Teachers may change their pedagogical approach in order to engage male students in the upper years of primary school, such as the use of group work, outdoor or hands-on strategies and negotiated curriculum. Such action is based on an assumption that disengaging students have the capacity to respond positively – to move from a pattern of resistance to a new ‘negotiated’ role of engagement. This paper presents case study research from two Grade 5/6 classes in regional Australia. Teachers used pedagogy that allowed students to make choices about what and how they learn. Teachers and students were observed and interviewed. Students also used an online recording space where they could make reflective journal entries, post work samples and comment on their perceived behavioural, emotional and cognitive engagement. The paper reports how students characterised making choices about their learning against the background of past patterns of educational disengagement; choices the students made; and the impact of these choices on the norms of school life.