As I was working through the pile of papers on my desk and my digital files a few weeks ago, I discovered several items that reminded me of the importance of student voice in personalizing learning. These visual reminders of the school year found a permanent place in my office because of how they showcase the strategies that encourage student voice.

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  • The program from our second annual Richland Two Film Festival which reminded me of our screening and the standing room only crowd who came to support our students. The students who produced the films were so excited to see their work on the big screen and share with parents and other community members. Providing students with an opportunity to exhibit their work is key in encouraging them to create their best work.
  • Postcards created by Rachel Mongin’s students at Sandlapper Elementary for the Water for Shoes campaign. The students teamed up for the marketing campaign and had a successful project while also pursuing their individual passions and interests. The student social media team posted updates all year. Follow them on Twitter to learn more: @castleclassroom. Students who have an authentic and collaborative learning experience will be more passionate about sharing their learning with others.
  • Photos and video of students presenting their TED-Ed Club talks at the SC Midlands Summit. I was amazed at the poise of the students who presented in front of a crowd of 500 teachers, parents and administrators. When students are challenged, they will rise to the challenge and produce exemplary work.
  • A Hangout On Air of students from Bridge Creek Elementary participating in a Google Connected Classrooms TIME for Kids hangout with Lois Lowry. When we allow students to reach out to experts as part of the research process, their learning will be accelerated.
  • High school students in Jeffrey McMicken’s classes showcasing the work they pursued in their 20% time. One student created an original song and recorded a music video of her performance using a local recording studio to complete the production. Students become entrepreneurs when they must find a way to make their ideas a reality.

I spoke about these students at the ISTE Google for Education Teaching Theater and was honored to have a talented artist use sketchnoting to capture the stories. I brought home the sketch and have framed it to hang in my office as a reminder of the power of personalizing learning for students and helping them find their voice.

As you prepare for the new school year, take time to brainstorm with other team members about ways that you can encourage student voice during the 2015-16 school year. The challenge question is: How might we create and sustain a classroom environment where students have voice in their learning? Pick your best ideas and put them into action. I look forward to hearing how you’ve solved the challenge and seeing the amazing work that your students showcase.

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