At the beginning of some classes, I put a debatable statement on the board, usually from our reading. Recently, while reading The Glass Castle, I wrote, "Rose Mary is a better parent than Rex." I ask kids to write for 5-10 minutes in their notebooks about whether they agree or disagree with that statement and why; then I have them stand up and move to the "agree" or "disagree" side of the room. Students volley their thoughts back and forth. I encourage them to use phrases like, "I hear what you're saying, but I disagree. Here's why." I find that teenagers are often more respectful debaters than some adults. - Leah S.
I founded and coordinate an independent studies program called Student Driven Learning that allows students to earn academic credit while pursuing an interest/project/passion of their own choosing. Our program allows students to share their voice by saying "this is what I'm interested in, this is what I want to learn, this is how I want to learn." - John H.
One way that students can share their voices in our school is through our advisor program. We have the same small group of students in our "homeroom" for all four years. Whenever there are serious or upsetting issues to discuss, we often debrief and discuss it in our small advisor groups where kids feel safe to share. - Lorrie K.
Conversation is a part of our class. I constantly encourage conversation, which -- most of the time it's silly stuff -- has helped to build the sense that our classroom is a safe environment to speak. Then when the topics get serious, the idea that we're taking is a natural extension of what we do every day. If you're asking about voice in academics, I do my best to offer options for every activity, and really police myself: I reflect on the week mid-week and if we've not had enough opportunity for student-directed work, and/or won't have enough later in the week/early next week, I adjust my plans, and plan to adjust. Wherever possible, I try to give students options, however small, but hopefully big. - Jennifer M.
When assigning a text to read, I ask student to have a few talking points ready for class. But, because of time, sketchy preparedness and apprehension to share in front of a group, I do the following: Pick a partner to share your ideas from the reading. After a few minutes, pick two more folks to share your ideas with so that you are now a group of four. That group of four has to incorporate all ideas so all ideas will be shared. Then, one representative shares the ideas with the whole class. I have also done this where person A and person B exchange and share ideas. Then, person in another switch-a-roo, person A finds person C and they share the idea of the student that they spoke to. It's kind of like telephone. When we come back together in a whole group, the person sharing is not sharing their idea, but the idea of someone that they didn't even meet with. We also do a graffiti walk and respond nonverbally on the board. We stand for about 10 minutes (or until it's uncomfortable really) and each have a marker. We ask questions, make remarks and statements to all ideas. - Sarah D-F.
Every school day starts with a Morning Meeting and every students greets a classmate. Even the most reserved student has they name mentioned out loud and uses their voice to greet another. Somewhere along the line I heard a wonderful guiding principle, "I am heard, therefore I am." This guides my work in the classroom. Students also have access to dialogue journals in order to connect with me, they can share their ideas in their lifebooks, they can also celebrate their learning with the community through our class twitter account and student generated blog. In between, we practice the art of discussion and listening. - Tim H.
My role is to guide students on their self directed learning experience. One of the key things I do is foster connections with fellow students in the cohort and professionals in the community who are working in a student's field of interest. These connections allow students to share their ideas, thoughts, questions, failures, progress with others who might not have heard these things in other settings.
By listening first, thoroughly, and then, if I agree, encouraging them to move forward. If I disagree, I give them more information to help them see other perspectives. Explicit instruction on how students can share their ideas in a way that others will want to listen is important.
Providing a safe space to be heard, not judging, but listening. "Seek first to understand, then to be understood" for me in my role as a teacher is really "listen to learn, not to reply." And, where appropriate, I offer whatever help I might be able to offer. Most of the time if I ask a question, it's, "Can I help? How can I help? Would it help if [another adult] was aware of this?" I try to give students the opportunity to be heard, and whether/how to act on it is at their direction.
Both of the ideas above do this because by detaching the speaker from the idea, they can share in a small group but their idea is heard by the whole. They can also share nonverbally on the graffiti walk.
Students are empowered to use their voice by sharing their work in 1:1, small group, whole group and community wide settings. They are invited to make suggestions related to the structure of the program as a whole as well as their own project. Students are also invited to represent their work, and the program as a whole before peers, staff, school board, and the community as a whole.
In our school, we have a student powered Student Senate that gets involved in all levels of discourse. And of course, we empower our students to use their voice through writing!
I use a gradual release of responsibility for new tasks and a gradual increase of sharing to build trust. So, over time, I encourage my students to share more and more. Day one: their name. Day three: the topic that they wrote about in their journal. Day five: The first line of their journal. Day 10: The first paragraph. Etc.