Including Student Voice in the Classroom

When thinking about student voice in my classroom a few things come to mind. The biggest and most important (in my opinion) is the agency students have over their educational experience, and how they are valued as members of our classroom community. While I am the instructional leader of my classroom, my students are the most important contributors to the success of the classroom.
❤ I value the (reasonable) feedback of my students as an opportunity for me to get better, and for them to learn as much as possible.
❤ I value the knowledge and experience that my students bring to my classroom and strive to create a classroom that is relevant and inclusive. 
❤ I believe that student leadership and active involvement is critical to developing young minds and citizens.  

1) Foster Collaboration 
☆Allow students to work together in groups.

2) Leverage Social Media and Technology
Do you use Twitter? Instagram? Have a class website? Teachers can use these sites to get students sharing ideas with each other, updating parents, and quickly communicating with students. Many schools are moving towards 1:1 classrooms and using Google documents, or a comparable platform for class assignments. This technology lends itself to students quicker feedback cycles.

3) Administer Class and Student Interest Surveys 
Class surveys allow teachers to collect invaluable information about the classroom climate and gives teachers a window into how students feel about their teacher. Some of the data *might* be difficult to digest, but it gives teachers a data point for which to improve and forge a stronger classroom culture. Teachers can take it to the next level (if comfortable) and have class discussions about the data. Student interest surveys, which most teachers administer during the beginning of the year are another way for teachers to get to know students and plan to leverage their interests into the class.

4) Listen 
Students want to feel heard. Even in the most challenging situations, teachers should remind students that their voice matters and that you are listening to them. When students are too upset to talk I usually say, “I want to hear your side when you are ready” and I circle back to them. Asking students key questions such as:
☆ How did that make you feel?
☆ What can be done to improve?
☆ Is there anything you want to share?
☆ I heard you say… Is this correct?
These questions reinforce that you want to listen and that perception matters to you. In my class this strategy has improved relationships with students and built trust.

5) Use Classroom Bulletin Boards & Parking Lot
Bulletin boards and parking lots are another way to gather key information from students that can amplify student voice. The key here is to respond to the data and call your shot for students by naming the changing you are making based on their feedback.

6) Incorporate Socratic Seminars
I love the discussion cycle with students! Students prep and respond to each other. Socratic seminars require students to analyze a text and engage in conversations that help each other better comprehend ideas and issues in the text. Students are solely responsible for preparing for the conversation and keeping it moving using the habits of discussion. Students come to shared meaning of the text through listening and providing specific evidence for an argument.

7) Use Show Calls to Display Student Work 
Similar to show and tell, but it’s all about their work. After giving students a written assignment, or independent practice, I walk around the room giving quick feedback and looking for a student work. Teachers can select a student paper that represents a common misconception, nailed it, or falls somewhere in between. Take the paper and project it using a doc camera so that all students can clearly see it. If it’s the first time doing this, be sure to set expectations or model how to evaluate each other’s worth with respect. After projecting the work, lead the class through a discussion where they analyze it by explaining key strengths and areas for growth. This should be a student discussion and afterwards have students to use the feedback they gave each other to update their own work.

8) Have Students Set Goals 
Setting goals is another way to promote student perspective and voice in the classroom. Depending on the age of students, they’ll likely need support with tracking goals. In my classroom we use the goal boards created with resources from the Super Hero Teacher and each student has their goal on their desk. For my students who struggled with goal setting, I taught them how to write and a track a goal for the week. Each student at my school sets a quarterly goal with their family members.

9) Give Student Choice Menus
I love these for projects and early finishers. Teachers give students a menu of options to select to do after they’ve completed the required work, or even as homework. I celebrate power of choice in my classroom.

10) Shout Outs
Shouts out are a great way for students to celebrate each other. Teachers can post shouts in the room or simply have a time when students can share their shout outs. Something I’ve found helpful is for students to understand what makes a shout out powerful. We talk about the difference between saying “Shout out to my friend Candy” versus “I’d like to shout out Candy for being a friend who listens to me and helps me feel better during difficult times.”

What additional strategies do you have? Let’s discuss in the comments!





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Tanesha B. Forman

Tanesha B. Forman

I'm a current middle school administrator who loves breaking down complex topics and providing opportunities for educators learn, reflect, practice, and implement methods that foster equity and anti-racism. I believe we win together!

Behind the Blog

Hi, I'm Tanesha.

I’m a current middle school administrator who loves breaking down complex topics and providing opportunities for educators learn, reflect, practice, and implement methods that foster equity and anti-racism. I believe we win together!




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