The Power of the Student Voice
Students are our Customers.
Just like a company has to hear from its consumers, so do teachers.
Far too often, many of our students feel discouraged to share their thoughts in the classroom. As educators, there are a variety of techniques to change underlying feelings of doubt that often come with student participation in a classroom setting. It is critical to create a sense of community and a safe space for engagement in your classroom, and thankfully there are a variety of techniques to make this happen. In this post, we are going to discuss a few ways of giving students a voice in your classroom!
1. Create a comfortable classroom culture:
Start with the basics of your classroom experience and build a safe culture where students feel safe sharing their ideas, thoughts, and opinions. A space where the most reserved students will not share their ideas often stem from the same fears- "Am I going to be wrong," Will I be made fun of for giving the wrong answer?" and of course, "What if they say my idea is stupid." Most likely, there's fears cannot be eliminated, but they can be managed in a variety of ways. Initiate a code of conduct that focuses on agreed norms for how students participate in collaborative discussions.
A code of conduct that builds a safe space could include any of the points listed below:
- We respect other’s ideas. We show this by not talking over them or talking to others when a peer is sharing.
- We focus on the speaker by looking at them and giving them our full attention.
- When we disagree, we do not interrupt. We wait until our peer is done sharing, then ask to share our ideas and opinions.
- We use "I" statements instead of "you" statements. These include: “I respectfully disagree”, “I think,” or “I believe,” instead of statements such as “you are wrong” or “your answer is stupid.”
- We back up our thoughts and ideas with facts and evidence.
- We value diversity in opinion and in sharing styles- one is not valued higher than another.
Your first step is creating a classroom where all students feel safe sharing their thoughts. After accomplishing this, the next step is to ensure they are vocalizing those thoughts.
Creating a code of conduct can help eliminate certain classroom fears, such as being made fun of for the wrong answer.
2. Provide the right tools for speaking up:
As a product company, we believes that tools for learning can truly make all the difference in a classroom. However, regardless of if you are using our suite of products, that of a competitor, or something of your own creation- tools that enable students to quickly and easily share their ideas are key to student participation.
Look for tools that accomplish the following:
- Ease of use - you shouldn’t spend more than a minute explaining how to use the tool.
- Personal yet collaborative - focus on tools that allow students to think on their own while allowing them to quickly share with the group. This reasoning is why sticky notes have dominated our offices and classrooms for decades. They are personal but sharable. This reasoning along with the non-permanence of dry-erase is what inspired the mcSquares product lines.
- Nimble - students change their mind. Ensure students the freedom to start over again without feeling trapped. This is where dry-erase comes into play. Students do not feel tied down with one answer, but have the ability to write, erase, and write again.
- Technique - Different tools encourage various types of learning. Though certain students may be auditory learners, others may be more successful with tactile learning. Ensure that your students are receiving the learning styles they need by utilizing tools that represent the learning techniques they need. Check our our blog post on learning modalities here.
3. Have a strategy to raise your quieter students while equalizing your boisterous students:
Notice the word equalized.
We know who those students are. The ones who always have their hand up and are not afraid to shout it out. As teachers, this is a delicate realm- how do we bring them down a notch so that others can speak while not squandering their passion. This is where facilitation skills come into play.
- Adopt timekeeping strategies that ensure students are required to share but for equal amounts of time. If you’ve built the culture as mentioned above, then students should already feel safe sharing even if it is required.
- Encourage praise and offer additional props to students who share but who are not your frequent customers. These are the students who often don’t get a lot of attention. Empower them and make them feel valued.
- Plan out your strategy ahead of time. Incorporate student voice directly into your lesson plans. Know when it is time to hand off to the students but give specific and detailed instructions on how to do so, we don’t want to have a free for all!
- When pairing students into small groups, placinging similar students in the same group can have both advantages and disadvantages. Often times, reserved students are more likely to speak their mind when places with other quiet students as they aren't intimidated by a more dominant personality.
- If you realize things aren't going quite as planned, don't be afraid to reset and go over expectations again. This will benefit all students in the class.
These are just a few ways to get students more engaged and contributing to your lessons. There is an incredible amount of information that exists specifically on increasing student voice, and it is your job to find out which of it holds true for your classroom! When you hear from ALL of your students, you may be amazed at all they have to offer you.
We'd love to hear from you! Please comment the way you increase student voice in your classroom!
The mcSquares product lines are perfect tools for encouraging students to speak up in your classroom.
By providing the non-permanence of dry-erase, mcSquares give students ease of mind when sharing ideas in front of the class. mcSquares also enable quieter students to share their thoughts in both small group and classroom settings.