Student Voice is a powerful tool to increase student engagement. We see the benefits when students are engaged: they “demonstrate internal motivation, self efficacy, and a desire for mastery” (Guthrie qtd in Davis). This is key to personalized learning and the Future Ready framework.
Allowing for Student Voice is scary for both student and teacher. We begin constructing a “journey of us.” This co-constructing of knowledge isn’t easy or comfortable. It might mean sometimes saying “I don’t know” (Alber). Better yet, it could lead to us saying, “let’s find out together.”
How do we frame this co-construction of knowledge? Here are some ideas adapted and modified from Alber, McCarthy and myself:
- Develop norms together.
- Brainstorm or pre-assess student knowledge and interest: pose questions, use surveys.
- Create inquiry teams to explore the class’s interests and needs: jigsaw topics and share results.
- Listen: students will be more invested if they know you care.
- Model thinking: read, discuss, pause, question, make connections in front of your students and with your students.
- Provide project options: when student choose, they are more engaged in the outcome.
- Practice reflection and feedback: coach questioning strategies, establish class protocols, provide opportunities for reflection and feedback.
What tools are available to facilitate this?
- Padlet: pose questions with real-time answers, vote on responses, brainstorm together, KWL
- Today’s Meet: create a question and see the live responses, a backchannel during presentations, videos, discussions, lectures
- Flipgrid: video responses to questions or scenarios, formal or informal feedback, respond to each other
- Sketchnotes: visual note-taking and journaling
- Blogs: journaling, reflection, evaluation; Weebly and EduBlogs do provide private classroom options
- Surveys: Google Forms, Microsoft Forms
- Socratic Seminars, Spiderweb Discussions, Fishbowl
This isn’t an easy part of the journey. It’s messy and can be unpredictable, but the results are worth it!
As a language teacher, I always understood that it took a certain amount of vulnerability to begin to speak in the classroom: you had to create sounds that you may never had made before and you sounded funny, what would others think? It was an intentional regular practice to establish an environment where it was acceptable that we were all learning, all trying, and consistently working on improving and it was OK to speak. It often helped that I was usually the first to do or say something awkward (most of the time intentional). It was a practice that didn’t end during the first week of school, but one that became an integral component of my planning. Speaking is a natural part of language instruction, so I was creating a pallet where that could happen.
Speaking a different language was a risk, but it’s in taking risks that new skills and problem-solving abilities are developed (“Risk-taking”). It requires letting go of your comfort zone and guiding students into letting go of theirs. It necessitates an environment where it’s OK to fail and it’s understood that failure is a part of learning. Student need to understand “that making mistakes is a necessary part of learning” and “that embracing failure and overcoming fear are both a part of living well and learning even better” (Crockett). It’s the environment that we create which allows this to happen. That positive environment provides a pivotal role in learning, creates a sense of belonging, a community, increased participation and building confidence (Coaty). The result is that “students can learn and flourish in this environment because they feel empowered to take risks by expressing their unique insights and disagreeing with others’ point of view” (Gayle et al).
Here are some suggestions adapted and modified from Starr Sackstein’s article:
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Use your as examples.
- Admit when you don’t know something and discover it with your students. Adopt the “Let’s find out together”
- Applaud the risks that students take, successful or unsuccessful. Honor the learning process.
- Explore some tools, digital or other, that allow for a wider student voice.
- Try a backchannel tool for increased student voice.
- Practice your wait time.
- Develop your own classroom parking lot for questions or concerns.
- Review and reinforce classroom practices that promote a positive classroom community and encourage risk.
- How do you help ensure a positive climate in your classroom?
- How do you establish it?
- How do you maintain it?
- What do you do when something or someone violates that?
- How do you encourage risks?
- What do risk look like in your classroom?
- How do students feel supported in your class?
“Kids need to understand that innovation can only happen when we move away from what has already been learned and done and with some creativity and courage, we make really make meaningful change together.” Sackstein
- Coaty, Matt. “Classrooms That Encourage Risk-Taking Strategies.” Educational Aspirations, 30 June 2014, mattcoaty.com/2014/06/29/risk-taking/.
- Crockett, Lee Watanabe. “No-Fear Learning: Creating Classrooms for Taking Safe Learning Risks.” Global Digital Citizen Foundation, 11 May 2017, globaldigitalcitizen.org/no-fear-learning.
- Gayle, Barbara Mae Dr.; Cortez, Derek; and Preiss, Raymond W. (2013) “Safe Spaces, Difficult Dialogues, and Critical Thinking,” International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Vol. 7: No. 2, Article 5. Available at: https://doi.org/10.20429/ijsotl.2013.070205
- Ingram, Leticia Guzman. “A Classroom Full of Risk Takers.” Edutopia, 14 Sept. 2017, http://www.edutopia.org/article/classroom-full-risk-takers.
- “Risk-Taking: What Does It Mean to You?” News from around the IB Community, International Baccalaureate Organization, 8 July 2015, blogs.ibo.org/blog/2015/07/08/risk-taking-what-does-it-mean-to-you/.
- Sackstein, Starr. “Establish a Safe Place for Risk Taking.” Education Week – Work in Progress, 9 Sept. 2015, blogs.edweek.org/teachers/work_in_progress/2015/09/establish_a_safe_place_for_ris.html.
- Shepherd, Jessica. “Fertile Minds Need Feeding: Interview- Ken Robinson.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 9 Feb. 2009, http://www.theguardian.com/education/2009/feb/10/teaching-sats.
- Smith, Kristi Johnson. “1.6 Creating a Safe Space for Students to Take Academic Risks.” Creating a Safe Space for Students to Take Academic Risks – Starting the Year Right – The First Year, Learn NC, http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/firstyear/258.
- Stringer, Kate. “Finding Success in Failure: STEM Educators Say Student Risk-Taking Is Key to Real-World Learning.” The 74 Finding Success in Failure STEM Educators Say Student RiskTaking Is Key to RealWorld Learning Comments, The 74 Million, 12 Dec. 2016, http://www.the74million.org/article/finding-success-in-failure-stem-educators-say-student-risk-taking-is-key-to-real-world-learning/.
Now that our school year is in full-swing, it’s a good time to reflect on how you’re managing all those devices in your classroom. No matter what type of device you’re using or seeing in your classroom, it’s good to regularly reinforce your expectations regarding technology:
- Make your expectations clear
- Use consistent key phrases and non-verbal signals that signal the end of an activity or a transition between activities (“Apples up,” “Screens down”)
- Have a consistent routine for your students and their devices. Repeat and reinforce this routine each class period.
- Make tech behavior clear with every assignment
- Apply consequences as appropriate
Ideas for routines with devices:
- Devices stay screens down on top of table until it’s an appropriate time for use. You see where the devices are and students can’t hide what they’re doing with them.
- Devices stay in their backpacks until it’s time to use them.
- Only use the iPad for class assignments and not cell phones. We provide students iPads that are restricted and don’t have social media opportunities. Research proves that cell phones are the larger distraction, for students and staff.
As you go through your day, watch for the signs of distraction:
- iPad is moving around
- iPad is on lap
- iPad is leaned toward the student
- Thumbs or fingers are moving feverishly when there are no notes to be taken
- Frequent double clicks or 4-finger swipes when you walk by
- Students doing work on phones instead of iPads.
Redirect as you notice distraction:
- Use proximity
- Circulate around the room
- Remind students of expectations
- Change seating arrangements
- Be consistent with your expectations and reactions
- Speak with the student after class
- Partner with parents
Don’t become outraged when students are initially distracted. Redirect and give them the opportunity to reconnect with you and the task at hand.
Remember, everyday is a new day to start, practice and reinforce expectations
Teaching in a 1:1 environment will involve all of these aspects of teaching. And while you can get by having students use technology simply as a substitute for what they would otherwise do on paper (read, write, work on math problems), there is a much larger world of discovery and creativity now at their fingertips. – iPad Bootcamp for Teachers
It’s here, the start of another school year. Our halls and classroom will soon be filled a variety of students possessing a variety of needs.
Last week, Pine Creek High School’s new Mission Statement was revealed, opening the door for our next steps forward. Part of the Mission Statement speaks of “providing a safe and welcoming learning community.” Have you thought about how you might make that happen in your classroom? What would that look like? What would that feel like?
The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to begin making the connections necessary to foster that safe and welcoming environment. Wes Kieschnick, author of Bold School, says that “on the first day of school, if you spend more time talking about rules than connecting with kids, you’ll spend more of your year enforcing those rules than teaching” (Kieschnick). Those connections are a vital ingredient in increasing student achievement (Richman) as well as building the trust needed to make mistakes and ask for help (Hattie, 2012, as cited in Richman).
How are you going to begin this year? How are you going to make those connections with your students? Take the time to make these connections. Don’t lose this opportunity. Your syllabus can wait. Model the behavior and relationships you want in your class. Take the time.
Resources: Safe and Supportive Learning Environments
Resources: Activities to build a safe, supportive learning environment
- Hattie, John. Visible Learning.
- Kieschnick, Wes. Bold School.