5 Ways to Empower Your Students...

Here are 5 concrete examples of how I am empowering my German 2 and 3 students. I was inspired to write this post after reading a great post by Chris Wejr (@mrwejr) on Giving Students CHOICES. Empowering students, giving students choices, and making sure their voices are heard are crucial pieces to increasing student engagement and motivation.

to empower: 1 - to give or delegate power or authority to; authorize
                   2 - to give ability to; enable or permit

Here are 5 ways I authorize and enable my students to take control of their learning:

1) Herr Tarte Blog - With my newfound interest in blogs, it was only fitting that I started a blog for my German classes. Students have done blog posts about German class; they have left comments on my blog about their feelings toward certain activities, and they have written about technology integration in German class. Additionally, each student now has their own German blog where they have learned to write and respond to each other.

2) Facebook - I started a Facebook group this year for my students. Each week we have a weekly discussion question that gives students the opportunity to voice their opinion on things we are doing in class. This platform meets the kids where they already are, while also giving them more of a say in their education. Here are a few of the weekly questions they have been asked:

- What is the role of homework in schools...what % of your grade should be homework / projects / presentations?
- How do you feel about the Flip Camera so far in class?
- We just finished a Prezi project...what did you think? Should we use it again...should I use it next year?
- We just finished reading a story...what kind of project would you like to do to demonstrate your understanding?
- If you could design the perfect school...how would it operate and what would it look like?
- What are your favorite parts of this class...what are your least favorite parts?
- How can we use technology in schools to improve learning?

3) Flip Camera - I have been using the Flip Camera as another means for giving my students a voice. I give the students a discussion prompt and ask them to talk for 30 seconds to a minute about a particular aspect of German class. The students also have the opportunity to watch what other students have said, which gives them an idea of how others students think things are going.

4) In-Class Discussions - This is perhaps the simplest and most "old school" way on the list, but it continues to be productive and worth while. When asking the students questions about German class, they (for the most part) do not hold back. The good news is you hear the truth from the students...the bad news is you don't always hear what you want to hear.

5) Herr Tarte Assessment - I got this idea from Shannon Smith (who also happens to have an awesome blog). With 1st semester over, it was only fitting that I gave my students the opportunity to assess me. Here is the assessment I provided them: Herr Tarte Assessment

As I previously mentioned, empowering and giving students a voice can be a double-edged sword. On the positive side, you will most likely get an accurate representation of what the students believe, and they will have a voice in their education, which is awesome! On the negative side, you must be prepared to acknowledge and respond to their opinions (even if you don't agree). If you don't plan on listening and using their feedback, then you should save yourself the time and don't bother asking. Your students will NEVER forget if you ask for their opinion and you don't acknowledge it...

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Tags: collaboration, communication, in, individualized, learning, schools, technology

Comment by Heidi Siwak on January 24, 2011 at 8:00pm

Gutentag Herr Tarte, alright, that's it for my German.  I loved ready your ideas for empowering your students.  I recently ran a self-directed small unit with my grade 6 French students.  Our theme was winter. They designed the unit including the test. Students selected vocabulary that they wished to learn, planned their learning and practice activities and worked to achieve their goals.  The focus was strictly on building vocabulary as this was our first time through student-directed learning.  The reaction from the students was very positive.  I look forward to following your  blog. 

Heidi Siwak


Comment by mia gomez on March 11, 2011 at 9:52am
I love this idea.  Learning another language and being able to speak and read it practicly is another thing.  I think that blogging a question in for example spanish,, and having the students have to comment at least 3-4 times in spanish and then to eachother would be a great way to intergrate a popular practice of blogging and learning and using that language.


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