When we talk about student voice, there are many aspects educators must focus on. Not only should we create opportunities in our classrooms for our students to find and express their authentic voices, we must empower them to think beyond the classroom. Out in the real world, their voice is power and with it, they can be an agent of change.
There’s much responsibility on us as teachers to make sure we’re building platforms for our students’ voices to develop. We model by taking our own risks, and we ask students to take a journey into exploring their own stories, beliefs and convictions; and to be bravely vulnerable in sharing them with various audiences.
In my session about empowering and amplifying our students’ voices, I show how I use Flipgrid, podcasting and social media networks as platforms to develop and showcase young voices. In my role as an EAL (English as an Additional Language) teacher, I have built and used these platforms with the intention of supporting all students, including ELLs (English Language Learners) as they find their authentic voice in a language that is not their own.
I have added scaffolds for ELLs below each platform.
Flipgrid is an online platform where teachers create “grids” of short discussion-style questions or “topics” that students respond to through recorded videos. Each grid acts as sort of message board where teachers pose a question, prompt, provocation, etc; and students record their responses.
I use Flipgrid in various ways with students, from daily oral reflections of independent reading, to weekly check-ins in mother tongue from our beginner ELLs. Flipgrid allows me to gather data on oral fluency, formatively assess reflection and speaking skills, and gives me the opportunity to reach all students.
Flipgrid can cater to students who need to or are better at processing verbally, but it may also be harder for shyer students who prefer to express themselves on paper. Flipgrid offers choice and balance, both language domains can be developed. Our students will need to be able to write fluently but also speak fluently in more ways than just presentations or class discussions.
Flipgrid is also an interactive tool. It allows for connections and community building by fostering the idea of “we are all in this together”. Flipgrid is free for Office 365 users and can be tailored for private or public access.
Scaffolds for ELLs:
*Provide sentence frames
*Conferencing before recording
A few years ago, my teaching partner Nathan Lill and I co-taught a personal narrative unit where grade 8 students wrote a ‘This I Believe’ essay. As an extension to their writing and to give young writers a wider audience for their writing, we modeled after NPR’s ThisIBelieve.org and had students record their writing pieces into podcasts.
The podcast project continued for three consecutive years, and each time, the audience it has reached has gotten bigger. By publishing the students’ writing pieces as podcasts, we were able to give them an opportunity to showcase their true voices. We widened their audience by hosting ‘The Big DEAL’, a Drop Everything And Listen day where we invited listeners from all over the world to interact with our podcasters.
Scaffolds for ELLs:
*Conferencing during the writing process
*Frequent practice reading their piece out loud
*Mentor podcasts by other ELLs
I love using social media platforms to amplify student voice. As the moderator (not manager) who ties the social media platforms to student learning, it’s important to give agency to our learners so that their voices are authentic.
Our ‘Write on Body’ project was inspired by @dearworld, a community that “connects people through their honest stories. [They] believe the space for genuine connection is rare. [They] create those opportunities.”
I did this project with ELLs in my Literacy Development for grades 9 and 10. Students wrote a personal narrative about their identity, and were asked to think about the importance of powerful words. To feel the weight of their power, they were asked to pick the most powerful words from their writing pieces and write them on their bodies. The results were empowering portraits showcasing their identities, as well as connecting them to a global community.
Through twitter, we have connected with authors such as Mark Haddon. Those connections encourage students to want to have their voices heard. It is the at the heart of redefinition: connecting with authors of powerful texts read at school – it doesn’t get more authentic than that!
Scaffolds for ELLs
*Conferencing during writing and reading processing
*When wanting to interact with authors, helping them build questions to amplify their voice
*Encourage them to find their own platforms in their mother tongue
Please make sure to leave a reflection on this session on this Flipgrid: