Facilitating Student Voice in the Classroom

 

finishing a podcasting session with Heather Swail’s Grade 7-8 class

I started out today watching a conversation between Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the Washington press corps. I shouldn’t really call it a conversation. The reporters asked on three separate occasions about the current US policy on separating children from their parents when they cross the border. There was no response, just a lot of avoidance and some pretty insulting retorts.

Nothing was resolved, no questions were answered, no problem was even acknowledged. Both sides scored points, but an injustice is still being done.

In contrast, I have spent the last week listening to grade 7-8 students talk about social justice. What a difference!

I  got involved at the end of a month-long process that saw students choose a social justice issue, research the issue, debate the issue with peers then finally develop a persuasive piece that they then blogged about.

Their blog posts are all attached to their teacher Heather Swail’s blog and can be found here.

I really encourage you to read a few of these great pieces. The topics range from residential schools in Canada to water issues in South Africa, child labour, gun violence and racial profiling.

Little did I know that Residential schools were a lot deeper of an issue than just boarding schools that were wrongful to a misjudged people. They literally destroyed Indigenous culture for generations to come, and what really surprised me was that even after everything we did them, Indigenous people are still being treated unfairly today.

excerpt from student blog Residential Schools Revisited

All the posts are well-considered and intelligent. What makes the real difference is that this was a facilitated process. Students did not simply strike off on an issue, they had to go through a deliberate process with identifiable steps.

This is a well-known process that starts with the head moves to the heart and finishes with the hands. What is the issue, how does it make you feel, what are you going to do about it? A version of Heather’s methodology can be found here.

We took one final step by doing a series of five podcasts where the students talked about their issues. You can hear one of these podcasts here more will be coming out on VoicEd Radio soon.

It is at times like these that I really wish I was back in the classroom! My visits to Room 201 and to the student blog posts were a refreshing break from the media wars that are going on everywhere right now. Well considered opinion, well expressed, backed by evidence and part of an intelligent thought process.

When I see the faces of these children and when I read their words, I do think there is hope for the future. When students learn how to think, research and write well thought out pieces I know there is still room for intelligent debate and discussion.

My hope for all of these students is that they carry these valuable lessons into the future.

 

 

Celebrating Student Voice

imagineTheFuture

“If we don’t tell the story of what is going on in our district who will.”

How do we work to enhance student voice in our school and what evidence can we look to for.

I am interested in exploring the ways we give our students a voice in our school.  More and more this seems to mean connecting our students to social media.

This past week has been pretty amazing at our school.  Our juniors were involved in two regional competitions – The Engineering Challenge and Destination Imagination.  Our teams placed first and second in both competitions.  They won because of their creativity, innovative skills and their ability to work as a team – no mean feat for kids in grades 5 and 6!

They were assisted by their teachers, an incredible group of volunteer engineers and parents.  All these adults worked selflessly for weeks to prepare the students for these events.  They really allowed the creative voices of their students come forward.

I can’t say enough about how important this is.  Our students have shown themselves to be incredibly creative.  Their voice really needs to be heard.  Because of the work of teachers, parents and volunteers their voice is out there.  What an incredible experience for our students!

Social media here plays a bit of a secondary role.  Social media basically gets the word out – actually it gives the students the audience that they deserve.  Here are some of the pieces put out by our teachers this week celebrating student voice.

Our first place team at Destination Imagination – students and parent volunteers

Student Voice – an excerpt from one of our student blogs – using kidblog- including responses from classmates and a’pen pal’ from Nebraska
The grade 4 teacher writes about their blogging project here:

Our classroom blogging community

February9

The Primary Blogging Community (PBC) was started by a primary teacher, Mrs. Wideen, here in Ontario last year.  It is a community of primary teachers  that want to share their students’ learning through the students’ personal blogs.  For the next 3 weeks (and the past three!), we are blogging with 3 other classrooms from around the world.  Our blogging community happens to be right here in North America.  They are  primary classes from Alberta, Nebraska, and Indiana.  You can imagine the enthusiasm when students receive comments to their blog posts from someone new!   This blogging experience provides them with a real audience that gives them authentic feedback about what they are writing on their blogs.  It gives them a voice and lets them teach their peers about something they know or feel passionately about.  And above all, it provides them with reading and writing opportunities (how to write a good blog post/comment) that they actually look forward to.  If you have not visited your son’s or daughter’s blog, please do.  If you would like to leave a comment, just let me know and I will sign you up!

7 random facts about me

Categories: Blog February 27, 2014 @ 11:00 AM 10 Comments 

1.  I am Russian.

2. I lived in Moscow until I was 8.

3. I like to draw pictures.

4. I go skiing every year.

5. I have  many sisters and brothers and my mother is expecting a baby.

6.  I have 1 friend in Russia and lots of friends here.

7. I am happy in Canada.

10 Comments

  1. Cole Cole
    February 27, 2014 at 11:14 AM

    What is your friend’s name? Is your friend a boy or a girl? What do you like about Canada?

  2. Dylan Dylan
    February 27, 2014 at 11:14 AM

    Sofiya,
    I am glad you are happy in Canada. Is Moscow the capital of Russia? What is your friend’s name that is in Russia ?
    From,
    Dylan

  3. Madison Madison
    February 27, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    You have an awesome life

  4. Chiara Chiara
    February 27, 2014 at 11:17 AM

    Hi Sofiya, it’s Chiara. Good job. I like it. I want to go to Russia. Am I your friend?

    • Sofiya Sofiya
      February 28, 2014 at 11:21 AM

      Yes,you are:}

  5. Matteo Matteo
    February 27, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    Cool and why did you move to Canada and not the states or do you have any relation with Canada? Or did you accidentally move to Canada like my grandparents.

  6. Allyssia Allyssia
    February 28, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    I’m glad you like Canada.Is there something you don’t like about Canada?

    • Sofiya Sofiya
      February 28, 2014 at 4:31 PM

      Yes,I don’t like that you guys don’t speak Russian because it’s hard to learn English.

  7. Austin (Mrs. Keene's Class) Austin (Mrs. Keene’s Class)
    March 3, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    Hi Sofiya, my favorite foods are pizza, pears, mashed potatoes, and blue jolly ranchers. I have one brother and one sister. I am the middle child. I have broken three bones in my body. They were both of my arms and my hip. When I broke my left arm, it was crooked. My favorite sport is basketball. I play football, baseball, and basketball. Those are some facts about me.

    • Sofiya Sofiya
      March 4, 2014 at 1:55 PM

      Hi Austin,
      How did you break your arms?:0

     

another student voice project from the junior kindergarten students 

Each morning upon entry, students have quiet reading time at the carpet. A few weeks ago I noticed Ally enthusiastically telling a story to a friend using the pictures of a book. I encouraged her to take my chair and share it with the whole class. This way the start of more student voice in our classroom as many others have asked for their turn as the storyteller! We all sit up close as the storyteller creates a tale inspired by pictures. It has been an exciting way to start our class and the tradition shall most definitely continue!

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