A practical differentiation tool for CLIL lessons: The Choice Board

June 1, 2021


Differentiation is important in any classroom, CLIL or non-CLIL. But that does not make it easy. And as a CLIL teacher you might find it even more challenging because you have to differentiate on language as well.

Time for an easy-to-use strategy that differentiates and motivates! Enter: The Choice Board

Estimated time to read this article: 6 minutes

What is a Choice Board?

I first encountered the choice board when I was observing a colleague teaching Biology and I immediately thought that it was a great idea to implement.

It basically means you provide students with a series of tasks or questions with various points as a reward for completion, based on its difficulty. Students then get to select the tasks they want to do and need to get a total amount of points set by you.

Sounds difficult? Don’t worry, I will share exactly how it works in a minute.

Key Take Away

A choice board is a selection of tasks with various levels of difficulty students can choose from

How does this differentiate?

Differentiation means that students receive tasks based on their level, skill set etc.

By making sure tasks are not too easy or too hard, students will be more motivated to do the work.

The great thing about this activity is that it allows students to select their own learning path, taking into account their own preferred way of learning.

You can ask students to draw something, write something, calculate something etc.

Or you can aimplement the ideas of Bloom’s Taxonomy and have some questions involve understanding or applying, whereas others might involve analysing or evaluating.

Because all of those aspects can be implemented and students have a choice, this activity can be a great way to differentiate in your lesson.

Key Take Away

Because the tasks have been pre-selected by the teacher and students can select their task of choice, there is a lot of differentiation going on.

Differentiation in a CLIL lesson

Choice boards (or retrieval grids as they are also known as) work in any lesson, not just CLIL lessons.

But it is quite easy to make it a CLIL task.

Just make sure the language is ‘salient’.

In other words: make sure students are aware of the fact they are learning a language.

You can do this by asking them to explain certain phrases in their own words.

Or by asking them to write a short summary.

Anything that motivates language output in the second language will make this more CLIL-like.

When it comes to scaffolding input, you can also keep an eye on the language used in the questions.

If some questions involve more difficult language, you can see if students choose those tasks and if they understand.

This means you can actually implement differentiation in your CLIL lesson with ease!

Key Take Away

By asking students to produce language output, this activity becomes a CLIL activity.

Step-by-step instruction

Okay, let’s talk practical implementation now.

With these steps you can create a choice board yourself, to implement differentiation in your CLIL lesson.

Below you can see an example of a choice board to help you visualise what were are trying to create.

Retrieval practice grid

Source: https://lovetoteach87.com/2018/01/12/retrieval-practice-challenge-grids-for-the-classroom/

Step 1: Decide on the size of your grid board

Notice the colours? They show the level of difficulty, based on the amount of time passed since the instruction.

The longer ago, the higher the point value.

With this 3x4 grid, that means there are 12 options, with three from each category.

Step 2: Think of questions

The first time you set this up, you have to come up with 12 questions.

But every lesson after, you only need to change a few to incorporate things from the previous lesson.

Step 3: Decide the total amount of points students need to score

After you prepared it, you ask students to take complete tasks for a total amount of points.

For example 10.

That means students can opt for 2 tasks with a 4 point value and 1 task with a 2 point value.

But also for 3 tasks with a 3 point value and 1 tasks of a 1 point value.

Do be sure not to set the total amount of points too low, otherwise students will only select the easiest ones.

Step 4: Apply it in class.

Well, not much more to be said here right? Set a time limit, make sure students know what to do and what they can once they are finished and you are ready to go!

Step 5: Discuss answers

For the record: this is not meant to be a test of sorts, but a way to apply knowledge and retrieve information from before.

That is why taking some time to discuss some answers and provide feedback is important as well.

Key Take Away

Create a choice board is simple and does not need to take a lot of time.

Examples for other subjects

A common question I hear whenever I introduce a new idea is: Does this work for my subject?

The short answer: Yes.

This works for any subject.

When I shared this activity during coaching sessions, teachers actually went ‘creative mode’ and came up with not just a lot of different questions, but also applications.

For example, teachers asked students to create these grids for each other or used them to prepare students for tests.

Which is all okay, as the activity itself was still very engaging. And CLIL!

And you don’t have to believe my word for it.

Here are a few more examples to inspire you:

Source: https://lovetoteach87.com/2018/01/12/retrieval-practice-challenge-grids-for-the-classroom/

Source: https://lovetoteach87.com/2018/01/12/retrieval-practice-challenge-grids-for-the-classroom/

Source: https://willinktlc.wordpress.com/2018/02/02/retrieval-practice-challenge/

If you are not yet convinced, try a google search for ‘retrieval grid’ or ‘choice board’.

You are sure to find many that suit your subject!


What do you think, can this activity help you with differentiation in your lesson?

Let me know what you think!

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If you want to find out more about this particular activity, these websites might be of great use to you

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