Engagement, Teaching

I’ve Got Something To Say! How student voices inform our teaching By David Booth

A review of I’ve Got Something To Say! How student voices inform our teaching by David Booth, Pembroke Publishers, 2013. ISBN: 978-1551382890

David Booth is internationally recognized for his long career in education promoting literacy and a love of words. In this new book, he provides a thorough, detailed reference full of meaningful and specific suggestions for teachers to encourage students to express their voices and take responsibility for learning. He advocates the importance of a classroom where all student voices are heard and all students receive opportunities to make choices in their learning.

This is a book that could last a teacher a lifetime. Each chapter is dense with suggestions on voice in story-making, role playing, writing, using technology, speaking and reading aloud, and understanding literature. Its demands are potentially difficult to implement: to be fully engaged; to use imagination; to construct creative opportunities for speech in learning; and to structure a democratic classroom. However, Booth believes “teachers have the potential to create contexts that permit and encourage young people to express their thoughts and feelings about issues and concerns that matter to them.”

Booth insists that “oracy” is as important as literacy and numeracy, and student voices are central to effective classroom learning – in all contexts, not just within a language unit. Talk includes speaking, listening, engaging in conversation, and learning through interaction in “a community of voices” (including online communities). It is a way to examine ideas, share thinking, raise questions, reveal biases, rethink answers, offer explanations, report information, and come to grips with complex issues.

Booth delivers many specific examples of how his ideas can be incorporated into the classroom, with lists such as “Promoting Oral Reading Fifteen Ways.” He deals with learners of all kinds, including introverts and extroverts, those with various learning challenges, and ESL students. The final words of the book reflect its intention: “Can you and your colleagues find ways, as a school, to value student voice, to recognize each student’s progress towards finding, freeing, and contributing thoughts and feelings as an involved agent of her or his own learning?”

Photo: Dave Donald

First published in Education Canada, November 2014

Meet the Expert(s)

Caroline Tennent

Caroline Tennent is a secondary school Drama and English Teacher in the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board (Ont.)

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