One of the best lesson planning tools for independent student work I ever got was passed down to me by one of my professors at The College of New Jersey. They are called 5/7/9 plans.
These plans are actually anywhere from 9 to 15 assignments in one. The name refers to the point values of the assignments. The easiest are ranked 5 points each, moderately difficult are worth 7, and the most difficult are worth 9. Students would be given a time frame to complete a fixed number of points worth of assignments. For a 5/7/9, the default option is 16 points. The point values allow students to gauge their work and know when they’ve done a sufficient amount.
Why 16 points? Because even if I gave students 5 assignment options in each block, they can’t complete their work doing all the easy assignments. They would have to do at least one moderate one. Or they could do one moderate and one difficult. The more they reach in difficulty, the fewer assignments they have to do. This is because the more difficult assignments take longer.
5/7/9 plans can be conducted in class or assigned for homework, but it is always individual work unless specifically noted otherwise. This allows for some exceptions Students with learning disabilities might be permitted to do an extra 5 point assignment if the 7 point ones are above their ability level.
These plans are also a great way to go into deeper dives on material. Vary the focus of the assignments and students can explore a subtopic of the unit that interests them. It’s also a nice way to work short research papers or essays in. Rather than getting a torrent of them for one unit, they will spread out as students decide they like the topic. If you go this route, I’d mandate everyone have to write at least one of these in each semester, or in the first semester if there’s a big research paper in the 2nd.
I’m working on a demo version of a 5/7/9 plan that I will post when it’s complete. They do take a bit more time to plan than normal assignments since you’re offering up multiple assignment options and giving students a choice. But they are great for giving students a say in the classroom in an intentional, well-guided way.