Including student voice in your classroom can be difficult. On one hand, students have so much to say, and their viewpoints can be so refreshing! On the other hand, I can hear the din of thirty-six young voices competing to speak at once and no one being heard as a result!
Classroom management and instructional design are key, then, when determining how to best allow students to have voice. Do they express their ideas during structured class discussions, or individually when the teacher has time for some one-on-one? Do they write their ideas and opinions down, submitting to a “comment box” or on an Exit Ticket? These days, we can use technology to provide students even more avenues to communicate with each other, their teachers, and their parents, through email, online discussion threads, blogs, shared documents, social media, and the like. Some teachers are using video response platforms to ensure all students have a chance to speak their piece. Using platforms such as Flipgrid, Padlet, and Recap, teachers can post a rich question and allow students to respond in a short video response, verbalizing their thinking. This makes answering a question an out-of-class activity rather than an in-class, raise-your-hand-and-wait moment. Students can record from the comfort of home or a cozy classroom corner, taking time to think over their answer, and re-record as needed until they are satisfied with their response, taking some of the risk away from having to answer on the spot in class. Student responses can also be saved and shared, creating a communal response and a virtual conversation.
Think about your shy students or those with limited English. We know that ELLs speak only a very small percent of their school day, and only 2% of their day is spent speaking about the focal point of the academic lessons (Zwiers and Crawford, 2011), and yet producing language is critical to developing fluency as well as understanding, for all of our students. But, if they could take time to think about their answer, rehearse it, and then record it with the chance for retakes, how much more – more often, and at greater length – would we be able to hear from them? And allowing the time it would take to let every student to answer a question during class isn’t always practical, so moving some discussions to a digital forum “flips” the instructional time strategically.
Here’s what third grade teacher Jana Scott @janascott43 in Carlsbad did to engage her students around a “soft skill” she introduced early in the year.
She recorded a video of herself stating the prompt, to explain what it means when they talk about failing forward.
In response, each student recorded him or herself explaining what it means to them. Every student was held accountable for answering, and Mrs. Scott could judge their level of understanding. The collected posts are viewable by everyone in her class, so they can see what their peers think it means, too.
Students can use their own face on the front of their post or choose another image that represents them. (Stickers and emojis are an optional feature that can be turned off at teacher discretion.)
Whether they recorded ad-lib mutterings or well-rehearsed responses, their thoughts summed up their understanding of what their teacher had been trying to impart. They expressed ideas such as, “If you do it again, you might get it right;” and “You learn by trying something, then messing up.”
As a secondary level teacher, I have to say that watching the third graders’ videos was adorable! They haven’t yet learned to be self-consciousness, they are very excited to be on camera, and they are so little! Their video responses were literally the essence of capturing student voice.