Adding Student Choice with Guest Blogger Lauralee

Welcome to Lauralee from Language Arts Classroom, who is joining us today to tell us all about student choice when reading. Read more to find out how to add student choice when teaching literature.

I’m a reader, a lover of almost all books. Even books that I don’t love, I can normally appreciate a portion of. When I began teaching, I wanted my passion and excitement to flow to my students. And, the novice teacher that I was, I figured it would simply because of my excitement.   Of course, that didn’t happen. Some students were game, but others were clearly bored. Others didn’t read, no matter what I did. I struggled to reach all students - and I wanted literature to influence my students the way it did me.   Eventually, I found tricks that worked, lessons that reached more students. What I’ve realized is that these ‘tricks’ all revolve around giving students choice. By providing choice in literature lessons, I am reaching more students, my initial goal.   Plus, choice provides students freedom, and they are not in competition with other students. Don’t be afraid to implement student choice! To start, provide choice in small areas and move on when comfortable.   Here are quick ways to implement student choice in literature lesson plans today.   Novels   I’ve never had the freedom to choose novels with students (a YAL reading class would be a dream!), but choices with novels still exist. With older students, ask them what works best.

  • Students can choose what review and discussion activities they like after certain sections. Present different options and students can choose their favorites. For instance, with partners students can have discussion starter prompts. Group work allows for larger analysis. Individual work can also allow choice - which graphic organizer, which writing topic?
  • Students can choose the culminating activity at the end - presentation, paper, or artwork. I’ve had some students choose a test simply because they are good test takers.
  • Are students struggling? Ask what will help them. For difficult novels, they may want guided notes.
  Short Stories/ Nonfiction   Allow students to choose stories or nonfiction pieces with structure. Explain the theme of your unit and be honest about your resources. I’ve even told students what we need to cover - literary devices, analysis processes - and that is how I developed the list of choices.   Choices:
  • Students can choose what to read. Give students a list of short stories with a short summary of each. They can vote on the short stories or nonfiction pieces that interest them as a class. For instance, I teach a spooky unit during October and typically cover Poe. I want to cover Poe. Students need to read at least one Poe, but other suspenseful stories full of conflict are out there. I allow student input for which Poe story, and then they choose others. Sometimes, they want to read multiple Poe stories!
  • My students love choosing which nonfiction piece to choose. Since most of the choices are on the Internet, I give them web addresses and ask them to choose. Then I provide a list of questions (since I have already read all potential articles).
  Vocabulary   Giving students choice in what vocabulary they study has been the easiest implementation of choice in my experience.   Choices:
  • Students can choose what words to study. This can be as simple as their choosing a certain number of words. You can also provide students with a form.
  • Students can decide how to study the words: writing a story? sentences? stand-up comedy routine?
  • Students can choose how to analyze the language. What parts of speech are the words? Can they use the verbs as participles?
  With older students, using choice improved my classroom management as well as. Students engaged in the literature because they chose their method of studying. This makes sense; appreciating literature is a personal experience.   Providing choice for students may seem like extra teacher-work. I’ve found the opposite: students see success. I’m able to meet IEP goals without obviousness. Students experience failure, and as a class we make decisions together, and feel the repercussions of them - together.   When I think back to my simplistic approaches to teaching literature, I shudder. Choice has improved my teaching and brought the joy of literature to my students - my ultimate goal.

Lauralee from

Language Arts Classroom


  1. Giving my 8th graders choice makes all the difference- and they come up with such interesting ideas! We just used Newsela yesterday and nearly every kid chose a different article!

  2. Thank you for sharing. Now I need to think about how I can make this work in a 3-6 intervention setting. :)