The most strategic teachers embed student voice in the classroom without having to announce it.  There doesn't need to be a banner that says, "I'M HERE TO LISTEN TO YOU."  No grand gesture should be needed for students to know, "YOUR VOICE IS WELCOME HERE."  The strategy is simple and can be used in classrooms at any level.

via Jessica Hoffman

I was fortunate enough in college to have consistently amazing instructors who strategically modeled the choices we, as pre-service teachers, should offer our future students.  They were simple strategies, but they were profound in impact.  Simple things can make a difference.   I was as much a learner as I was a teacher in the classrooms I led; having this personal mindset offered my students the opportunity to have individual learning experiences, extended a bridge to build relationships, and (I HOPE!) a passion for lifelong learning.

Strategy #1 - Start your class with a welcoming routine, ritual, or circle. Offer time for students to share thoughts, ideas, and personal experiences.  Small moments build relationships, build belonging, and a sense of community.  Every Monday, I would start with my most exciting, silly, or memorable moment over the weekend;  I would open time for students to share theirs.  Kids who didn't want to share in front of the whole class would tell me throughout the class activity or they would send me an email later.

Strategy #2 - Offer choice and opportunity for students to lead.  Plan lessons that promote creativity, a variety of audiences, learning styles, and connections to students' lives outside of school.  Give students a chance to conduct demos, lead activities, or speak to their peers at the front of the room.  This is where knowing your content is really important; I could decide where in the unit plan would be a great voice or choice piece - a jigsaw activity, choice boards, genius hour, passion projects.  Kids will take these and run with them!

Strategy #3 - Ask about their lives outside of academics. Connect with them on their passions and activities.  When I taught in the middle school setting, once a week, I would pick a table to join and spend my lunch talking to students.  It was amazing how connected I was to the kids who shared stories with me.

Strategy #4 - Ask for feedback (and then use it).  At the end of every nine weeks, I would send a survey to my students.  It was optional, but I told them it would help me plan for the following quarter.  I asked about what parts of the class they liked, what they would change, how they learned best.  And then, I listened.  I would reinvent an activity to meet my students where they learned best.  I would challenge myself to find new ways to connect to this group of students.

Rachel Patton is the Director of Operations at BehaviorFlip.  She is responsible for the daily operations and account management, while working closely with the executive team to ensure the mission of BehaviorFlip is at the core of all operational activities.  Transitioning from a classroom teacher role into operations, Rachel has the unique ability to merge experiences from the classroom to working with schools and administrators implementing the BehaviorFlip software.

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