How to Give Students a Voice

How to Give Your Students a Voice
#6 | Over the next 2 weeks, we will continue to deconstruct our master resource rubric and break down all of the components of an authentic Common Core lesson. Check out parts 1234567, and 8 of the series.

The following post was written by guest blogger and 4th grade teacher, Maureen Devlin, from Massachusetts.

In his book, Visible Learning for Teachers, Maximizing Impact on Learning, John Hattie writes, “Teachers need to be directive, influential, caring, and actively and passionately engaged in the process of teaching and learning.” That’s exactly why most teachers become teachers — they want to care for, influence, and engage young learners in ways that empower learning. Learning for both the day and for life. Teachers know that education shapes individuals’ lives, and educational professionals want to be an active part of that process.

So, in this age of education evolution and the introduction of many new standards, strategies, processes, and tools, how do we do it all?  How do we create vibrant learning communities where children thrive each and every day?

Facilitate active learning...


First, know your students well. Understand who they are, their needs, and what they’re interested in. Then match students’ needs and interests with content standards by designing meaningful, real-world learning experiences with, and for, students. Design doesn’t mean you do it all, instead it means that you are a collector and curator of the best tools, strategies, processes, materials, and content, teaching elements that engage, empower, and educate students well.

Next, start with visualizing the end product. What do you want students to create, learn, and take away from this learning experience. After that, use the 4 C’s of education, communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking skills, as your lens for choosing and employing the best learning design elements. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Will these elements develop students’ communication skills?

  2. Do the project parameters foster apt collaboration?

  3. Does the learning experience promote student creativity and problem solving?

  4. Are students using critical thinking skills while completing the learning tasks and endeavors?

Finally, create a menu of activities preferably linked to a project website that you may share with all members of the learning community: students, families, educators, and leaders. Introduce the menu early, preferably two to three weeks prior to the learning experience, and invite the learning community’s review. Revise the unit plans accordingly, and create a unit time line. Then begin the learning experience with an introduction, and review of the project expectations. After that, students’ independent, active learning begins, and your role shifts from learning designer to that of coach, mentor, and guide as you support your learners.

Well designed learning experiences create dynamic learning communities as students and educators travel down vibrant learning paths–paths that engage all in meaningful endeavor. UClass is one tool that helps me design meaningful, standards-based learning experiences for students. The platform guides me to include the most essential elements of learning design. The easy online access to UClass lessons has made it easy for me to share learning goals and activities with the entire learning community.  Also, participation in online threads such as Twitter and Google+  inform this journey as well as real-time participation in school learning events, local and national conferences, edcamps, timely reading, and online share via blogs, virtual conferences, webinars, and presentations.

John Hattie defines educators as “activators,” and encourages us to “know thy impact,” an impact that is defined by the learning experiences we foster and nurture each and every day.

Maureen Devlin @lookforsunMaureen Devlin, NBCT
4th grade Teacher, Wayland, Massachusetts
UClass Teacher Board Member




1: Our beef with the Common Core
2: Holy moly! Teachers aren’t teaching Common Core standards
3: How to not be a bad teacher
4: Get your lessons diving deep in cognitive rigor
5. Help! I Lost All of My Students!
6. How to Give Students a Voice
7. How To Be Your Students’ Favorite
8. 4 Differentiation Tips You Need to Know