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Try This Free Shakespeare Choice Board

Incorporating student choice is a powerful way to engage high school students, and using a Shakespeare choice board at the beginning of your unit can be a fantastic way to do that. Choice boards are a great strategy to build background knowledge before reading new literature selections. 

Banner that says Shakespeare Choice Board in front of an image of a balcony

All About Choice Boards 

A choice board is an instructional tool designed to bring autonomy to student learning. On the board students are presented with options structured around content to master or skills to practice.

A choice board contains a selection of tasks or resources arranged as a grid, a menu layout, or items in a checklist. The boards may be paper or digital and should provide specific directions for each task or resource. Teachers can assign a specific number of items from the board, or a specific pattern of completion (such as one task from each column).

Use this tool in practically any setting or with any grouping! Assign students to pairs or small groups, or you could even jigsaw the tasks in a column or row and have students present their findings to a group. 

If you’re curious about all the fantastic ways to use this strategy, check out our blog post “3 Outstanding Ways To Use Choice Boards in ELA.” 

Why Use a Choice Board in the High School Classroom?

Anytime you give students choice, they’ll have more buy-in. It’s a fact, and it’s pretty easy to observe. This is especially true with high school students. The freedom to choose how to process content and how to present it can significantly heighten student engagement.

quote that says "The freedom to choose how to process content and how to present it can significantly heighten student engagement.'

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of using choice board activities in a lesson is the differentiation potential. Catlin Tucker, co-author of The Shift To Student Led emphasizes the importance of choice boards for “learner variability” and student control of the learning pace.

With this strategy teachers can differentiate tasks to provide more or less scaffolds. Additionally, tasks appeal to different learning styles by including varying modes of output.

Take a look at how a thematic Shakespeare choice board is used to prepare students to read Romeo and Juliet!

How to Use a Shakespeare Choice Board

Every teacher knows that diving into Shakespeare’s literature is no simple task! Students enter the English classroom with huge variations in their knowledge of Shakespeare and the British theater. To comprehend Shakespearean language and stories, students need foundational information about the Bard and the historical period of his texts.

In the Romeo and Juliet play unit, a digital choice board is included on Day 1 of the English Teacher Vault pacing guide. This board is full of pre-reading activities including web links with informational texts and media for students to visit on their devices. 

Each column of the Shakespeare choice board contains a category to research including:

  • The man
  • His words
  • His world
  • The drama

Begin the lesson by discussing what students already know about Shakespeare. Inform students that they will move through sections on the choice board designed to introduce the playwright, and provide the context needed to understand Romeo and Juliet. Follow each step to set students up for success:

picture of a computer screen with the shakespeare choice board on it

Explain Expectations

Tell students that they need to fill out the information on their handout but that they way they learn that information is up to them within the boundaries of what is provided on the choice board. They might ask if they can just google the answers, but the key here is not just finding a bunch of facts and recording them. Rather, the experience is about learning about Shakespeare, the historical context of the play, and to gain some familiarity with the language. 

The choice board provides students chances to read or watch to intake the information; it’s up to them how they’d like to learn, but they should stick to what’s on the choice board.

Circulate and Support

Another benefit of using this strategy in the classroom is the freedom for teachers to provide individualized support. Once you have provided all directions for the handouts, you can support small groups or circulate the classroom (whether virtual or in-person!) to provide additional guidance or discuss student findings.

Debrief

Once students have spend an ample amount of time navigating the choice board and completing the handout (about 30 minutes should do it), bring students back together to debrief and discuss their findings. The lesson plan provided in the English Teacher Vault contains guiding questions such as:

  • What did you learn that you didn’t already know?
  • What was something you already knew that was reinforced?

Romeo and Juliet is often one of the first Shakespeare texts encountered in high school. This choice board is a great strategy to introduce Shakespeare’s writings and the genre of his time. 

picture of handout that goes with Shakespeare choice board

Tips for Using Choice Boards with High School Students 

Students may be familiar with choice boards from elementary school, but in high school, the tasks may be more open-ended or complex. Here are a few tips for success:

  • When using a choice board for a new text or unit, keep the tasks short and sweet! Ideally, each item should be accomplished in a class period or two to prepare for the reading. (Also, check out more ways to begin a play or novel unit here!)
  • Choose just a few skills or topics to target on the choice board. This helps to streamline instructions for each area and allows student-led learning.
  • Make sure students know the success criteria for the choice board up front! For example, if a task on the board includes an open-ended writing prompt, specify the length, the required use of text evidence, and so on. This prevents a wide range of responses in varying formats.
  • To further differentiate, consider color-coding choice board tasks for varying levels of rigor. You might direct students to complete a certain number of tasks in each color category.

Free Downloads – Editable Shakespeare Choice Board & Handout!

Try the Shakespeare Choice Board from the Romeo and Juliet unit in the English Teacher Vault for free! Download this editable board and use it with any Shakespeare classic to introduce the playwright or provide a refresher with subsequent texts.

Shakespeare Choice Board Google Link

Student Handout For Choice Board Google Link

More Shakespeare Resources

The English Teacher Vault has literature resources for English teachers – with more added every month! When you join the Vault, every resource you need to teach Romeo and Juliet is ready to download. 

And…have you heard the news? The English Teach Vault has partnered with Adaptive Reader to include free downloads of Shakespeare plays on multiple reading levels. The English Teacher Vault currently has downloads of Romeo and Juliet written on a 6th grade reading level, an 8th grade reading level, and the original play. These are all PDFs, ready for you to print. 

You get access to all of this when you join!

link to english teacher vault $1 trial
English Teacher Vault $1 trial option

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