Learning to Lead: 3 Ways Lower School Girls Use Their Voice

It begins to form the moment girls walk into the Lower School for their first day as an Ellis student. It is practiced every time they share a story about their experiences in the classroom and at home. It grows through constant use, encouragement, and collaboration. What else could it be but student voice?
Building individual expression is a crucial part of the Lower School experience. In order to give girls the skills they need to articulate their thoughts, opinions, and point of view in an impactful way, the foundation is laid in pre-kindergarten through grade 4. Teachers intentionally provide the tools and space necessary for students to practice sharing their opinions, ideas, and perspectives. So how do they do it? We've outlined three dynamic ways Ellis teachers prompt students to use their voice below. 

1. Think-Pair-Share

“Why do you think it’s a good idea to learn a second language?” Brenda Martinez, Lower School Spanish Teacher, asked her students. “Think about it, then turn to your compañera and share your ideas.” After a few thoughtful moments of silence to deliberate their answer, students turned to their partners and discussed their ideas. “It’s helpful when traveling,” one girl said. “I want to take Spanish in high school,” another chimed in. 

This collaborative learning technique employed in Ms. Martinez’s classroom is happening all over the Lower School as teachers utilize the Think-Pair-Share (TPS) approach. Designed to boost interpersonal skills between classmates, TPS teaches students how to think, process, respond to, and share information in an engaging way. Girls know they can’t let their minds wander during class, because they have to be prepared to share with their neighbors. Gone are the days of only students who raise their hands having the chance to express their ideas—instead, by incorporating collaborative learning techniques, the entire class raises their voices.

2. Class Plays

What do the women’s suffrage movement, ocean habitats, and Mr. Rogers have in common? They’re all topics that have been brought to life in Lower School class plays! Integrated into the curriculum for students beginning in kindergarten, class plays give girls the opportunity to literally and figuratively use their voices. Through this performance and project-based learning, girls engage with content at a deeper level as they learn about the concept in social studies, sing about it in music class, and move along to choreography in dance class. From pitching ideas for the script to performing in front of their families and friends, participation in these productions offers a unique way for students to present and articulate their learning.

Lower School Assemblies

Starting as early as pre-kindergarten, students are encouraged to voice their perspectives and have opinions about the world around them. One instance of this occurs on Friday mornings when Lower School students meet in the auditorium for their weekly assembly. During this designated time, the ordinary turns to extraordinary as over a hundred girls and their teachers gather in one space to learn, grow, and share their school experiences with one another. 

“Whether students spend that time celebrating birthdays, listening to stories, sharing ideas and knowledge, or singing, they are growing in their understanding of who they are and what is important to them,” said Ann Martino, Head of Lower School, on Lower School assemblies. “Students learn how to present information—each grade is thinking in advance about what they want to share with the group. They’re preparing and practicing what they want to say, and how. All of this contributes to an understanding of having courage, how to be self-assured, and how to connect with those listening to you. We’re teaching girls that their voices are a gift they can—and should—share with others.”

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