Structured Choice

A structured choice is a behavior strategy used by giving two or more acceptable options to a student at a specific point in time. Structured choices are effective in increasing student compliance, engagement, and motivation. It also is effective in preventing or de-escalating problem behaviors. Structured choices can be given to a student during escalated behaviors, before a demanding task, or within a longer task to increase student success. Teachers can also give structured choices when ending a preferred activity or after giving a consequence. Choices can be given to students verbally, with pictures, or with objects. Structured Choices are especially helpful in supporting students with emotional difficulties, low interest and motivation, or students who engage in negative behaviors.

Implementation Tips

Provide choices that the student enjoys. Discover motivating activities by observing what activities the student is naturally inclined to engage in and by interviewing the student, parents, or other people who know the student well.
Always honor the choice that the student makes. Only give choices that are an absolute possibility. An earned choice that is not granted will lower the reliability of future choices and decrease the effectiveness of the strategy.
If the student is slow to make a choice, give the student a certain amount of time before you make the choice for them. For example you can say “You have 1 minute to choose, then I will choose for you.”


Elementary - A second grade teacher announces that it is time for students to clean up their free-choice activities. A student refuses to put away the board game he is playing with his best friend. The teacher acknowledges that the game is not finished and gives the student the option to store the board in the cabinet and continue the game tomorrow, or to play for 1 more minute and then clean up the board. The student chooses to save the board in the cabinet then continues to the next activity.
Middle School - A seventh grade student regularly throws a tantrum while completing her independent math work. Her teacher decides to build choice into the student's routine to increase motivation and decrease the behavior. The teacher gives the student a choice of two motivating classroom jobs to complete after the student completes her math work.
High School - A student has a particularly hard time engaging with assignments at the end of the day and has increased off-task behavior such as distracting the students around him. His 6th period biology teacher gives the student a choice to complete the last assignment of the day while standing at the lab table or sitting on a therapy ball.

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