Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How to give students voice

Here is the scene:  Nine children, ages 6 to 11, standing in front of an audience of roughly 250.  An adult choir standing on the stage behind them.  The children begin to sing a simple song, quietly and hesitantly.  The kind of quiet where you can easily pick out the individual voices fading in and out as they scan the audience for a reaction.  The song is simple and the verses repeat.  On the second pass through, the sopranos from the choir behind them join in.  The children stand a little straighter.  The next pass, same words, and the tenors join in.  The children are locked in, now smiling and singing straight ahead.  Third pass, and the baritones swell as the song fills the room.  With the full force of the choir behind them, I catch a look at one little girl, eyes closed, head tilted back, signing for all she can.
Note: Photo merely representational.  Courtesy of: OLX

This is how we give our students voice.   Many of us are getting better at giving problems, giving questions, giving the work back to our students and letting them lead the way.  What we neglect to do, however, is remember to follow them when they go somewhere. 

What I learned from the adult choir a few weeks back when I observed  the scene above is that we can share the stage with our students without stealing the spotlight.  That performance was always about the children's choir, but when their words were picked up by the adults around them not only were the words themselves amplified, the children singing found more strength in their own voices. 

Giving a space for student voice allows them to speak.  Picking up and joining with their own words is how we elevate a recital into a movement.

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