Helping Students Find Their Own Voices

student voice

After watching Sydney Chaffee’s Ted Talk, “How Teachers Can Help Students Find Their Political Voices,” I thought about the importance of teaching students how to stand up, and advocate for not just themselves, but for people they believe in. We’re in a unique situation in our country, with grassroots movements like #RedForEd, and specifically in Arizona the Invest in Education Act being removed from the ballot, we need to not only encourage our students to be a voice, but we need to teach them to do that! One way to do that is utilizing sentence stems/discussion frames within your classroom. These discussion starters can be printed out and posted in your room as a reference for students during peer to peer interactions, as well as classroom discussions.

I’m very lucky to be involved in my own kids’ school as the PTO President, and we were just honored with the Butterfly Effect Program. We are currently installing our very own “Social Butterfly” at their school! Our goal with our butterfly (picture to come) is to teach the 800+ students their own importance and how their choices and voices, effect others. They are all butterflies, and with enough impact, we can “Be the change we want to see in the world!” (Mahatma Gandhi)

Some of the ways we plan to use our butterfly include:

  • Quarterly reward assemblies – recognizing students that rise up, reach out, and achieve more!
  • Positive or improved behavior – showcasing students that model desired behaviors, or are working to improve their own choices.
  • As always, we encourage students to nominate one another, or even themselves! This is a great way for them to find their voice and support people around them that are doing the right things.
  • More to come! As teachers start to share their own programs within their classrooms, I’ll update this!

Another great resource for teaching students to think critically, and really believe in him/herself, is thinkLaw. This curriculum was created to equalize the playing field – not just the cream of the crop deserve to learn the important 21st century skill, critical thinking! thinkLaw integrates real-world court cases into lessons to engage and activate students’ thinking and truly helps them develop their voice! You can even get a free sample lesson from the website just for signing up!

One of the hardest pieces of teaching critical thinking to students, whether kindergarten or AP English students, is not TEACHING! In order to encourage students to develop their voices, we need to turn ours off. We need to facilitate, to encourage, and to probe!

  • Facilitate – Try a Socratic Seminar in which our responsibility includes asking questions.
  • Encourage – Get students involved, thank them for their participation, or better yet, have a student lead the discussion or task.
  • Probe – When you think there is nothing else, ask another question! Be prepared for some silence, and to allow wait time, but never be afraid to ask another question!

Take a look at your upcoming lessons. Do you have something planned that teaches students to think critically, or to develop their own voice? If not, take a look at one, or all of the resources, and see how they fit into your curriculum. If you’ve got a great resource to share, please do!

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