Creating A “Choose Your Own Adventure” Education

I remember devouring “Choose Your Own Adventure” books as a kid. I’m sure many of you had the same experience as the “hero of your own story” making choices that defined your personal path. Over 250 million books were printed in 38 languages, making Choose Your Own Adventure the fourth best-selling children’s book series of all time.

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 6.19.44 AMWant to know why I loved these books so much as a kid? Because I felt like my choices mattered on the tiniest level. Even better, I could go back and make different choices that impacted my path, which was the best fiction lesson in cause and effect. I was empowered by the ability to choose, even if it was a small choice.

Now as I see my daughter growing older, I realize how important choice is for kids. When that choice is tied to her learning something new, it happens quicker, and with more passion. It also creates more failures, because there is no script to follow. This type of “choose your own adventure” learning is filled with problems that she has to solve, failures she has to overcome, and bad decisions she has to learn from.

As an adult, I’m living in a “choose your own adventure” world. My decisions are constantly forcing myself, and my family, down various paths.

When I fail, the journey does not end. When I succeed, the book is not over.

I have to consistently re-start, re-think, and re-learn. Are we preparing our students to live in this world?

A few years ago I tried 20% Time (like Google) in My Classroom. It was one of the most rewarding experiences I ever had with my students. Since then I’ve been part of an amazing group of teachers and educators who are bringing inquiry back into the classroom. Our goal is to empower students, the way they should be empowered. The name of the projects don’t matter: Genius Hour, 20% Time, Passion-Based Learning, Choose2Matter, Problem-Based Learning, Innovation Days/Weeks, Fed-Ex Day, etc. Instead, what really matters is that students are given a choice. It’s that simple.

Yes, there are many other reasons why inquiry-based education needs to happen in every classroom around the world. But it really boils down to the same premise as choosing your own adventure.

Choose your own Adventure

We don’t know what the world is going to look like in 5, 10, 15 years. We don’t know what jobs will exist, what systems will be set up, and what our students will be doing. But I do know they’ll have a choice in what they do. They will still have to fail and recover just as we do now. I hope you understand as a parent or educator that inquiry should not be a cool “option” to have in a child’s education. Giving our students choice is the only thing that will prepare them to handle the future. Whatever it may bring.

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Join the discussion 18 Comments

  • Cynthia Webb says:

    Thank you! This is such a clever way to talk about inquiry-based learning. I hope to share this with my teachers.

  • […] A “Choose Your Own Adventure” Education (ajjuliani.com) […]

  • […] design, connect, synthesize, apply concepts, critique, analyze, create, and prove. Let them explore their own passions and find purpose in their learning. And above all, let them know that school isn’t about […]

  • Sharee says:

    Yes! Yes! and YES! I’ve been studying Dr Kathie F Nunley’s book Layered Curriculum. She beautifully provides scaffolding for an environment of learning through a menu of choices. I just finished my first unit with layered curriculum while studying plant adaptations. (http://barton4thgrade.weebly.com/plant-adaptations.html) The students’ understanding and experiences went much farther than the state standards. I believe this is because they got to choose how they learned the information, how they were going to experiment with it and what critical analysis they would like to come up with about plants. It’s been fabulous!
    (Started Genius Hour this week as well! Talk about energy!!!)

    • AJ Juliani says:

      Wow, Sharee! Love that you share this blog and I can see how deep your students’ understanding went. It’s a great reminder that choice works in all different kinds of ways and allows students to get a depth of information and understanding. Keep sharing about Genius Hour!

    • Stacey says:

      That is an awesome unit plan! Thanks for sharing it!

    • Erin says:

      I did my entire Master’s Degree Action Plan Project on Kathie Nunley’s Layered Curriculum plan. LOVE IT!! 🙂 Now doing an entire course at the middle school level called Become a Genius. Fifteen days of 100 minute classes. Presentations next week. Can’t wait to hear my students share their genius!

  • Juliana says:

    I always read and share your posts because I want more people to have the same feelings I have when I read them. This is a special one! Working at an IB school, I can only agree that life is surrounded by inquiry and it goes much beyond if a “cool option!”

    • AJ Juliani says:

      Thanks so much Juliana 🙂 – Yes, I’m beyond the fact that inquiry provides a cool learning experience for our students..it provides a relevant and meaningful learning experience and is a best practice supported by lots of research! Thanks for reading and sharing.

  • Pat says:

    I’m teaching adult ESL now, but all your ideas would work for an adult audience too. I just have to think a bit more on the projects.
    I plan on teaching in South America in the future, so I’m trying to learn as much as I can from your posts in order to use this method. Thank you!

  • […] Creating A “Choose Your Own Adventure” Education – A.J. Juliani […]

  • I am new to your blog, but am convinced that I will become a regular reader. I’m really tiring to embed more student-centered instruction into my classroom and love your ideas here. I find it intriguing how we know there are benefits and we understand the value, yet implementation often chsllenges us. Recently, I wrote about the awkwardness of student-centered learning:

    http://edge.ascd.org/blogpost/that-awkward-moment-v3-student-centered-lessons-make-a-terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad-day

    I plan to read more of your work (Genius Hour) and am optimistic that your posts will be a great resource.

    Thank you for sharing the post!
    Jennifer Davis Bowman, Ed.D.

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