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Black Lives Matter: A Teachable Movement

Black Lives Matter: A Teachable Movement

In the daily grind of teaching, we can get stuck in neutral when it comes to seemingly controversial issues. This is the point where our engine is on, we’re in the car, we can go anywhere, but choose to go nowhere. Neutral is comfortable. And safe. It’s clean cut and straight laced. But…

Teaching is messy. And rewarding. It’s life changing. And complex. It’s about the constant drive forward. And engaging students in matters of the heart. It’s an act of love that allows students to raise questions, engage in decision making and problem-solving so that they are prepared to be the next generation of leaders.

The next generation of leaders need to be able to grapple with multiple perspectives and draw conclusions. They must be able to listen, and respectfully disagree. They must be able to develop an argument and articulate counterarguments; But before they can, they must be given the opportunity.

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement took root with the murder of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin. It was battle cry against anti-Black racism. As the days, months, and years passed, a number of cases involving the murder of Black Americans - particularly males, garnered national press and deepened the cry of black lives matter. It became a public movement to raise awareness about the injustices faced by black women and men at the hands of vigilantes and public servants. The phrase is intentional and direct. For some, it's affirming, and for others it's controversial. Some saw its rise as an attempt to stoke racial flames and further divide the nation. Others saw it as a needed step forward in shedding the light on injustices and the continued fight for equality. It’s divisive, complex, and multilayered.  It includes so many perspectives and nuances. It is also fertile ground for cultivating conversation, divergent thinking, and global awareness of current events. Yet in still, I've noticed teachers (and school districts) shying away from the topic.

As a teacher, I'm faced with thousands of decisions, but none more important than what to teach and why. I’m certain that teachers during the Civil Rights Movement faced a similar dilemma; How do I teach students about the events happening around them? Before answering the question, we must first learn for ourselves and embrace the value of current events as a teaching point. This post will largely provide context on why the BLM movement should be a part of our curriculum.
*Caveat* Some teachers don't have the liberty of teaching what they want, but most, I dare say all teachers teach beyond the curriculum. We are the masters of finding loopholes, extra time, and teacher discounts. We can find time to affirm and educate our scholars on a movement they are living through.
A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.  - Marcus Garvey
1. BLM a continuation of the CRM. Our ancestors who fought against Jim Crow laws and scarified more than I can imagine, did so in the name of access and equality. They sought to live out the words of our Constitution that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” We can’t deny the progress the country has made, but we'd be mistaken to accept where we are as the end destination. One of the principles of the Black Lives Matter organization is "We are committed to collectively, lovingly and courageously working vigorously for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension all people..." This organization calls out cases where Black people have been victims of the laws of street, and not the courtroom. Trayvon Martin. Tamir Rice. Mike Brown. Freddie Gray. Philando Castile. Eric Garner. Too many to name. Students can evaluate the generations of protests for liberty and compare and contrast tactics and progress. Or consider pro/anti BLM perspectives. Is the organization anti-police/establishment? Let students decided based on research. It is in this place of unease that we can equip a generation to be builders and informed citizens that lead our country forward. I'm sure there were teachers who didn't agree with the Civil Rights Movement and thought actions by Black Americans and allies were the problem and disruptive to society. A viewpoint would not be accepted in the overwhelming majority of schools today.

2. The current reality. While some movements come and go, this one seems to be here for the long haul as Black Lives Matter chapters continue to spread across the world. Teachers can guard against misinformation by researching these chapters and their activities. For some of us it might take us out of our comfort zone, and that's okay. I think of my professional growth in same way as any other field. I can't imagine a doctor still using a stethoscope to diagnose major illnesses when medical advances have proven far more reliable methods. In the same way, we can't afford to turn a blind eye to the time and teach a "safe" curriculum that ignores our darkest hours and silences certain points of view.

3. For our students. Many of us teach in communities serving large populations of students of color. We have students who enter our classes fearful that they, or a family member could be next. This internalized fear is a LEGITIMATE concern. Gloria Ladson-Billings (1995, 2009) contends that schooling should be responsive to students in culturally relevant ways that support academic excellence and challenge the status quo Regardless of our class composition, we have to teach against fear so that our students know the facts. Bottomline: This is not a Black American issue, but an American issue. It is complex, and requires intentional and direct action with our students to address many of the deep rooted issues that permeate our society. Additionally, our students are talking about it anyway. Last year during recess the following occurred:

- Student: Mrs. Forman, do the police hate black people?
- Me: What makes you think that?
- Student: Well, I saw on the news that police keep killing black people.
- Me: Are they killing all Black people?
- Student: No, but a lot?
- Me: Are they killing the majority of Black people?
- Student: No, but the news said they killed a black man in his car.
- Me: Where did this happen? Did you catch why?
- Student: I don’t know they just killed him Mrs. Forman.
- Me: There has to be more there. Do you think police officers just walk up and kill black people?
- Student: I don’t think so… Student runs away and continues playing on the playground.
- Me: **Deep sigh**

I’ve had/overheard countless conversations like this about this topic (and more). These quick conversations make me think about my role as a teacher and how I can serve to get beyond I don’t know. But the news said. Students need information to allow them draw their own conclusions about the legitimacy of the BLM movement independent of teacher personal opinions.

I'll be posting a "how-to" blog in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, I've gathered some of my go-to resources when tackling topics and events that are not readily available in textbooks.

- Black Lives Matter: To know what the movement is about, I had to conduct some research. The first place I started was with the website itself.
- Teaching Tolerance:This is A MAJOR HUB! It contains numerous resources that assist teachers with driving towards standards while uplifting the voices of traditionally marginalized groups. The lessons include objectives and links to key resources.
- Teaching For Change: Another source of information and lessons that has a long standing reputation of assisting teachers will empowering their school communities to raise their voices and tell their stories and realities.
- PBS: I've found a lot of articles and videos that work well with my scholars and spark intense conversations. Note: Many of the resources are geared towards older students.

Teacher Books to Read
: There are so many books I can list that deal with issues of diversity, but for this topic, I have a top five. These books go beyond the topic and get into the complex history of Black Americans. These books (in my opinion) provide context for teachers to better understand barriers that served as catalyst for the Black Lives Matter Movement. In lieu of summaries, I'm positing non-affiliated links :)
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle T. Alexander
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Fictional yes, be still informative)
- For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood...and the Rest of Ya’ll Too by Christopher Emdin
- Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum
- This is Not a Test by Jose Vilson
- Multiplication is for White People by Lisa Delpit
Student Books to Read
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - High School
- All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely- High School
- Monster by Walter Dean Myers
- We Are All Born Free by Amnesty International - Elementary/Middle Read Aloud
- A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara- Elementary
- March Graphic Novels by John Lewis (get the entire set) - Upper Elementary/Middle
- Daddy There's a Noise Outside by Kenneth Braswell - Elementary/Middle Read Aloud

      Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). But that's just good teaching: The case for culturally relevant pedagogy. Theory into Practice, 34(3), 159-165.
     Ladson-Billings, G. (2009). The dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African American children (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Because this is such a dear topic, I am giving away a starter pack. It will include two teacher books and two students books. *The giveaway has ended.* Enter below, and as always, let me know what you think! Agree, disagree, neutral... let's talk it out in the comments.

All Love.
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Tanesha B Forman
White Teachers: Let's Talk About Race...NOW!

White Teachers: Let's Talk About Race...NOW!

Guest Post: This post was written by a colleague, Jeff Reamer who shares my passion for real talk! He's also willing to share additional resources and/or context. Please keep the conversation going in the comments! 

I was once at a professional development in which a group of predominantly white teachers was discussing the importance of academic English proficiency for students of color. Many teachers mentioned access to opportunity; others discussed college readiness. At one point, a white teacher stood up and said with a laugh, “Sure, kids need to know how to use proper English in order to be successful in school, but they also need to know that this is just how you speak in polite company!”

I was struck with what this mindset meant for the students in this teachers class. I’m sure the teacher believed they were saying something humorous or helpful (at the very least, neutral), when, in fact, they had committed an act of racialized aggression, aimed directly at the students they teach every day.

And we all do it. Alarmingly often.

For white teachers, the impact of our racial blind spots on our students’ relationship with school is heavy. White teachers who do not work to understand race and privilege, and discuss how these realities play out in their classrooms, almost certainly alienate, hurt and invalidate the experiences of students of color that sit before them each day. Young people notice this, even when we don’t, and the consequences are clear; the failure of our schools to provide a meaningful education for so many students of color speaks for itself. Public schools are predominantly white institutions into which filter most of our country’s Black and Brown students: we need to do the work, and we need to do it now.

Here are some ways to get started.

Do your own work first. Bringing race and privilege into your classroom begins, unequivocally, with you working on your own racial identity. The power differential that exists between a white teacher and students of color is mostly invisible to a teacher who hasn’t exerted enormous effort into unearthing what it means to be white. For example, in a literature class, it is easy for a white teacher to refer to academic English as “proper” or “correct” English. It is also easy to levy a judgement against words that have different meanings in different contexts as “wrong” or the student who uses them as “inarticulate.” Imagine, in whatever limited way you can, what it might feel like to hear that the Spanish your family speaks at home is somehow “improper,” or the patois that your mother speaks is “impolite.” It is invalidating, it signals “you don’t belong here,” and it happens all the time. Which brings me to my next point…

Learn to talk about coding. In this country, powerful white institutions (such a colleges) are comfortable with one iteration of English: academic English (sometimes insidiously referred to as proper English). This language is assigned power in our society largely because of its association with the white middle class. This does not mean, however, it is any more valid or complex than any other form of English (or any other language spoken in this country, for that matter). So, learn to recognize the beauty in other forms of English and languages that are not your own, and embrace that, despite not having equal power, they are equally meaningful. An example:
Teacher: What is Lysander doing in this section of the text?
Ky: He’s finessing Hermia. He says, “One turf shall serve as pillow for us both.” He’s trying to get with her.
Teacher: Solid evidence. Now translate “finessing” and “get with her” into academic English.
Ky: Um. He’s testing his limits with her…to see if he can become romantically involved? And she denies him.
Teacher: Ooh. I like it. You could also say, “She rebuffed his advances.” Rebuffed means denied in a context like this one.
Pay attention to language here – Ky is translating one English into another; his ideas are right from the start (and his expression of them emotionally satisfying), and he then simply translates them into a code he can use in another context. This is bound to lead to some giggles, and some exaggerated “white-sounding” formality at times. Relax. It’s fine.

Listen to students, especially when what you hear makes you uncomfortable. Then engage. In the same unit from which I pulled the earlier dialogue, I try as hard as possible to find examples of actors of color cast in Midsummer Night’s Dream. Problematically, the only readily available video recording of this play features an all-white cast. Kids notice immediately, and to explain away this iteration of racism in the name of academic expediency is to invalidate the pain this lack of representation can cause for many of my students.

It is therefore my job to engage with this valid criticism as valid, and counteract that reality as best as I can.* First, we spend time criticizing the portrayal of these characters (which are not given any physical descriptions in the original text) as all white. Then, we reimagine. Students are free to interpret the text in any way they choose (as long as it stays true to the Shakespearean language we are learning) after first reading and seeing scenes. This has yielded incredible iterations of the famous Hermia and Helena fight scenes (one of my favorites featured two students reimagining this fight as one their Trinidadian aunts would have).

*Note: This is not a replacement for representation of authors of color in curriculum.

Seek out your own resources. In your attempt to increase your cultural competency as a teacher, figure it out yourself. Or, rather, amongst yourselves. It is not the job of your students of color to “teach you how to teach them,” nor does that responsibility fall on teachers of color on your staff. It is our responsibility to figure this out. The internet has given us easy access to books by authors like Christopher Emdin, Lisa Delpit, Dr. Beverly Tatum and Jay Gillen; you can also get some great resources from Teach4Real or The Algebra Project. You can look in your area or in your organization for white racial justice affinity groups. Or, start your own. This seems like a lot of work because it is. One of my favorite thinkers in education, Jeff Duncan-Andrade, often says something to the effect of, “It took white people hundreds of years hard work to create this mess; it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get out of it.”

Embrace the struggle. A word of warning to all you would-be warriors out there: at times, this will feel unbearably messy, and we need to learn to let ego go. One of the side effects of welcoming conversations about race and privilege into your classroom is that kids will explore your responses to a set of ideas that they may have seen as off-limits in school (or at least in white teachers’ classrooms). For example, when you explain coding and engage with it for the first time, students may press you with difficult-to-answer (but fair) questions about you and your whiteness.
Sometimes (a lot of the times, at first), you’ll get it wrong. And that’s only ok if you commit to doing better next time. The students in your room cannot afford to have you recoil because you were made to feel uncomfortable – uncomfortable moments are not the plan backfiring. In some ways, they mean the plan is at least starting to work.

Whatever you do, do something, and do it now. The consequences of white teachers keeping conversations about race and diversity out of our classrooms are dire. For so many students, it makes school irreconcilable with their daily lives, with what they see on the news, and with what they hear in their communities. School becomes a place in which students feel unwelcome. For some, it is a hostile attack on their cultural identities. It takes work for us to understand this because we do not experience this as white people. However, underlying our job descriptions as white teachers is a responsibility to learn how to embrace discussions about race, even when it feels like it would be easier not to.

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Tanesha B Forman
Dos & Don'ts of an Inclusive Classroom

Dos & Don'ts of an Inclusive Classroom

Teachers are responsible for so much in a given day. Nothing is more important than ensuring that students are safe (emotionally and physically) and positioned to give their best effort. Teachers play a critical role in setting the tone and creating a strong classroom climate. Below are a few dos and don'ts that are a not a catch all, but a starting place.

1. Do Represent - Regardless of the demographics of your classroom, students need to see themselves and others represented in the classroom. Review your books, project units, math problems, quotes and other instructional materials and double check that names and visual images represent students from different backgrounds. #representationmatters
DON'T use stereotypes to guide decisions. All black american students aren't fans of Hip Hop. Additionally, if you have a class with one person of color, don't call on them to read the problem/story with character you perceive to be similar, or look to them as the voice of an entire group of people.

2. Do Affirm - Get to know students and their background. Affirm them by learning how they learn best, what makes them tick, what keeps them engaged, and how to best communicate with them. For example, in some cultures, looking people in the eyes can be considered disrespectful. 
DON'T force students into practices that don't work for them, or take a "one size fits all" approach.  Remember, fair is not equal. 

3. Do Keep High Expectations - All students regardless of their backgrounds deserve to be held to highest expectations. Teachers should be explicit with their expectations so that students are clear on what to do in order to be successful in the class. Celebrate these expectations in a manner that communicates your commitment to students and their learning trajectory. 
DON'T make excuses for students, or base high expectations based soley on the normative culture. 

4. Do Address Breaches - When something happens in the classroom that takes aim at someone's identity, it must be addressed. Not addressing it will have an impact on your culture and how students feel in your classroom. Children may say something to you, or their peers that is offensive, and as the leader of the classroom, teachers have a responsibility to address it. We aren't perfect, but we are the adults. Not sure how to respond? Consider the following:
*Take a moment to recognize what happened
*Journal activity
*Ask the person(s) impacted what will help
*Have a peer conference
*Discuss it in morning meeting
*Use an "Anonymous Jar" to have students write out their thoughts/feelings and discuss 
DON'T - Make light of serious situations, or ignore them. Remember, not saying something, says something! 

5. Do maintain relationships with key stakeholders - It's not always easy, but continuously make an effort to get to know the people who matter the most to students. There are some natural moments that we have (parent/teacher night, report card pickup, ect.), but teachers should have touchpoints in between those moments. Not always easy, but proves to students that you care about them beyond the four walls. Additionally, consider getting to know how guardians like to receive their communication (text, email, call). The tough part is restoring relationships with guardians that might not have gotten off on the right foot, or that have taken a turn in the wrong direction. I've experienced this more times than I've wanted and will say that it's humbling and a must. 
DON'T only contact parents/guardians when there's an issue, or as a the "main consequence" for students.

What additional strategies do you have? Please leave them in the comments! 
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Tanesha B Forman
CSI In the Classroom: How I turned my classroom into a crime scene

CSI In the Classroom: How I turned my classroom into a crime scene

My school has student “expeditions” which are week long deep dives into a particular area of interest for students.  The purpose of expeditions is to create a general learning experience that exposes students to a particular professional field.   I was assigned to create “CSI” in my classroom (despite no background knowledge other than what I’ve seen on TV...).  It’s an awesome idea, but it was difficult to find resources specific to this type of experience.  So I forged my own path. 

The Crime Scene Investigation lesson set the stage for students to utilize a number of skills such as sequencing, inferring, speaking and listening, and teamwork.   I broke the unit into three sections: skill builders, mini-cases, and “the big case”.  

Skill Builders - In order to set my students up for success, I created 5 different mini lessons to prepare for the case they would solve.  They learned about:
  • Fingerprinting 
  • Handwriting Analysis 
  • Footprints 
  • Tracking and Collecting Evidence 
  • Interrogating and Interviewing 
* I purposefully left out anything with blood and DNA because of the nature of my students’ experiences and my limited background knowledge.

Each student received a “training manual” with resources needed to complete the five skill builders.  I also incorporated pages for students to earn “gold stars” based on their participation and effort. 

Mini-Cases - My students lost their minds over these! Mini-cases gave students the opportunity to practice the skill builders before I assigned “The Big Case”.  Each student was given a clue (or two) and they had to work together (as a class) to create a timeline and develop theories about what happened.

The Big Case - All of the skills students learned helped them to solve “The Case of the Missing Mascot.” We transformed our principal’s office into a crime scene where students assigned stations to evaluate in small groups. After the investigation, we convened in our classroom where each group presented  the information they gathered with the rest of the class to solve the case.

Extras -  As I previously mentioned, the CSI lesson was meant to expose students to a professional field, so I pulled out all of the stops to make the most genuine experience possible.  These are not integral to the lesson and are truly bonuses to help get students into the CSI mindframe:
  • Badges - Each student had a personalized officer badge to wear during the investigations. 
  • Booklet - Students had individualized booklets to track notes and learnings.  
  • Nametags - To hook my students on the first day, I created name tags for their desk with their names scrambled.
My students were in love with this lesson and I will definitely incorporate it into my classroom again in the future.  My approach can easily be adapted, that said, if interested, check out my CSI Guide inclusive of all materials used in the unit. 

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Tanesha B. Forman
Keeping Your Classroom Crisp After Spring Break

Keeping Your Classroom Crisp After Spring Break

It’s so easy for students to check out after testing and spring break. As teachers we know how critical it is to thread student investment through the end of the year. Here are some tips and tricks that work to drive student engagement:

  1. CREATE A COUNTDOWN: Keep students excited by starting a end of grade countdown!
  2. CELEBRATE PROGRESS: Acknowledge and reward your kids’ progress!  They’ve worked so hard all year - don’t let that go unnoticed.
  3. COMPARE & CONTRAST: Read a book and watch the movie; afterwards set your students up to have meaningful discussion about the two.
  4. REFLECT: Have your students create a class or individual  memory book from the past school year.
  5. RAMP UP YOUR LESSON  PLANNING: Make sure your plans are tight and expectations don’t slip.
  6. INCORPORATE (more) BRAIN BREAKS:  Again, our kids work hard!  Build in a few extra brain breaks through the day to keep them fresh.
  7. STEP UP YOUR INVESTMENT SYSTEM: Be purposeful and diligent in keeping your kids invested in your class and their individual goals.  
  8. SPRUCE UP YOUR LESSONS WITH GAMES: Get silly by incorporating games into your lessons.  My kids are ALWAYS up for Pie Face, CSI, and Four Corners, to name a few.
  9. SET THEM UP FOR SUCCESS: Be open about what they can expect in the following school year.
  10. PREPARE: Give students work they will do in the next grade level.
  11. PROJECTS: Allow students to do projects reflective of their best learning styles
  12. PLAN A FIELD TRIP:  Take your learnings outside of school.  Seize the opportunity to have your students learn from other environments.

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Tanesha B. Forman
Nurturing Gratitude in the Classroom

Nurturing Gratitude in the Classroom

Gratitude: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
I've been exploring student empowerment and voice, and my role in creating a classroom culture that fosters the next generation of leaders and thinkers. This has led me to more lessons that focus on character education.
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.   - JFK
Gratitude is something I am trying (#inprogress) to embed in the daily language and habits of my classroom.  Why? Well, gratitude ups the positivity and optimism in the classroom and celebrates the rocky road of learning. Sometimes we fail or make mistakes, but often times those shortcomings have lessons that thankfully make us better. Below are a few strategies for cultivating the life habit of gratitude, in and out of the classroom.

1) Gratitude Journals 
Gratitude journals are perfect for capturing thankful thoughts on a regular basis. Journals give a personal space for students to reflect and collect all their grateful thoughts, and learn more about what really matters to them. Students can write to open-ended to prompts, create a story, write a list, or draw pictures that connect to gratitude. I use interactive notebook templates and a mini journal for students. I like the templates because of the variety of responses and outputs that can be used. I also use "mini" journals that don't require all the cutting and are just as effective. To take it to the next level with my fourth grade class, we have a classroom "Joy Journal" that circulates from student to student. Students can choose whether or not to share their name at the top (most do) and I assign someone to be the Joy contributor once a week. Students are only required to complete one entry.
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2) Quotes 
Quotes can be inspirational and spark engaging discussions and reflections in the classroom. As it relates to gratitude, I use quotes for student reflections by posting a quote and asking related questions such as:
   ✪ What does it mean?
   ✪ How does it connect to gratitude?
   ✪ Do you agree with the message? Why?
   ✪ How would you apply this message to your life?

3) Recognition
Recognizing gratitude and celebrating it regularly helps build the muscle memory that hopefully will extend beyond the classroom. The goal is for students to genuinely and frequently do this on their own. Strategies include having a gratitude challenge, giving awards, and posting shout outs. The more I've made what matters the most in our classroom visible, the more I've seen students making an attempt to show gratitude. As the classroom leader, I'm constantly trying to model this habit in my words and actions.

4) Gratitude Jar
Gratitude Jars are an awesome tool for classrooms to build a collective gratitude movement in the classroom. Students can place their gratitude in the jars and teachers can read them when the class needs a pick me up or a part of your morning meeting routine.
5) Classroom Meetings 
Classroom meeting are great for bring the class together and focusing on gratitude. Students can turn and talk to their peers about something they are grateful for, reflect on quotes, pull from the gratitude jar, share shout outs, or give awards. We have a little chant that we do when doing shout outs. It goes:
for all you do! 
When use this after giving shouts and students LOOOVVVEEE it! For those of us who don't have a designated classroom meeting time, think about the time before dismissal when you are closing out the lesson. As you wrap up celebrate the learning with questions like:
✪ Is there anyone who helped with you better understand the lesson?
✪ What are you thankful you learned today?

Interested in more? Click here
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Tanesha B Forman
Student Voice in the Classroom

Student Voice in the Classroom

When thinking about student voice in my classroom a few things come to mind. The biggest and most important (in my opinion) is the agency students have over their educational experience, and how they are valued as members of our classroom community. While I am the instructional leader of my classroom, my students are the most important contributors to the success of the classroom.
❤ I value the (reasonable) feedback of my students as an opportunity for me to get better, and for them to learn as much as possible.
❤ I value the knowledge and experience that my students bring to my classroom and strive to create a classroom that is relevant and inclusive. 
❤ I believe that student leadership and active involvement is critical to developing young minds and citizens.  

1) Foster Collaboration 
☆Allow students to work together in groups.

2) Leverage Social Media and Technology
Do you use Twitter? Instagram? Have a class website? Teachers can use these sites to get students sharing ideas with each other, updating parents, and quickly communicating with students. Many schools are moving towards 1:1 classrooms and using Google documents, or a comparable platform for class assignments. This technology lends itself to students quicker feedback cycles.

3) Administer Class and Student Interest Surveys 
Class surveys allow teachers to collect invaluable information about the classroom climate and gives teachers a window into how students feel about their teacher. Some of the data *might* be difficult to digest, but it gives teachers a data point for which to improve and forge a stronger classroom culture. Teachers can take it to the next level (if comfortable) and have class discussions about the data. Student interest surveys, which most teachers administer during the beginning of the year are another way for teachers to get to know students and plan to leverage their interests into the class.

4) Listen 
Students want to feel heard. Even in the most challenging situations, teachers should remind students that their voice matters and that you are listening to them. When students are too upset to talk I usually say, "I want to hear your side when you are ready" and I circle back to them. Asking students key questions such as:
☆ How did that make you feel?
☆ What can be done to improve?
☆ Is there anything you want to share?
☆ I heard you say... Is this correct?
These questions reinforce that you want to listen and that perception matters to you. In my class this strategy has improved relationships with students and built trust.

5) Use Classroom Bulletin Boards & Parking Lot
Bulletin boards and parking lots are another way to gather key information from students that can amplify student voice. The key here is to respond to the data and call your shot for students by naming the changing you are making based on their feedback.
6) Incorporate Socratic Seminars
I love the discussion cycle with students! Students prep and respond to each other. Socratic seminars require students to analyze a text and engage in conversations that help each other better comprehend ideas and issues in the text. Students are solely responsible for preparing for the conversation and keeping it moving using the habits of discussion. Students come to shared meaning of the text through listening and providing specific evidence for an argument.

7) Use Show Calls to Display Student Work 
Similar to show and tell, but it's all about their work. After giving students a written assignment, or independent practice, I walk around the room giving quick feedback and looking for a student work. Teachers can select a student paper that represents a common misconception, nailed it, or falls somewhere in between. Take the paper and project it using a doc camera so that all students can clearly see it. If it's the first time doing this, be sure to set expectations or model how to evaluate each other's worth with respect. After projecting the work, lead the class through a discussion where they analyze it by explaining key strengths and areas for growth. This should be a student discussion and afterwards have students to use the feedback they gave each other to update their own work.

8) Have Students Set Goals 
Setting goals is another way to promote student perspective and voice in the classroom. Depending on the age of students, they'll likely need support with tracking goals. In my classroom we use the goal boards created with resources from the Super Hero Teacher and each student has their goal on their desk. For my students who struggled with goal setting, I taught them how to write and a track a goal for the week. Each student at my school sets a quarterly goal with their family members.

9) Give Student Choice Menus
I love these for projects and early finishers. Teachers give students a menu of options to select to do after they've completed the required work, or even as homework. I celebrate power of choice in my classroom.

10) Shout Outs
Shouts out are a great way for students to celebrate each other. Teachers can post shouts in the room or simply have a time when students can share their shout outs. Something I've found helpful is for students to understand what makes a shout out powerful. We talk about the difference between saying "Shout out to my friend Candy" versus "I'd like to shout out Candy for being a friend who listens to me and helps me feel better during difficult times."

What additional strategies do you have? Let's discuss in the comments!


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Tanesha B Forman