Setting the Stage With the Youngest Learners

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As classrooms around the world become more student centered, students must learn to think and communicate clearly for their voice to be meaningful and productive. I teach first and second graders to examine points of view and problem solving through De Bono’s six thinking hats. Using actual plastic hats, the young students learn to discuss issues and express their opinions as they try on different hats and change their thinking accordingly. As they learn flexibility in thinking, they also learn creativity in problem solving and build confidence in expressing their thoughts. Creating an environment of respect and creativity in thinking encourages young children to take a risk as they voice their ideas in a group. Here is a link to a reproducible game that can be used with students of any age to build thinking strategies: link.

There are many opportunities locally and globally as well as in classrooms for student voices to be heard. Following a TakingITGlobal webcast about orangutans in Borneo, my second graders created a video to share their thoughts with the world: link. The following year, first graders used technology to share their thoughts about beavers, as the furry creatures destroyed a local park by cutting down many of the trees along the nature trail: link.

Student Voice has become an increasingly important part of education. As we ask our students to take a more active role in the classroom and the world around them, we must provide opportunities for them to learn successful skills and strategies to express their ideas. They are never too young to begin.

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