Creating Action Between Students and Adults

SoundOut Workshop Guide for Student/Adult Partnerships by Adam Fletcher


Introduction: Activity for 8-40 students and/or adults

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Goal: When this session is complete, participants should be able to…

  • Simulate the challenges of planning a project
  • Have a group examine how they function under pressure
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Time: 40 minutes

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Materials: Long rope

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Space: Outdoors, with some variation in terrain

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Considerations: This activity has the potential to cause great strife within a group as it involves functioning—or, more accurately, dysfunctional, under both pressure and physical strain. You will want to debrief the activity carefully if strife is evident. Also be prepared for possible anger directed at you as a facilitator. With all that said, this activity is an excellent metaphor for how a project comes together and the difficulties encountered.

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  1. Explain to the group that this activity involves screeching together in tight quarters. Anyone who feels uncomfortable participating (due to claustrophobia, twisted ankle, whatever) can coach from the sidelines.
  1. Ask the group to stand in a circle. Tell participants to take a big step forward, then another, then another. Keep ding this until there is no circle. Instead, you should have one big mass of loosely packed people.
  1. Take the rope and wrap it around the group. Make sure ahead of time that the rope is cleared of tangles and will wrap without you having to clear it.
  1. Pace out for them (briskly walk through, explaining as you go) a short but mildly challenging course that should involve at least having to navigate a couple steps or a one-to-two foot wall, going around a tree or bush and maybe under a pole, all depending on the terrain you have to work with.
  1. Explain that their task is two-part: To travel through the course while finding out something new about a person they are standing near. Any questions? Ready? Go!
  1. Pay attention to what they do and how they do it. What kinds of roles do people take on? What sort of conflict arises? What attitudes and emotions are surfacing?
  1. When the group is finished, let them celebrate their success (or anger, or frustration), then debrief?
    • How did it go? What happened? What was it like? [ask for reactions from people in the front, middle, back]?
    • How did people feel? [Again, ask for reactions from the front, middle, and back.]
    • What worked? What didn’t work?
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NOTE: Call any specific behaviors to attention and ask what was going on.

  • Did you have a plan? Was everyone included in the plan?
  • How many people were able to find out something new about someone near them?
  1. At this point you should have received enough input form the group to make a couple points. Generally, the people in the front of the group just take off and then get frustrated because the people behind the aren’t moving fast enough. The people tin the middle will notice the people in the front are going and decide that they had better start moving, too (although they aren’t really sure what’s going on). Meanwhile, the people in the back have the rope digging into them and are calling for people to slow down (calls which usually go unheeded). Ask if anyone has had the experience of being in a group where they were in the “back or in the “middle.” What’s it like? Also. If not many people were able to find out something new about someone near the, ask why. Often a group will lose track of part of what it se out to do when things start getting crazy.The dynamics of this activity are rich. Make sure you have enough time to debrief and use whatever happens in the group to shape the questions you ask.
  • What would you do differently if you were to do this again?Usually people will say, “plan!” Make the point that in a group that’s often the first thing to be avoided. Ask them to think about how they will make sure that people in the “front” hear what people in the ‘back” are saying. Remind them that participation of the whole group is needed. Keeping this activity in mind, how can they ensure their whole group is involved as they work together?
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Workshop Outlines

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All this and more is covered in the time-tested, student-approved SoundOut Workshop Guide for Student/Adult Partnerships!

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Lesson Plan on Creating Roles for Students and Adults

SoundOut Skill Building Lesson Plans
SoundOut participants in a collective impact activity for students and educators.
SoundOut participants in a collective impact activity for students and educators.


Introduction: This inquiry-based lesson plan requires a group of 4-40 students and adults. This activity was adapted from Youth Empowerment: A Training Guide (1990) created by CampFire, Inc.

Goal: When this session is complete, participants should be able to…

  • Provide the opportunity to carefully think through how to involve students in programs.
  • Deepen understanding of the work and commitment required for effective Student-Adult Partnerships

Time: 90 minutes

Materials: Flip chart paper and markers; copies of the worksheets from the end of this workshop.

Space: Enough to accommodate the group

Considerations: While not necessary, it is helpful if participants have first completed Exploring Group Strengths and Weaknesses and Students and Adults as Ideal Partners, both located in this section. Greater knowledge of individual strengths and interests, as well as what is needed to be an effective partner, helps to ground this activity in reality.




  1. Split the group into teams of about 5 people each, depending on size of group. Teams need to be mixed students and adults. Half the teams will work on roles for adults; the other half on roles for students.
  1. Hand out the appropriate work sheets to each team. Have participants work in their groups to complete them.
  1. Teams report back on the roles they developed. Allow for questions and comments.
  1. Close with a discussion, including:
  • What was it like to create these roles?
  • How realistic do you think the descriptions are? Why or why not?
  • How might you apply these job descriptions to your work together?


Defining the Role of a Student

Describe the role for students.


Answer the following questions about the opportunity:

  1. Is this a real job? What is its usefulness to the class or school?
  1. Will this position lead someone to greater responsibility in the class or school?
  1. Is adequate support and supervision available from the staff? Do staff know how to supervise?
  1. What skills, training, experience, and knowledge will students gain from this opportunity?


Answer the following questions about possible candidates for this opportunity:

  1. Who will really want to fill this role? Is this work that is of interest or value to some students? Why?
  1. What knowledge, skills and attitudes are necessary to succeed in this role?
  1. How can you adjust the work schedule, quantity of work accomplished, quality of work accomplished, nature of training, responsibility for others, degree and kind of supervision, formal reporting requirements, and other parts of the opportunity so that more students might qualify?



Defining the Role of an Adult

Describe Opportunity Here:


Answer the following questions about the opportunity:

  1. Specifically what will this person need to do to make Student-Adult Partnerships work?
  1. How is this different from existing opportunities in the class or school?
  1. What kind of resources (time, training, other) will the person need in order to be successful?


Answer the following questions about possible candidates for the opportunity:

  1. What knowledge, skills attitudes, and other qualifications are necessary to succeed at this role?
  1. How could you determine if someone was suited for this role?


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Additional Lesson Plans


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Student Motivation

Speaker Adam Fletcher speaking to students in Arizona
Student motivation is a learner’s interest and commitment to anything throughout learning, schools or education.

Long seen as a “warm and fuzzy” part of learning, today motivation is being recognized as an essential and enduring part of success in education. Without student motivation, all learning strategies are moot, all school improvement efforts are nil, and all attempts at student engagement are irrelevant and pointless.

Student motivation is the main way to improve schools.

One of the most challenging parts of student motivation is the reality that its not as simple as either students are motivated or they aren’t. Instead, there are many shades of grey involved. Some learners show motivation by simply showing up for class every day, whether or not they’re prepared to learn. Other students have to be loudly, actively and hands-on involved in learning to show their motivation.

An important note about motivation comes from Larry Ferlazzo, a high school teacher in Sacramento, California, who suggests student self-motivation is the key to learning. In an excellent article, he summarizes what it takes for students to become self-motivated, and says there are four qualities of student self-motivation: autonomy, competence, relatedness, and relevance.

Student voice and choice does not automatically increase student motivation, either. By addressing barriers deliberately, educators for all levels of students can begin to motivate all learners in positive, powerful and effective ways towards Meaningful Student Involvement.

Many strategies for Meaningful Student Involvement, student voice and student engagement can increase student motivation, too.

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Student Voice Tip Sheet

Tools for Students by

Student Voice is any expression of any student, anywhere, anytime about anything relating to learning, school or the educational experience.

What Does Student Voice Include?

Student voice includes—but isn’t limited to—active or passive participation, knowledge, voting, wisdom, activism, beliefs, service, opinions, leadership, and ideas. Student Voice reflects identity, and comes from a person’s experiences, ideals, and knowledge.

Because they are expressions about learning, school or education, student voice can also include art, handraising, fighting, bullying, classroom participation, speaking at school board meetings, texting, attendance, students teaching, homework completion, self-assertion, tardiness, device usage, student newspapers, websites, evaluations, and much more.

Student Voice is Not the Same as…

  • Meaningful student involvement, which is a process for engaging students as partners in school improvement for the sake of education, community, and democracy.
  • Student engagement, which is the excitement and investment a young person feels towards learning
  • Student participation, which is a self-determined act of students committing to something in school.

Student Voice is About Outcomes.

A growing body of evidence surrounds Student Voice, as more students, educators and researchers identify powerful outcomes.


What is Student Voice?
Do you know the Basics of Student Voice?


What Can Student Voice Positively Affect?

  • School improvement goals
  • Academic achievement
  • The “engagement gap”
  • Students’ feelings of agency
  • Drop out rates
  • Retention of students of color
  • Curricular effectiveness
  • Teachers’ feelings of efficacy

Student Voice is About People.

Any person who participates in a process of learning, including every single student in every classroom in any grade, has a voice that should be engaged in schools.

Who Can Share Student Voice?

Who Can Listen to Student Voice?

Every adult working in education effectively has authority over students. This gives every adult the moral responsibility to listen to Student Voice.

  • Students
  • Classroom teachers
  • Building leaders
  • School support staff
  • School board members
  • District and state school leaders
  • Education agency officials
  • Education policy-makers
  • Curriculum makers
  • Education researchers
  • Politicians

Student Voice is About Action.

Student Voice allows students to share who they are, what they believe, and why they believe what they do with their peers, parents, teachers, and their entire school. Student Voice can be engaged in dozens of ways in classrooms and schools.


Student voice is any expression of any student, anywhere, about anything relating to schools, learning or the educational experience. Every student matters. Every student counts.

Where Can Student Voice Be Heard?

Student Voice is About Process.

As the list above shows, there are dozens of ways to actually engage student voice in schools. However, there are five primary steps that every responsible educator should take when working to infuse Student Voice in their practice. These steps make up the Cycle of Engagement.

  • Listen to Student Voice. This is a starting point – not a stopping place.
  • Validate Students. Acknowledge student voice and let students know you listened.
  • Authorize Students. Make new positions and teach new things to give students authority.
  • Take Action. Foster Student/Adult Partnerships that transform schools actively.
  • Reflect. Think about what happened, what you learned, and what you’ll do different.

Student Voice is About Power.

Power happens in many ways. Sometimes it is given, sometimes it is taken and sometimes it is created. There are many places and ways student voice can have power throughout education.


Student Voice Meaningful Student Involvement Student Engagement Process
SoundOut Theory and Practice

When does student voice have power?

Student Voice is About Outcomes.

Outcomes happen inside, throughout and afterwards student voice is expressed. Sometimes they are predictable and measurable, while other times they are immeasurable and undefinable.

When can student voice make a difference?

Student Voice is NOT About…



Student Voice Is THE Missing Piece In School Reform. Learn more <a href="">here</a>.

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Student Voice Toolbox

SV101Student voice is any expression of any student, anywhere, at anytime focused on learning, schools or education.


Here is a collection of tools you can use to embrace student voice in your school or community! Are you looking for professional development or student training opportunities? Coaching for your school, classroom or program? Learn about our services.





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