In the Classroom
Six Ways to Incorporate Student Voice in Your Classroom
June 2, 2018
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Erin Glenn

``So why do I have to do this….Because I said so!” Unfortunately, this type of conversation may occur all too often when students do not see the benefit or purpose of what they have been asked to do. Providing opportunities for students to have a voice in their classroom practices allows them to help shape their class environment and increases the likelihood they’ll follow outlined procedures and protocols. There are many ways to incorporate student voice in your class. Six of my personal favorites are found below:
  1. Creating class norms – “Norms” are simply the normal occurrences of a typical school day. They may be used to guide daily routines and embedded in structures such as cooperative learning groups and gallery walks. Allowing students to help create norms is a great way to get their input when determining how they should conduct themselves in varied class settings.
  2. Classroom evaluations – This is definitely one of my favorite ways to incorporate student voice. Just as I evaluate students on their report card and progress reports, I also allow them to evaluate me quarterly (I know, right, this can be scary). To do this I create a form that lists the assignments and activities they have completed in a nine-week grading period. Next, I ask they rank what they enjoyed from greatest to least with comments if they choose. The evaluation also includes space for them to give me a letter grade and explain the grade they’ve assigned. Their responses help me significantly as I make lesson plans for the next grading period.
  3. Differentiated assignments – Choice and menu boards provide students many options when considering the type of assignment they will complete. They are allowed to choose their work submission and have voice in the work product they complete. I’ve learned from experience to also include a rubric for each assignment on the choice or menu board. This will ensure one is not perceived as easier than the others listed.
  4. Independent reading assignments – Reading applies to all contents and subjects. Creating a classroom library filled with books of varied topics and reading levels gives students voice in the books they read, those aligned to their interest and reading ability.
  5. Accountable talk discussions – Whether working with a partner or in a small group, students need opportunities to discuss their coursework. Accountable talk is a discussion model that provides sentence starters for students to use in conversation with their peers. Providing multiple choices for the sentence stems they use allows their voice to drive the conversation and discuss their work.
  6. Student led conferences – Student led conferences give students permission to take ownership of their progress in class. Modified from a traditional parent teacher conference, conferences led by students gives them sole responsibility to discuss their grades and behavior. While the teacher is available to go in more depth if needed, their voice leads the conference and drives the conversation.

How do you incorporate student voice in your class? Tweet me @erin_glenn_edu, I’d love to discuss your ideas.

Erin Glenn is an 8th grade Social Studies teacher at East Lake Academy of Fine Arts. She has served as a TNCore United States History and Geography Coach, an item reviewer for state assessments and as a member of the Social Studies Educator Advisory Committee with the Tennessee Department of Education. Erin is a National Board Certified Teacher and was awarded Middle School Social Studies teacher of the year by the Tennessee Council of Social Studies. She participated in the Tennessee Educator Fellowship with the State Collaborative on Reforming Education and is a Steering Committee member for Chattanooga 2.0 and the Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance. She’s obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and a Master’s Degree in Teacher Education from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.

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There is 1 comment

  • Kendra Harris says:

    Awesome strategies to incorporate student voice in the classroom!

    I have used student evaluations at the end of the year but I especially like the ideal of doing it quarterly.

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