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Week after week I continue to reflect on the importance of student voice in the classroom, and after a week of professional development activities, it still consumes my thoughts, plans, and conversations with colleagues. I was lucky enough to attend the ICE Conference this week and connected with numerous teachers and #EdTech gurus from around the country. I left feeling refreshed and eager to try some new activities in my classroom. Ultimately...these new activities centered around giving voice to ALL students in my classroom by asking them to be accountable and share their learning.

My favorite, most memorable session of the conference centered on how to effectively check for understanding in the classroom. Holly Clark, co-author of The Google Infused Classroom, led the session and is a rock-star because the focus of her session was not EdTech tools; instead, she focused on the most important part of education: how our students learn and demonstrate their learning. She discussed pedagogy and then explained how we can integrate technology to make learning visible, promote student voice, and share student work. If you follow this blog, you know this is right up my alley. She discussed various tech tools, but the focus was on WHY the tool helped magnify our students' learning and growth. This week, I want to share an experience from my sophomore English classroom, inspired by what I heard during this session.

You know it is a good day when you can take what you learned at a conference and apply it in the classroom the very next day. Well this week, it became a reality for my classroom. During Holly's session, she discussed Flipgrid, an awesome video response tool that amplifies student voice. I've used Flipgrid in the past but in a small capacity. It is pretty awesome and super easy to use. If using Flipgrid, all students are accountable and have to articulate their thoughts, ideas, and questions. In addition, it allows students to learn from their peers because it provides a bulletin board style format that makes it easy to share their work and communicate with each other. Here comes the high school students are terrified to be on camera. So, when I've assigned it, they complain about it and get super uncomfortable. We all know how scary it is to be recorded and then share this recording with others, so I understand and appreciate this emotional reaction; however, I decided very quickly during this session that it is not a good enough reason to not incorporate it into my class. As with anything, my students can and will adjust with proper coaching and motivation from me. So...I walked into my classroom empowered by this thought and had my students complete a Flipgrid activity the next day...and the day after. Despite their complaints, I learned SO much about my students and their reactions to our current text because they all voiced them through this awesome tool. Also, their comfort level seems to improve with more practice using the tool. Winning!

So...this got me thinking about some future class work that I can effectively enhance, using Flipgrid and other student-centered tools, in order to transform my students' learning experience. Here are a few ideas for my upcoming unit that can be applied to any classroom or subject:

  • Reading /Annotations - As we read The Great Gatsby, I plan to ask my students to do a video response to different chapters or events. Instead of annotating or completing a short reading check quiz, students will be asked to answer a question or articulate their understanding of the plot, character, or thematic ideas. Talk about connecting all students to the text!
  • Academic Discussions - My students complete various academic discussions in a variety of ways - whole group, small group, etc. Typically, I have the students reflect after the discussion on their involvement and the discussion itself. Instead of asking them to write it down, I plan to ask my students to do a quick Flipgrid video to reflect on something regarding the discussion: self-assessment, peer assessment, further development of a discussion question, new understandings based on the discussion, and/or follow up questions about the discussion. I could even take that one step further....ask students to then watch and respond to one another. Invite other classes (from our school and/or other schools) to post/respond. This would really expand the academic discussion and audience for our students. Now, that's #whatsup! 
  • Writing - In my classroom, I constantly stress the importance of writing. Regardless of my students' love of English class, they will have to write in some compacity in the future. I've learned very quickly that students struggle with the same skills on various writing assignments throughout the year. For example, my sophomore students need to improve on quote integration. I review it every unit, but it is still not done properly in their writing. As you know, I constantly blog about my belief that the best way to assess someone's understanding of a topic is to have them verbally talk about it. For my next writing assignment, I am going to ask my students to use FlipGrid to explain how to properly integrate quotes in writing. If they can't explain it, they will need to review it in order to do so. And boom...the goal is that it will then happen in their writing. 
Just like that, I am enhancing and transforming my instructional practices by amplifying and promoting student voice. My students need to be accountable for their learning, and I need to continually check their thinking and understanding as I help them gain success in and out of my classroom. As a lifelong learner, I am extremely thankful for the numerous motivators and resources that help me improve my craft. #whatsup