Saturday, December 2, 2017

Student Voice and Choice

Greetings colleagues!

When I started this new job four months ago, I was pretty terrified. I try to be organized and polished whenever I teach as I am NOT someone who flies by the seat of my pants. Teaching broadcasting was a WHOLE new thing, and I was making it up as I went for most of the first quarter. I now feel way more comfortable in this role as I'm figuring out what I want my students to know and do.

As a Social Studies teacher, I was always grasping for "wins" - good days, good class periods, and good moments. They did not often happen as I was a pushy teacher. I had high expectations. Students didn't get to goof off very often in my class. But now I'm a "fun" teacher - I still push and still have high expectations, but students get to goof off (ish) in my class. Students get to have fun because they are making up stories, they are creating videos, and they have an audience ready for their broadcast every week. Talk about student CHOICE AND VOICE!

I really thought about this the other day when a student said to me, "Mrs. Jeffrey - look at the board. You put the four of us (students) together. No other teacher would EVER do that!" I said to him, "Well, you do your work for me. If you were together in another class, would you not get anything done?" He said, "We don't have classes together, but I bet we wouldn't get anything done." So I said, "Every week you have to create a tangible product. If you don't get your work done, then you don't have anything in the broadcast." As I walked away from him, I heard him say to his colleague, "I've never thought about it that way before." WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!

I will totally own that it's completely different being an enrichment teacher. I get to make up my curriculum because I have incredibly open standards (in fact, there are no broadcasting standards... I use Language Arts and theatre standards). This allows me to give students more choice and voice throughout the year. I really struggled with giving students voice and choice when I taught Social Studies. It's a difficult thing to do!

So how can you give students choice and voice in your classroom? Here are some ideas...

One time that I always tried to give students choice was when I had an "open era," i.e., we're covering between 1810 - 1860. I would want to know what they wanted to learn about and I wanted to know which applications they wanted to use. This was a perfect time to use a tic-tac-toe board or dinner menu. It wasn't entirely open-ended, but students had more say in their work.

For each broadcast, there is always one entirely original video. I give students theme options, but the main idea, the story plot, the script, the camera shots, and music are solely the students' creation. They can be quite fun to watch. For the rest of the segments, I often choose the topic, but sometimes I don't hear from staff members, so the students get to design their own themes. Even though the structure is set, students still write the script, design the camera shots, and create music. I always get to see and hear their voice throughout, and they still have choices along the way.

Find a way to make student's work public. This can happen at your own school! A brag board is where you have a student post their work and write about why they're proud of this work. Pair up with another class (whether on your team or not), and have them visit your brag board, look at the student's work, and leave a comment. This could be on a cork board in the hall or through a digital Padlet. Let the students be proud of what they've done so that other students can be proud of them too!

Our school has an advisory period, so each class shows the broadcast every week. I also post the broadcast on YouTube and try to remember to tweet out about it as well.

Let your students speak, both figuratively and literally in your class. Let them share their voice. But give them a choice in what they want to say as well.

Thanks for reading. I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

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