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December 3, 2014

Student Choice Equals Student Voice

By Lindsey Petlak
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    So often, especially in the midst of pre-conference or pre-holiday break chaos, we (as control freak teachers) tend to dominate the scene. We want the conferences to be perfect, everything at school “tied up with a bow” and ready to go before the holidays, or student work displays to look absolutely uniform and splendid before a big school event. Truthfully, we can’t help it. We’re teachers. We run our own little corporation every single day and make a thousand (or more) decisions every minute of every day. We’re used to being in control . . . and we like it. To some extent, it’s necessary in order to run a great classroom.

    However, it’s even more necessary and important to hand over the reins and give our students some control. In doing so, we’ll be blown away by their responsibility, work quality, judgment, and voice . . . when given choice. Let go a little, and when prepping for your next conferences or family engagement event, give your students the power. Try it. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, for when you give your students CHOICE, you’ll hear your students’ true VOICE.

     


     

    QUICK AND EASY WAYS TO GIVE STUDENTS CHOICE:

    • Provide opportunities for varied and differentiated student work displays in the classroom and hallways. This prevents cookie-cutter, reprints of the same work, and deters parents from directly comparing student work. (See image below, far right photo.)

    • Allow students to choose the work that is on display. You will be astounded at the seriousness with which they approach choosing what they want on display as their best work for in-class and hallway displays. (See image below, first two photos.)

    • Get student input on conference topics and discussion points. Even if you are having teacher-led conferences, it will mean a lot to students and give you immeasurable insight if you allow them to at least submit a survey on key points they wish to address during conferences.

    • Instead of the teacher setting conference, report card, or other benchmark goals, let your students. After meeting with students and parents during conferences this year, I sent a Google survey to students asking them to identify their top three goals for the upcoming grading periods. In doing so, they had to list their goal, why it was important, and how that goal would be measurable. I am blown away by the mature, responsible, insightful responses! They are SPOT ON with what I would have prescribed as goals for my students.

    • Let your kiddos blog or add to your blog/website about daily/weekly happenings, all about me information, and more. This is truly giving them a voice, while utilizing 21st century skills (and countless academic standards).

    • If possible, run student-led conferences. At our school, fall conferences are teacher-led with student attendance and some input, where spring conferences are totally student-led. The student-led conferences are hands down the better of the two! It is amazing to watch your kiddos be mature and shine as they show their proudest work and also personally comment on their challenges and goals. They CAN DO IT!

    • Portfolios are precious when it comes to student choice and voice. I use digital portfolios through a free app/website (OpenSchool ePortfolio). You might use another ePortfolio platform (Google sites, etc.), or you may create paper portfolios. Either way, even though you may be setting up assignments for students to submit work for, they are choosing the multimedia application for showing off that work or paper product with a portfolio ticket (usually a small slip of paper stating what they are submitting, why, how well they feel they performed, etc.). Regardless of what portfolio format you use, this gives them a sense of ownership and pride, and they will be ready to run student-led conferences, for sure! (See my previous post with loads of details on student-created ePortfolios for more information.)


     

    WHY ARE STUDENT CHOICE AND VOICE IMPORTANT?

    While we need to set some parameters within our classrooms, it’s imperative that we also remember that we must give our kiddos some independence. The reasons are numerous, and below are just a few of the reasons why I hand over the reins to my students whenever possible:

    • If we never give our children the chance to be responsible and independent, how will they learn?

    • Our students have the amazing advantage of freedom of thought and creativity.

    • When given the chance, 99.9 percent of the time our kiddos will rise to the occasion and astound us with what they are able to produce.

    • We need to listen to our students. Our professional opinions are certainly important and should be shared, but what we think might be the most important goals for them may be very different from what they think is most important for themselves.

    • In our best efforts to make parents proud, we have to be careful to avoid our innate tendencies to be perfect, and focus on being real for our students.

    • In my experience, displays, conferences, performances, and other events of importance actually go better when my kids are behind the wheel. If we think we want to impress, believe it or not, they want to do so more.

    • Look at their faces and body language when they put a piece of work on display, create or add to their portfolios, or run a student-led conference. It’s priceless. They beam, they take it seriously, and they will impress.

    • Giving choice (and therefore voice) creates an environment of safety, ability to take risks, perspective, acceptance, and much more that will leave a lasting impression on your class members.


     

    NEED MORE INSPIRATION?

    Want to see another example from my classroom? Check out my previous post about handing over the reins when it comes to class projects! You’ll find more ideas on how student inquiry-based PBL can produce amazing results!

     

     

    For more inspiring ideas on this subject, check out fellow bloggers Kriscia Cabral's post on "4 Ways to Add Student Voice to Back-to-School Night" and Erin Klein's post on "Giving Students Choices."


    How have YOU given students CHOICE and therefore VOICE within your classroom? What are simple ways you’ve handed over the reins and let your kiddos take control (and undoubtedly impress)? 

     

    So often, especially in the midst of pre-conference or pre-holiday break chaos, we (as control freak teachers) tend to dominate the scene. We want the conferences to be perfect, everything at school “tied up with a bow” and ready to go before the holidays, or student work displays to look absolutely uniform and splendid before a big school event. Truthfully, we can’t help it. We’re teachers. We run our own little corporation every single day and make a thousand (or more) decisions every minute of every day. We’re used to being in control . . . and we like it. To some extent, it’s necessary in order to run a great classroom.

    However, it’s even more necessary and important to hand over the reins and give our students some control. In doing so, we’ll be blown away by their responsibility, work quality, judgment, and voice . . . when given choice. Let go a little, and when prepping for your next conferences or family engagement event, give your students the power. Try it. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, for when you give your students CHOICE, you’ll hear your students’ true VOICE.

     


     

    QUICK AND EASY WAYS TO GIVE STUDENTS CHOICE:

    • Provide opportunities for varied and differentiated student work displays in the classroom and hallways. This prevents cookie-cutter, reprints of the same work, and deters parents from directly comparing student work. (See image below, far right photo.)

    • Allow students to choose the work that is on display. You will be astounded at the seriousness with which they approach choosing what they want on display as their best work for in-class and hallway displays. (See image below, first two photos.)

    • Get student input on conference topics and discussion points. Even if you are having teacher-led conferences, it will mean a lot to students and give you immeasurable insight if you allow them to at least submit a survey on key points they wish to address during conferences.

    • Instead of the teacher setting conference, report card, or other benchmark goals, let your students. After meeting with students and parents during conferences this year, I sent a Google survey to students asking them to identify their top three goals for the upcoming grading periods. In doing so, they had to list their goal, why it was important, and how that goal would be measurable. I am blown away by the mature, responsible, insightful responses! They are SPOT ON with what I would have prescribed as goals for my students.

    • Let your kiddos blog or add to your blog/website about daily/weekly happenings, all about me information, and more. This is truly giving them a voice, while utilizing 21st century skills (and countless academic standards).

    • If possible, run student-led conferences. At our school, fall conferences are teacher-led with student attendance and some input, where spring conferences are totally student-led. The student-led conferences are hands down the better of the two! It is amazing to watch your kiddos be mature and shine as they show their proudest work and also personally comment on their challenges and goals. They CAN DO IT!

    • Portfolios are precious when it comes to student choice and voice. I use digital portfolios through a free app/website (OpenSchool ePortfolio). You might use another ePortfolio platform (Google sites, etc.), or you may create paper portfolios. Either way, even though you may be setting up assignments for students to submit work for, they are choosing the multimedia application for showing off that work or paper product with a portfolio ticket (usually a small slip of paper stating what they are submitting, why, how well they feel they performed, etc.). Regardless of what portfolio format you use, this gives them a sense of ownership and pride, and they will be ready to run student-led conferences, for sure! (See my previous post with loads of details on student-created ePortfolios for more information.)


     

    WHY ARE STUDENT CHOICE AND VOICE IMPORTANT?

    While we need to set some parameters within our classrooms, it’s imperative that we also remember that we must give our kiddos some independence. The reasons are numerous, and below are just a few of the reasons why I hand over the reins to my students whenever possible:

    • If we never give our children the chance to be responsible and independent, how will they learn?

    • Our students have the amazing advantage of freedom of thought and creativity.

    • When given the chance, 99.9 percent of the time our kiddos will rise to the occasion and astound us with what they are able to produce.

    • We need to listen to our students. Our professional opinions are certainly important and should be shared, but what we think might be the most important goals for them may be very different from what they think is most important for themselves.

    • In our best efforts to make parents proud, we have to be careful to avoid our innate tendencies to be perfect, and focus on being real for our students.

    • In my experience, displays, conferences, performances, and other events of importance actually go better when my kids are behind the wheel. If we think we want to impress, believe it or not, they want to do so more.

    • Look at their faces and body language when they put a piece of work on display, create or add to their portfolios, or run a student-led conference. It’s priceless. They beam, they take it seriously, and they will impress.

    • Giving choice (and therefore voice) creates an environment of safety, ability to take risks, perspective, acceptance, and much more that will leave a lasting impression on your class members.


     

    NEED MORE INSPIRATION?

    Want to see another example from my classroom? Check out my previous post about handing over the reins when it comes to class projects! You’ll find more ideas on how student inquiry-based PBL can produce amazing results!

     

     

    For more inspiring ideas on this subject, check out fellow bloggers Kriscia Cabral's post on "4 Ways to Add Student Voice to Back-to-School Night" and Erin Klein's post on "Giving Students Choices."


    How have YOU given students CHOICE and therefore VOICE within your classroom? What are simple ways you’ve handed over the reins and let your kiddos take control (and undoubtedly impress)? 

     

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