A powerful way of helping students’ achievement is actively engaging them in the life of the classroom. Student contributions are vital to the learning process and can enhance learning immeasurably. Check out how this international school in China with full continuum IB promotes student voices in the classroom. Teachers that design lessons that prioritize student voice and participation help students be the driver of their own success.
Student voices that are heard in the classroom help to increase engagement, strengthen relationships, and foster a sense of belonging. Let’s get into some of the strategies teachers can use to elevate student voice.
#1 Start class with a welcoming ritual
Students often have pressing concerns such as upcoming tests, homework assignments, and personal worries too. To help your students rid these distractions from the forefront of their minds, teachers can begin class with a predictable routine. For example, the class could share their top concerns or just whatever is on their mind and ask for advice from the teacher and other students. This could be done in small groups, pairs, or individually depending on how much time you have.
A welcoming ritual like this lets the class release their most pressing thoughts and means they have more mental resources to devote to the class material. This also allows students to build relationships with the teacher and their peers as well as create a sense of belonging amongst the class.
#2 Plan consistent opportunities to elevate student voice
Effectively elevating student voice comes from good planning. There are a few questions you can ask yourself to ensure you’re fostering the elevation of student voice into your lesson plans:
- Can students collaborate on problem-solving, devising questions, creating something, or otherwise discussing a lesson’s meaning?
- How often do you ask students to speak in front of the class, write on the whiteboard, or participate in other activities that elevate their voice?
- How often do students write for an audience beyond the classroom?
- Do students sometimes get to choose topics to study or present?
- How are students prompted to link classroom material to their lives outside of school?
- How often do you ask students to give you feedback on the lesson material, classroom dynamics, and any other concerns they might have? And, what do you do with the feedback?
Classrooms are places where students should gain academic knowledge, but they should also be places where young people can discover who they are and who they want to be. These realizations come through both independent and collaborative explorations where they are able to inject their voices. They also come from voices being heard and acted on.
#3 Go beyond purely academic
Students are in the midst of their formative years, and it’s important for these young individuals to feel valued and have their voices heard. Some of our students will make themselves known to teachers without us needing to prompt at all, but other students can easily fade into the background if we allow it. This means teachers need to intentionally set about getting to know each and every student.
This can be achieved with a mixture of casual and more purposeful actions on the part of the teacher. For example, teachers can greet students as they enter the classroom, go around and discuss topics with small groups during the lesson, and formally arrange one-on-one feedback sessions. Teachers can also get to know students outside of class time by inviting groups of students to help with quick tasks like creating displays for work or even just chatting to students at lunchtime
The effort a teacher puts into understanding their students individually won’t go unnoticed by students. In fact, it makes a big impression, and students are likely to remember such a teacher well into their adult years. Good teachers have a huge impact on the young people they teach, and a big part of this is how effectively they connect to and understand their students.