Authentic, Engaging Choices

Learners need to be able to access and choose, based on personal interests, what to read from choices of high interest texts in order to build motivation and reading comprehension. Students who struggle with reading are often provided less choice in what and how to read than peers at higher levels. Offering learners choices can develop self-determination, pride in accomplishment, and increase the degree to which they feel connected to their learning. The right kind of choice and level of independence must be optimized to ensure engagement.

Content Choices

Use the power of choice


Research shows that providing students with choice and autonomy in their learning activities increases their motivation and sense of ownership of learning. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) confirms that offering choices in reading materials and ways of interacting with those materials can increase learner motivation and connection to learning.

How you can build motivation and comprehension with the power of choice

It is not enough to simply provide choice; the kind of choice and level of support needs to be optimized to ensure engagement. You can support motivation, engagement, and independence in reading by providing students with authentic choices in content. How can you use choice to boost learner engagement? Get ideas from the Teacher Tips and lesson below.

Teaching Tips
  1. Support students’ choice for what to read. Show your class DOGO News or another of the sites from the suggested digital sources for high interest texts list. Discuss the wide range of topics available to read. Explain how you usually choose what to read, and reinforce for students that they have the power to choose reading material that interests them.
  2. Read a story or text as a class, then take a quick poll of students to see if the story is one that they think others might like to read. Ask students how they choose what to read.
  3. Give students a choice of what follow-up activity they will complete after reading a text.
  4. Act up! Give students the choice of how to show what they understand, including getting out of their seats and acting out an important aspect of the reading. Have students annotate their performance by explaining how it was connected to the reading.
Lesson: What are My Interests? (Relates to teaching tip 2)


To help students discover and follow their interests


Middle school students have told us that they want to find out more about these topics: Art, Fables, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Folklore, Health, History, Law, Personal Profiles, Science, Sports, Technology, and Young Adult Fiction. Providing access, either digitally or in the classroom, to a library of high interest texts, indexed by topics that middle school students want to know more about, will support each learner to target reading in topics that most motivate them.

  1. Introduction: Start class by having students share something that they are interested in or something they enjoy doing. Bridge this discussion to reading by letting students know that they will have the opportunity to choose what they will read during a free choice reading time.
  2. Model: Using a digital projector, show students one of the sites from the Suggested digital sources for high interest texts list.
  3. Guided practice: Ask students what topics they are most interested in. Make a list of these topics on the classroom board.
  4. Independent practice: Have students filter stories by the topic of their choice. Have them look through at least two stories.
  5. Class discussion: Have students share the topic they chose and the stories they read. Ask, “Would you recommend a story to someone else? Why or why not? What do you think you’d like to read next?”
Suggested digital sources for high interest texts
General interest:
History/Social Studies:
Young Adult:

Kamil, M. L., Borman, G. D., Dole, J. Kral, C. C., Salinger, T., & Torgesen, J. (2008). Improving adolescent literacy: Effective classroom and intervention practices: A practice guide (NCEE #2008-4027). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from

Katz, I., & Assor, A. (2007). When choice motivates and when it does not. Educational Psychology Review, 19, 429-442.

Rutherford, R. & Worthy, J., (2013). Engagement with Young Adult Literature: Outcomes and Processes. Reading Online Today. Retrieved June 2, 2014 from

Common core standards


By the end of the year, read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 6-8 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

I like the opportunity to give my kids a choice. I really find that being able to let them choose what they want to read and how they want to read…it’s a great way for me to be an observer of my students.

~ Teacher