Student Voice: The Journey Begins on Day 1

When I was a classroom teacher, I would start getting a little anxious around  mid-August as I anticipated the upcoming school year. Mostly, I  was excited for the opportunity to reinvent myself. I realized today that I pretty much always started the first day of school the same. I spent a big chunk of the day involved in the following activities:

  • Finding adequate space for the abundance of hand sanitizer, tissue boxes and storage bags
  • Helping students organize binders and label already color-coded folders
  • Taping name tags on desks once I confirmed attendance
  • Sharing classroom and school expectations
  • Engaging in a few getting to know you type activities

Don’t get me wrong; this list is important(logistically speaking). However, if I could go back and add a “dose of joy” to all of my  13 first day of school experiences, each of those days would be guided by one question:

How can I create a joyful learning environment where all of my students feel safe and valued?

So, I would spend less time organizing that first day and more time creating an environment where students felt free to discuss their skills, challenges and aspirations. Brianna Henneke Hodges shared how she used the motivational concept, You Matter, to encourage students to share their gifts and passions. Do you have a classroom mantra in mind that encourages student voice? I would love to hear it.

In addition to creating a positive classroom mantra, other great ways to elevate student voice on day one include:

  • Partnering with students to create a classroom creed and/or norms
  • Providing students with an opportunity to share how they want to learn
  • Using a variety of modes such as  as icebreakers and backchannels to get students to interact with each other


Student voice doesn’t stop with students feeling free to share about themselves. Click on the image, Continuum of Voice, to explore the levels of student voice.

continuum-voice-web (1)
Continuum of Voice: What it Means for the Learner. By Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey

There are many great resources that provide opportunities for reflection on the teacher role in encouraging student voice at all levels, as well as practical strategies that can be implemented right away. Click on the links below to explore some of these resources.

5 Simple Questions By Rebecca Alber for Edutopia

How to Amplify Student Voice: Listen

5 Ways to Give Your Students More Voice and Choice

6 Creative Ways to Encourage Student Voice in Your School Community

Resources on Engaging Student Voice

I want to leave you with one question to reflect on.

What is one thing you wish your teachers knew about you?

Have a great week,

Dr. Joy


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