Student engagement is key to building a safe, positive school culture that increases achievement, fosters creativity and community, and decreases boredom, alienation, and drop-out rates (Marks, 2000). Providing opportunities for student voice and involvement in your classroom is an important factor in building positive classroom culture. In the 2016 article “Giving Students a Voice,” published by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Gretchen Brion-Meisels details five ways to integrate student voice into your classroom practice. One way she recommends cultivating a great educational experience is engaging students “in studying and assessing their school.” At Listenwise, we think that you can extend this even further and try to engage students in studying and assessing the world around them.
A Listenwise story that can help to get your students excited about surveying and researching their lives is “Mall Culture Used to Connect Teens”. Coming to us from Youth Radio, the story features Madeleine Veira, a youth reporter who tries to investigate the interesting disappearance of teens from malls. You might ask your students to discuss the places that they hang out and where teens in general typically hang out nowadays. Another way to engage student voice is to discuss what they would like to report on if they were to become investigative reporters and potentially develop a project with that focus.
Another great resource on empowering student voices in the classroom is the Edutopia article “Establishing a Culture of Student Voice”. In the article, John McCarthy talks about how journaling can make students more comfortable sharing their thoughts and emotions in the classroom. The ability to write them down and organize them can make speaking up in the classroom less intimidating and more enjoyable.
One way to get students journaling effectively is to invite them to respond to stories about interesting, relevant topics. Three Listenwise stories that can be leveraged for this purpose are “Identity Across Generations,” “Growing up With a Single Mom,” and “California Teen Lives Life Between Borders”. “Identity Across Generations” is part of the NPR Generation series, and it features an interview with a mother and a daughter about their experiences as members of the LGBT community from very different generations. The other two stories offer explorations of other youth voices at interesting intersections in their lives.
You might optimize student choice by inviting students to select a Listenwise story on any topic of interest, listen to it, and respond via writing, online discussion, or small group discussions. For example, they might choose a current event and report the 5 Ws (who, what, where, when, and why) or choose a debate story and write an argument, taking a position and supporting it with evidence from the story. They might choose different stories on a given topic such as climate change or elections and then share what they learned in small groups using the jigsaw method. You might also engage students in developing their own podcasts, using Youth Radio stories in the Listenwise collection as models.
Inviting your students’ involvement in the classroom and creating a classroom where they feel encouraged to participate at appropriate times are important keys to promoting their success as learners and community members. See below for more Listenwise stories that can provide avenues for your students to discuss and explore their own perspectives and experiences, as well as more resources addressing the benefits of uplifting student voice and strategies for pursuing that goal.
More Resources on Student Voice and Participation
- Giving Students A Voice In The Classroom
- Empower Student Voice Through Collaboration And Communication
- 7 Meaningful Classroom Engagement Strategies For Student Connection
- Building a Classroom Culture of Trust and Collaboration
- UDL Guidelines: Provide Options for Recruiting Interest
- 5 Ways to Give Your Students More Voice and Choice
Listenwise Stories for Your Classroom
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