Strengthening Student Voice in the Expression-Driven Classroom

Expression-driven classrooms are designed to help students find and strengthen their voice. To allow for maximum growth, teachers need to be intentional in designing classroom practices and procedures that encourage every student to grow. In the book, Amplify Student Voices: Equitable Practices to Build Confidence in the Classroom, authors AnnMarie Baines, Diana Medina, and Caitlin Healy share the following six practices teachers can embrace to help students develop their voice (p. 182):

  1. Use listening approaches that affirm and uplift. Create a set of listening non-negotiables. Focus on positive listening feedback. Start using these approaches with low-stakes items and continue to apply them as the stakes are raised. 
  2. Have students begin by performing someone else’s story or speech. There are many great works already in existence. Give students the opportunity to learn delivery using text from those great works. Students will be able to focus on presentation techniques during this type of exercise. 
  3. Show a range of examples. Speakers and speeches come in all forms. Find examples from a variety of settings, a variety of content areas, and a variety of speakers. Students will benefit tremendously from seeing many different styles. 
  4. Allow for collaboration. Author Jeff Goins stated, “Creativity grows in community.” Give opportunities for students to team up with others to prepare and present information along the path toward a solo presentation. 
  5. Provide research time. If presenting is worthy of class time, then research for presentation should also be worthy of class time. Students can only present based upon what they are learning. Give them time. 
  6. Check in with students frequently. Developing a voice happens over time. Be sure to touch base with students frequently throughout the process, so they have opportunities to ask questions and share ideas with you. 

As you prepare for next week, think of ways that you might incorporate these suggestions into your classroom. You and your students will be glad you did!

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