6 ways to create opportunities for student voice in Nearpod

October 29, 2021Erika Tepler

Creating opportunities for student voice in the classroom is more important now than ever. If you’re finding student motivation levels to be somewhat low, you’re not alone. The excitement of coming back to school has worn off and now, teachers everywhere are dealing with the strange effects the past two years have had on student creativity and classroom participation. But given the unique circumstances of this school year, it’s a great time to get experimental in the classroom by amplifying student voice.

The traditional classroom offers very limited time for students to actually speak, which we know helps deepen comprehension and increase student motivation.  If we want to accelerate learning of content, we have to ensure that students have the skills to adequately process information. Teachers everywhere are noticing that students have returned to the classroom with fewer social skills for active participation and so we have to make teaching the proper skills  a priority.

1. Increase student interaction

To increase student talk, provide ample opportunities for student to student interaction and scaffold these learning experiences. Teachers have been encouraged to engage students in turn-and-talks as well as think-pair-shares for many years now but have often struggled with implementation. It’s tremendously challenging to hold students accountable in large classrooms. We can’t possibly be everywhere at once! 
However, we can mix best practices for in-person learning and leverage the tech we’ve used online to address some of these concerns. Open-Ended Questions allow voice recording. The next time you ask your students a question, make sure voice recording is enabled. Provide sentence starters in the Reference material section that guide a turn-taking scenario. Have them turn and talk, recording their conversation, and then write an individual response before submitting their work. You’ll have an immediate record of the conversation and it will be saved in your Reports. Imagine bringing that to a parent-teacher conference!

Larger academic conversations in groups of four can also be recorded. I often hear from teachers that they enjoy whole class conversations because they are able to guide the thinking. Do the math- in a 25 student classroom, a 20 minute academic conversation provides little time for the back and forth required to negotiate meaning. Breaking kids into small groups means letting go of some of that control, but if we encourage them to practice academic language and then record, we add so much more student voice to our classrooms. 

Academic conversations, including simple turn-and-talks, need to be designed. We can create learning experiences that invite students to negotiate meaning with peers. A simple way to start is with a surprising VR Field Trip such as visiting underwater gardens, the surface of Mars, or the inside of a Tesla. Invite students to discuss what they’ve seen and predict how it might tie into future learning. Provide sentence frames that encourage dialogue including the start of meaningful questions and stems for paraphrasing.

Student to student interaction is essential for retaining academic vocabulary and conceptual understandings. Students also need low-stakes opportunities to express their social and emotional needs that aren’t necessarily for practicing language and thinking skills.  

2. Check in on students social and emotional mindsets

The Collaborate Board is great for quick check-ins at the beginning of class. Try asking simple questions about mood and don’t forget to add in a Mood Meter as reference material in case students get stuck. The same can be done with an Open-Ended Question and allows those who are struggling with written expression to just talk it out.

Asking students about their feelings and giving low-pressure moments for them to be heard, affirms your holistic care and commitment.

3. Use polls to make decisions about classroom procedures and learning

The Collaborate Board is great for quick check-ins at the beginning of class. Try asking simple questions about mood and don’t forget to add in a Mood Meter as reference material in case students get stuck. The same can be done with an Open-Ended Question and allows those who are struggling with written expression to just talk it out.

Student voice doesn’t just mean students are talking in class. Invite students to participate in making decisions and allow for student choice around classroom procedures and learning. The Poll feature is a simple and anonymous way for all students to make their opinion heard. 

Elementary learners can make class decisions about healthy snack options, times for brain breaks, movement break options, and even what time of the day they’d like to learn about certain subjects. 

Middle school learners can contribute to decisions related to homework expectations, independent reading and how they show their learning. Polls can also be used when setting guidelines on appropriate and inappropriate behavior. One activity might include reading about different classroom behavior scenarios and then writing short, anonymous reflections using the Collaborate Board. Add in a follow-up poll to determine what response students would expect from the teacher in the particular scenario. 

For high school learners, consider using Polls to determine how much students value different procedures. If students’ beliefs  differ greatly from your own, consider making adjustments or adding time to explicitly teach the why behind the procedures. Allow students to weigh in on work submission due dates, extension activities, and their comfort with the lesson pacing. A True/False question stating “This is moving too quickly” can be easily added on the fly and gives student voice in the moment while providing the teacher with important feedback.

4. Invite students to reflect on their classroom experiences

Inviting students to reflect on their classroom experiences gives us important information to adapt future lessons while boosting learning. We already know that metacognitive practices deepen comprehension and increase content acquisition. 

The Collaborate Board is a fantastic environment for students to share how they enjoyed and benefited from a learning experience. Not every lesson is a home run and it’s helpful for both students and teachers to understand why. Understanding how we learn helps us become better learners and know how to address gaps. It’s equally important that we understand why lessons do work for our students so that we can repeat the processes.

Open-Ended Questions are another great activity option for reflection on learning. Students can write or speak extended responses. Use the Reference section to provide examples of what written or spoken reflection looks like to improve student writing. An OEQ that reflects on the daily lesson is an excellent exit ticket. Don’t forget that both OEQs and the Collaborate Board are available in Quick Launch and are easy to use even when the rest of the lesson isn’t in Nearpod. 

5. Offer opportunities for student choice

If you want to watch student creativity take off, offer student choice. A simple choice menu allows students options to direct their own learning, increasing their sense of agency. Students make their voice heard when they are given the opportunity to make decisions about their own learning. Moreover, students are more likely to be engaged in lessons and tasks they’ve chosen rather than those they’ve been assigned.

It is easy to create choice boards  with objects and hyperlinks to Student-Paced lessons and other resources. All you need to do is find a few lessons around a particular topic and launch them as Student-Paced. Create the actual board in a PDF or Google Slide with screenshots of the lessons. Add hyperlinks to the screenshots. Make sure the sharing settings are appropriate and send the board in Preview mode to students or embed it as Web Content in your Nearpod lesson! 

After providing a choice menu, make sure to ask for student feedback. Collect data on which lessons appealed to students most and learn why. A Poll followed by an Open Ended Questions is the simplest way to gather this information. 

Authentic tasks and projects are another wonderful way to amplify students’ creativity. Authenticity creates meaning, which is both motivational and engaging. Grounding learning in real-life objectives gives students a clear why for engaging in tasks. 

6. Bring student voice into the classroom with a Nearpod’s student contest

Nearpod has a variety of contests that promote both student voice and student creativity. Check out the recent contest celebrating Asian/Pacific American Heritage to get a sense of the fun and exciting challenges Nearpod offers. The winner had her idea professionally produced into a fantastic educational video that’s available for all Nearpod users! 

Students benefit from identifying their own opportunities for authentic learning within their communities. There are plenty of lessons in the Nearpod library that support inquiry and research that can assist in creating and executing a community-based project. 

Mix technology with best practices in instruction to routinely amplify student voice. Tech will never replace fantastic teachers, but when leveraged appropriately, can help unleash student creativity and dramatically increase student engagement.

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