 2012

Using Choice Boards to Increase Independence


There are several times in the day that are especially difficult for my students on the autism spectrum and these are the times where they are expected to "play" independently or when at an independent center such as listening center or reading center. I ran into two main problems with these parts of the day. First, students had NO idea what to do when presented with an entire shelf full of toys. Second, sometimes students have zero desire to listen to a book on tape especially if they don't know when to turn the page and/or they cannot read.

To solve both of these problems I developed choice boards for these parts of the day. A choice board consists of several pictures symbolizing activities and student name cards. When asked to make a choice, a student finds their name card and places it next to the picture symbol of their choice. In my room, I don't have a limit on how many people can pick one particular activity but this could be an option as well. Right now we have a literacy center choice board, indoor recess choice board, and choice time choice board.

Literacy Center Choice Board: This has been wonderful! Instead of "assigning" listening center to a student, they have options that will keep them more engaged and therefore more independent. Some options include:
  • acting out stories with puppets/stuffed animals
  • playing with a leap pad
  • spelling sight words with magnetic letters
  • listening to music and/or taking a break with sensory fidgets
  • reading/looking through thematic books
  • using a felt board to reenact a previously read story 
Indoor Recess Choice Board: This board can really have any activity you want to offer during indoor recess. I typically offer more interactive choices during this time. It is great too because if there is something you don't want students to do during this time then you just dont put it on the board. Some choices I offer include:
  • puzzles
  • board game
  • kitchen set
  • blocks/legos
  • dolls
  • cars/trains


Choice Time Choice Board: In the past, I have tried using busy bags or busy bins for students to use when they have finished an assignment early. I didn't feel like the busy bins/bags were very motivating for students and it was sometimes hard to find a variety of personalized free time activities for each student. A colleague of mine introduced me to using a choice board which provides quick activities which are easy for students to initiate and clean up. Additionally, they are activities that can be done independently and are not disruptive because many times there are still students in the room working when another student earns "choice time" Some examples of choice time activities in my room include:
  • Theraputty (a class favorite!)
  • drawing/coloring
  • dry erase markers
  • reading
  • Mr. Potato Head
  • sensory table

1 comment:

The Gift of Autism said...

Great ideas.

I have a lot of "choice time" in my schedule so that my students can learn how to use their leisure time effectively and enjoyably. They often need to have some structure - or even a lot of structure - to it so that they know where to start. Over time, I find that they need less and less structure (or rather that they are better able to structure their free time for themselves).