2016 SoundOut Summer Camp

The 2016 SoundOut Summer Camp happens August 1-11 at Cleveland High School in Seattle

The 2016 SoundOut Summer Camp is happening August 1-12 at Cleveland High School in Seattle, Washington. Over the last five years, SoundOut has partnered with Seattle Public Schools to teach more than 100 students how to change the world! This year, we’re teaching students how to TAKE CONTROL of their education and how to MAKE SCHOOLS BETTER.

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Seattle students at the SoundOut Summer Camp
Students at the 2015 SoundOut Summer Camp at Cleveland High School in Seattle, Washington.
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The SoundOut Summer Camp is for Cleveland students who want to improve their learning and their school. Everyday includes workshops, activities, games, videos and reading.

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By participating (full attendance) in this program, students will receive 0.5 elective credit, and will be able to earn up to 20 service learning hours for participating in continuing activities throughout the school year.

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Silencing Student Voice

Barriers to School Transformation through Meaningful Student Involvement, Student Voice and Student Engagement by SoundOut.org.
Student engagement has a lot of different appearances.
Student engagement has a lot of different appearances.
To assist you in identifying and challenging adultism in schools, I’m adapting this list of common phrases educators have been conditioned to and may use to try to silence oppressed students, especially when students challenge them.
The quotations below are often used by educators against students; however, you can to hear similar strategic dismissals and silencing of the accounts and concerns among students and of parents and community members in education, too. Students of color, working class and poor students, queer and LGBTQI students, fat students, disabled students, and other marginalized students frequently hear these things more than other students. Silencing student voice happens a lot of different ways.
These strategies, and others that may have been missed, can be found in any order. Students’ experiences of educators trying to silence them commonly go something like this:
  • Educators assert authority over students
  • Educators question student knowledge/judgment
  • Educators delegitimize student responses
  • Educators delegitimize students
  • Educators enforce dominant point of view
  • Educators shut down debate or conversation
Strategy: Educators assert their authority over students.
1. No, but…
2. You’re wrong.
3. You’ve been wrong before.
4. That’s not true.
5. Are you sure? I’m going to Google it.
6. Really? I don’t believe it.
7. That’s never happened to me / anyone I know.
8. I’ve never seen / heard of that.
Strategy: Educators question student knowledge/judgment.
9. You don’t know that for sure.
10. You don’t know what you’re talking about.
11. That doesn’t count.
12. This is a completely different situation.
13. You’re making it about students when it’s not.
Strategy: Educators delegitimize student responses.
14. You’re overreacting.
15. You’re blowing it out of proportion.
16. Why are you making such a big deal out of it?
17. Stop getting so emotional.
18. Don’t tell me you’re upset about this.
19. You’re getting angry /raising your voice / shouting again.
20. Not everything is about…(structural oppression goes here).
21. Stop trying to make it about…(structural oppression goes here).
22. You always say that.
23. I knew you’d do this.
24. Can’t we talk about something else?
Strategy: Educators delegitimize students.
25. (Rude laughter)
26. (to someone else) She’s crazy. Don’t listen to her.
27. Why can’t you just relax?
28. Can’t you take a joke?
29. I’m just joking.
30. You’re so serious all the time.
31. You’re so angry all the time.
32. You have no sense of humour.
Strategy: Educators nforce the dominant point of view.
33. You have to accept that…
34. You must agree that…
35. It’s obvious that…
36. You must be stupid to think that…
37. Everybody knows…
Strategy: Educators shut down debate or conversation.
38. This is a stupid / irrelevant / useless conversation.
39. Why are we still having this conversation?
40. It’s not important.
41. Not everything is a campaign.
42. You’re making it worse by talking about it.
43. Why don’t you just give it up already?
44. I’m done.
45. Are we done?
46. Are you happy now?
47. I’m gonna hang up.
48. I don’t debate on this topic.
49. I’m not having this conversation.
50. I said I was sorry! Isn’t that enough?
This post is wholly adapted from here with permission of the original authors.

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[This post is wholly adapted from here with permission of the original authors.]

How to Facilitate Student Voice

SoundOut Skill Building Lesson Plans

Engagement is Not Black and White - Students at the SoundOut Summer Camp


It can be hard to facilitate student voice. At SoundOut, we define student voice as any expression of any student, anywhere, at any time about anything related to learning, schools and education. Trying to facilitate definition on purpose can challenge the most experienced teacher, wizened community facilitator, or determined student leader.

ALL student voice can be supremely useful. That includes students who dress in ties and business clothes and present at school board meetings, as well as those who text answers to tests under desks and fight in the hallway. But when things go bad, and they can, facilitating student voice can be counterproductive and actually work against the very things it was intended to do.

Over the last 15 years, I have facilitated student voice in a many settings with a variety of students for literally dozens of reasons. I have also trained and taught thousands of people how to do the same. Following are some tips, concerns, and considerations I have compiled for people who want to become EXCELLENT student voice facilitators.

I share this out of love and respect for everyone who has ever sat through a poorly led student voice event and wanted to do it differently. If you are really committed to being an excellent facilitator of student voice, read on. If you’re not, well, good luck, and don’t give up.


HINT 1: Before You Start

Before you start down the road of facilitating student voice, youth should think about these questions:

  • Who were the best teachers, facilitators, or adults who worked with students you ever experienced? The worst? What made them that way?
  • What is your goal for being an excellent facilitator- productivity, interaction, fun? Do you think you can facilitate all those at once?
  • What assumptions do you have about facilitation?
  • Why do you really want to learn more about excellent facilitation?

After thinking about all this you are ready to begin learning more about being an excellent facilitator- but not before then! Take a little while and really consider those questions, and then read on…


HINT 2: Be a Facilitator- Not a Teacher, Speaker, or Preacher.

There’s a difference between a teacher, a speaker, a preacher, and a facilitator. A facilitator’s job has three parts:

  • Lead the gathering or group
  • Guide towards goals
  • Lead by example

A excellent facilitator always starts by setting the tone of the student voice group. A facilitator is not expected to know it all, nor are they expected to drive everything. Insecure leaders do this. Secure leaders follow the maxim that, “A good leader makes the people believe they did it themselves.” You have knowledge and experience that you can and should share; however, you do not have to be the expert. Allow students to teach you. Also, remember that the mood of the facilitator will set the tone for the entire workshop, and that enthusiasm is contagious. Strive to be positive, be human, and have fun in every student voice group, no matter what its about.

Six Tips for Excellent Facilitation

  1. Set aside your needs in favor of the needs of the student voice group.
  2. Establish a friendly atmosphere and open sharing of ideas.
  3. Encouragestudents to take risks. When in doubt, check with the student voice group. It’s not your responsibility to know everything.
  4. Be aware of student engagement: Observe what is said, who is speaking, and what is really being said.
  5. Respect is the critical ingredient in effective student voice groups.
  6. Successful student voice groups should be uncomfortable sometimes. Address conflict and do not try to avoid it. Create an atmosphere of trust so that disagreements can be brought into the open.


HINT 3: Create Guidelines and Goals

Many well-meaning facilitators come from cynical perspectives that disallow us from acknowledging the norms that make successful student voice groups work. We can overcome this by having students create ground rules or guidelines before you begin. Brainstorm potential rules and write them down – but avoid too many rules. There are three essential guidelines:

  • Stay on task. Every student voice group should have a clearly stated purpose and agenda. This allows us to stay focused, considerate, and action-oriented.
  • Avoid rabbit holes. Alice fell into a world away from reality – Your group doesn’t have to be that way. Stay aware of off-topic banter, read your audience, and consider other ways to share ideas before getting too far away from the point.
  • Look for diamonds by working through the coal. There are rough things to go through in some student voice groups. Instead of avoiding them commit- as a group- to getting in and going through them.

Every student voice group should have some specific guidelines that all students agree on. Some goals can include:

  • Accomplish the specific task at hand, and when we’re done say we’re done.
  • Build a sense of teamwork and purpose.
  • Show that everyone has different strengths and abilities to offer the group and that no one is better than anyone else.


HINT 4: Think about Framing and Sequencing

Framing. Facilitators introduce the purpose, or frame, the student voice group they’re leading. Framing happens when a facilitator sets a simple prompt that lets students know there is a purpose to the group.

Sequencing. An important consideration is the order in which you present student voice groups, or sequencing. If a group has never learned together, it might be important to follow the sequences laid out beforehand. If they spend time together a lot, following the formal sequence isn’t always necessary. If a group is more comfortable with each other, try bursting the bubble by digging right into deeper group times. It is important to try to put “heavy” activities after less intensive ones, to build a sense of rest and preparedness.


HINT 5: Reflect, Reflect, Reflect

One way make student voice group events matter is to reflect before, during, and after the reflection. You can see reflection as a circle: You start with an explanation what you are going to learn and frame its purpose and goals to the group. As the activity progresses, the facilitator taking a more hands-on or less guiding approach as needed. Finally, group reflection helps students see how they met the goals of the workshop, and helps them envision the broader implications. Then the group has came full-circle.

Five Types of Reflection Questions

  • Open-Ended Questions – Prevents yes and no answers. “What was the purpose of the activity?” “What did you learn about yourself, our team, our program, our organization, or our community?”
  • Feeling Questions – Requires students to reflect on how they feel about what they did. “How did it feel when you started to pull it together?”
  • Judgment Questions – Asks students to make decisions about things. “What was the best part?” “Was it a good idea?”
  • Guiding Questions – Steers the participants toward the purpose of the activity and keep the discussion focused. “What got you all going in the right direction?”
  • Closing Questions – Helps participants draw conclusions and end the discussion. “What did you learn?” “What would you do differently?”


HINT 6: Make Meaning With Students

At their best, student voice group events can serve as bridges between students and promote learning through community building. They can reinforce the need for communication, co-learning, and collective action.

At their worst, group events can actually be tools of oppression and alienation and serve to support vertical practices that isolate people from each other everyday. As Paulo Freire wrote, “A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people, which engages him in their struggle, than by a thousand actions in their favor without that trust.” In this sense, excellent facilitation requires that we all become humanists who engage students with each other, followers with leaders, and teachers with students.


HINT 7: Create Safe Space

It is vital to create, foster, and support safe spaces where students can learn together. In a society that is openly hostile towards critical perspectives, participants in any activity need support when they make their voices heard. Establishing a safe space is powerful, positive, and hopeful, and hope is a requirement for excellent facilitation.

Seven Ways to Create Safe Space

  1. Acknowledge that everyone has preconceived ideas about others– or prejudices– that can damage others and ourselves.
  2. Ask students, “Who should be in this group but is not?”
  3. Focus and limit our conversations until trust increases (sometimes it is better to agree not to talk about specific issue/problem right away.
  4. As the facilitator, seek true dialogue and ask real questions.
  5. Encourage students to examine their personal assumptions by checking in with others rather than hiding or defending them.
  6. Speak from personal experience by using I statements and do not generalize about others.
  7. Be open to a change of heart as well as a change in thinking.


HINT 8: Seek Consensus

Whenever a student voice group is discussing a possible solution or coming to a decision on any matter, consensus is a tool excellent facilitators turn to. Following is a popular consensus-building technique.

Fist-To-Five Decision-Making

Start by restating a decision the student voice group may make and ask everyone to show their level of support. Each person should responds by showing a fist or a number of fingers that corresponds to their opinion.

  • Fist is a no vote – a way to block consensus. It says, “I need to talk more on the proposal and require changes for it to pass.”
  • 1 Finger says, “I still need to discuss certain issues and suggest changes that should be made.”
  • 2 Fingers says, “I am more comfortable with the proposal but would like to discuss some minor issues.”
  • 3 Fingers says, “I’m not in total agreement but feel comfortable to let this decision or a proposal pass without further discussion.”
  • 4 Fingers says, “I think it’s a good idea/decision and will work for it.”
  • 5 Fingers says, “It’s a great idea and I will be one of the leaders in implementing it.”

If anyone holds up fewer than three fingers, they should be given the opportunity to state their objections and the team should address their concerns. Continue the Fist-to-Five process until students achieve consensus, which is a minimum of three fingers or higher, or determine they must move on to the next issue.


HINT 9: Embrace the Journey

Learning is a process, not an outcome. Encourage students to view the student voice group process as a journey that has no particular destination. However, even experience cannot teach us what we do not seek to learn. John Dewey once wrote that we should seek, “Not perfection as a final goal, but the ever-enduring process of perfecting, maturing, refining is the aim of living.” This is true of excellent facilitation.

Students should use student voice group action as a starting point for a lifelong journey that includes learning, reflection, examination, and re-envisioning democracy in our communities; facilitators help groups down that path, and encourage students to embrace the journey.


HINT 10: Embrace Challenges

Since excellent facilitation is a process, it is important to understand that there will be difficult times ahead. One of the keys to excellent facilitation is knowing that criticism will come – and that can be good. We cannot grow without criticism. In a society where criticism is often a one way street, we must be aware of the outcomes of our actions, embrace these challenges, and learn from them. Following are several strategies for fostering critical thinking with students.

Seven Ways to Grow Student Voice Groups

  1. Use think-pair-share. Have individual thinking time, discussion with a partner, and presentation back to the student voice group.
  2. Ask follow-ups. Why? Do you agree? Can you elaborate? Can you give an example?
  3. Withhold judgment. Respond to answers without evaluating them and ask random group members to respond to them.
  4. Summarize. Asking a student at random to summarize another’s point to encourage active listening.
  5. Think out loud. Have students unpack their thinking by describing how they arrived at an answer.
  6. Play devil’s advocate. Asking students to defend their reasoning against different points of view.
  7. Support students’ questions. Asking students to formulate their own questions and build off your questions.



These are the plainest steps I can write down right now for becoming an excellent facilitator. There is plenty of information about facilitation online, and some of it is good. This is meant for those who want to be Excellent. I hope you join us!


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Student Voice Feedback Tips and Suggestions

SoundOut Skill Building Lesson Plans
SoundOut workshop participants in São Paulo, Brasil.
SoundOut workshop participants in São Paulo, Brasil.


When students have opportunities to share feedback with teachers, school leaders and other adults in education, its important they learn by following a safe, established framework.  Safe and supportive environments are a key to Meaningful Student Involvement; student voice feedback is a way to help ensure those environments exist.


SoundOut has developed a process and tips to help students and adults break through their traditional interactions and move towards Student/Adult Partnerships. Following is one framework that we have used in schools. This can also be used by adults to provide students with feedback, as well as among students and among adults. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.


  1. Use the following model to provide practice giving and receiving feedback: I feel (feeling) when you (behavior) because (impact on you).
  • Instead of: “You suck teacher! Why did you suck so much yesterday? We never think you’re good!”
  • Try: “I felt irritated when you didn’t show up at class unprepared. Yesterday I was ready to work on our project, but we couldn’t because you had to postpone our activity for the day because you were late.”


Tip 1: Focus on behaviors and actions, not personality.

  • Instead of: “You’re a totally domineering loudmouth!”
  • Try: “I felt frustrated in yesterday’s class when you interrupted several students to make your own points because I didn’t get to hear what they had to say.”


Tip 2: Be specific and concrete, avoiding vagueness and generalizations.

  • Instead of: “You are always late for things.”
  • Try: “I was upset when you came late to the class because I had to do your work as well as my own.”

TIP: If you can’t come up with a concrete example, think again about the feedback you are trying to give. Is it accurate, or just your perception?


Tip 3: Time your feedback well.

  • Don’t give feedback so long after the actual incident that he\she has trouble even remembering.
  • Don’t give feedback so soon after the incident that the person isn’t really ready to hear it.
  • Don’t give feedback when the person isn’t ready to listen. For example, he/she is on the way out and doesn’t have time, is with a group of people, or is in a bad mood.
  • Do pick a good time and place so that you both can be focused and capable of listening.


Tip 4: Do no harm.

  • Don’t just go off on someone so that you feel better. Check your attitude and your motivations for giving feedback before you speak. Ask yourself why you want to give this person feedback.
  • Do sincerely try to give people information that is going to help them. Make sure that the behaviors you’re telling someone about are ones that they can reasonably expect to change.


Tip 5: Deal with one item of information at a time.

  • Don’t say, “I feel angry when you don’t take out the trash or do the dishes or pick up your things or vacuum the floor because this place is a mess.”
  • Do pick one thing to focus on for now.


Tip 6: Be clear and simple…

  • Don’t confuse the receiver with lots of big words or go into a long drawn-out speech
  • Do get straight to the point.


When you use these tips and suggestions on feedback in student voice activities, you can discover the depth and breadth of what students and adults do when they partner together to improve schools. Without good feedback, student voice can never become as powerful, meaningful or purpose-filled as it could and should be for every student, all of the time.


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Lesson Plan to Assess Readiness for Student/Adult Partnerships

Students at the SoundOut Student Voice Summer Camp in Seattle, Washington
Students at the SoundOut Student Voice Summer Camp in Seattle, Washington



Introduction: This inquiry-based lesson plan for up to 40 participants shares fundamentals, engages participants in evaluating their class and school, and planning for Student-Adult Partnerships. Activities can be adapted for use with students and adults; however, it is primarily for adult school staff.

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

  • Consider broad implications of Student-Adult Partnerships
  • Examine factors affecting Student-Adult Partnerships
  • Develop practical applications for Student-Adult Partnerships

Time: See “Considerations” section; up to 125 minutes are needed.

Materials: Flip chart paper and markers

Space: See the following heading, “Considerations”; space use is variable.

Considerations: There are two sections to this training that you should be aware of:

Preparing for Student-Adult Partnerships means deepening your understanding of what you are trying to do, why you’re doing it, and what you expect out of it. It also means deepening your understanding of what it’s going to take to make a partnership really work. In fact, a group may decide that it isn’t ready to involve students. That’s okay. It is better to recognize that fact rather than investing a lot of time creating frustration.

Assessing Readiness is designed as a set of activities that may be conducted separately in a series of short sessions or all together in one long session. The time required for each activity is noted in a range—you can spend a little or a lot of time on each activity depending on the size and needs of the group. Most of the activities involve discussion. For ideas on alternate ways of structuring discussions, see structuring discussion in this section.


  1. [10 min] Before getting started in engaging students, there are some key questions to examine: Write the underlined words on a flip chart.
  • What is your vision for students in your school?
  • What is your motivation for involving students?
  • What expectations do you have for Student-Adult Partnerships?
  • What roles will the students have?
  • What resources exist to ensure success for Student-Adult Partnerships?
  1. [20 min] The following is a visualization that should be read in a comfortable, relaxed pace, in a quiet and calming tome. Give people time to bring up the images and really experience them. Modify this script as needed. Ask the group to sit down and get comfortable. Explain that you’re going to lead them through a visualization that lets them imagine their ideal for Student-Adult Partnerships. Ask them to close their eyes. Then begin…
  • “Imagine that it’s three years from now and you’ve got the perfect situation for Student-Adult Partnerships. Students and adults are working together. What does it look like? What are people doing? What roles do the students play? The adults? On which issues are they focused?”
  • “Now take a closer look. How does it feel? How are people interacting? What do you hear people saying? How do they share power?
  • “Now step back a bit. How does your program look or feel different? How is it benefiting the school? The students? The adults? What is ‘ideal’ about it?
  • Ask participants to draw a picture of their vision, either individually or as a small group. Then have them share in small groups or the whole group, depending on number of participants.
  1. [40 min] The following is a dialogue-oriented activity with separate questions for students and adults. The activity may be conducted as small group discussions by reading through the questions and giving individuals the chance to write down some thoughts. Then break up into small groups to discuss the following questions.
  • Do you think it will enhance your work?
  • What is it about involving students that interests you?
  • Did someone give you a similar chance when you were a student?
  • Do certain funders require it?
  • Have students demanded it?
  • Was it a request from the board?
  • Have students demanded more involvement?
  • Are you getting pressure from others? Whom?

Have the small groups report back to the large group. This is particularly critical if in a mixed group of students and adults.

  1. [10 min] These following steps are a class or school analysis that is primarily for adults, and may be used with students. Begin the activity by instructing participants to write the mission or purpose of their class or school at the top of a page. Have them draw a “map” (an “organizational flow chart”) of the class or school beneath the mission statement. The map should include individual people, departments, programs, and people affected by the programs, with lines between any connected people or projects.
  1. [5 min] Have each participant highlight where students fit into the chart.
  • What roles do they already play?
  • How do they fit within the overall mission and activities of the class or school?
  • Are they volunteers? Recipients of services? Interns? Committee members? Participants in events?
  1. [10 min] As a group imagine the broadest the possibilities for creating or expanding Student-Adult Partnerships.
  • How can students contribute to the work of the class or school in general?
  • How could Student-Adult Partnerships be a more effective or efficient way learn, broadly-speaking?
  1. [10 min] Now, based on the class’s or school’s actual mission and history, have the group discuss the possibilities for creating or expanding Student-Adult Partnerships.
  • How could Student-Adult Partnerships be a more effective or efficient way to meet an accepted goal of the class or school?
  • What are the potential benefits to the class or school?
  • How can students specifically contribute to the work of the class or school?
  1. [15 min] The final activity is an assessment primarily for adults and asks participants to take a look at the resources required to make Student-Adult Partnerships work. Based on their expectations, organizational maps, and lists of possible student roles, use the following questions to guide discussion:
  • What kind of support structure do you have for Student-Adult Partnerships?
  • Is someone willing and available to work with the students — to recruit, orient, train and support?
  • How willing and available are other staff and/or the board to attend training?
  • What kind of space in your office can students use?
  • Are funds available for the costs that will be incurred?
  • How will you deal with issues of accessibility: Location, transportation, safety, incidental expenses?

[5 min] Close by asking for new insights people have gained or how ideas about Student-Adult Partnerships might have changed.


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