Choice Time: Building Leadership and Teaching Fundamentals

Corlears students are unique in many ways. One of the most noticeable and distinguishing characteristics of Corlears graduates is their sense of confidence and display of leadership. By the time Corlears students reach their 10s year, they have been practicing public speaking, leading weekly school-wide assemblies and mentoring younger students. While these leadership skills may be most visible in our oldest students, the foundation of leadership begins in the early years - during Choice Time.

Choice Time, as the name suggests, is a part of the school day when 3/4s and K students are given the option to engage in various types of play with their classmates. Such activities can vary from block building to dramatic play. With several options available, the students choose how they divide their time amongst the difference tasks and take turns in each activity area. While on the surface Choice Time is yet another opportunity to learn through play, it is where the Corlears core values emerge.

Choice Time offers a variety of lessons in critical thinking and cooperation.  Each “choice” has a limited number of spaces to be shared amongst the group of students. Because of this, many students may find themselves in an area that was not their first choice - perhaps not even their second.  This can pose challenging for the student themselves as well as for the other students in the group. The ability to deal with unexpected and unpredicted outcomes is the basis of critical thinking and Choice Time is where they can begin to apply this skill.  How will the students manage to make the group operate as a whole? Being able to work with the strengths and weaknesses of the group in a positive way is a display of leadership. As Learning Support Coordinator and Admissions Associate, Thea Hubert, states “ that leadership, at its core, is the ability to bring people together and be productive.” Something as simple (and popular) as block play is an exercise in this skill as students must work within groups works to execute their vision. Further, the act of collaborating with classmates builds empathy and compassion; a cornerstone of the Corlears experience.  

Choice Time is also a rich learning experience for both students and their teachers. It presents an opportunity for educators to introduce elements of their curriculum to their class in fun and engaging ways. The various “choices” made available to classes are hand-picked by teachers in a very thoughtful and deliberate manner. For the 3/4s classes, it is a chance for children to begin early exploration of topic areas like math, science as well materials they will use during their time at Corlears. 3/4s teacher Sam says that activities selected for Choice Time are a way for educators to “expose [students] to materials they will use in the future” and explore “the possibilities they hold.” Further, it “sets the stage for introducing larger concepts” that students will explore in depth during their later years.  

This portion of the day is also packed with opportunities to build fundamental skills that will support lifelong learning. Categorization, sorting and organization are just some of the elements that are woven into Choice Time. Students practice reading, math, and develop vocabulary as they organize their classroom chart and engage in their chosen activities. An activity like beading (pictured right) helps build fine motor skills, which will prepare students for writing. Each “choice” is infused with layers of learning and the practical application of concepts learned in the classroom. While enriching for students, Choice Time is equally valuable for teachers. Allowing students to make decisions and work on their own gives educators time to observe their class and the emerging skill sets of each child. Such observations give educators insight into their students’ varying learning styles and will inform their approach in the classroom.

Corlears’ values permeate every aspect of the curriculum, beginning with our youngest students. Choice Time offers students the opportunity to explore various concepts from different angles and encourages a curiosity that will empower them as learners throughout their academic experience at Corlears and beyond. It is for these reasons that Choice Time is a prime example of the integrated learning that takes place every day, in every grade at Corlears.