Safe Ways to Share Points of View by Establishing Core Values and Norms

Create trust and a positive community so students feel safe sharing their points of view in class
1 teacher likes this strategy

About This Strategy

Safe ways to Share Points of View is an active, culturally responsive strategy which supports teachers in creating a classroom space in which students are comfortable sharing components of their points of view and their identities, including gender, religion, socioeconomics, race, ethnicity, language, ideology, ability/disability, etc. The strategy supports teachers in setting up shared norms and values so that meaningful topics can be explored, while students feel seen, valued, and cared for. Through the use of this strategy, teachers can build a classroom environment in which, through discussion, students become confident in sharing their points of view and listening to the points of view shared by others.

Implementation Steps

  1. Set up shared classroom norms that can help create a learning community that cherishes respect among student and instructor, and which build expectations for common appropriate behaviors. See "Shared Classroom Norms" strategy below to learn more.

  2. Decide whether you will ask students to sign a (team or individual) contract at some point in this classroom expectations building phase.  When you determine a contract is useful, ask students for their opinions, ideas, and rules of behavior. This contract will serve as a starting point for developing share class norms and values. To learn more about contracts, consult the resource section below.

  3. Share examples of core values and lead discussion and brainstorming sessions to discuss common beliefs about core values for the class. To learn more about core values, consult the values exercise resource below.

    • Lead a discussion about “core values”.  Ask students to reflect on how our lives would go if we never considered or reflected on core values. Brainstorm and discuss why shared core values are important in the classroom. 

    • Collect 1-2 core values from each class as nominated per class discussion and post them in the classroom.

    • Discuss once a week how students think they are doing on core values. Ask class for input on how to improve in areas they identify as needing improvement.

    • Employ guidelines that would include listening respectfully, without interrupting, listen actively with an ear to understanding other’s views; criticizing ideas (not individuals); allowing everyone a chance to speak;  committing to learning (not debating); avoiding blame; speculation or inflammatory words/language. Consider posting these guidelines for all students to see on an anchor chart. 

  4. Consider how to proceed with whichever topics you would like to cover and indicate to the students that you want everyone eventually to feel safe discussing topics about social emotional matters, issues of gender, religion, socioeconomics, race, ethnicity, language, ideologies, ability/disability, regionalism and nationalism. Remind students that the norms and values established will support their discussions of the topics listed and will ensure that each student has a chance to safely share their ideas.

  5. Evaluate students' adherence to classroom core values and norms. When students are consistently upholding the core values of the classroom, they are ready to share their points of view using methods like the Value Line or Take a Stand/Barometer. 

    • To implement Value Line:

      • Choose a short text or story that include diversity and perspectives

      • Give students (in groups or as individuals) a value judgement statement; like something that is good, bad, wonderful, terrible

      • Create a value line in the classroom by identifying where "strongly agree, disagree, etc. might be in the room.

      • Have students take-a-stand on the value line in the middle of the room and have students run to the position on the line that they agree with.

      • Invite students to partner with someone on the other side of the line and then to discuss their opinions.

      • Come back as a class group and debrief.

      • Repeat with another value judgement.

      • Implement “Take a Stand/Barometer” by telling the students that  the focus is on salience.  Like a thermometer or barometer, students indicate how-pro and how-negative they are to the given position.

      • Mark minus numbers  and plus numbers from a point in the center of the line. 

      • Move students to the point on the line that represents how strongly for or against the value statement they are.

      • Again have students taking different positions choose each other as partners and discuss their rationales.  Then come back together and debrief. 

  6. Consider how to integrate growth mindset into the discussions about the strategy.  Growth Mindset thinking asks students to move beyond problems they face to explore their own ability to make a difference or to find solutions. In fostering a growth mindset, teachers might choose to ask students to reflectively write about their experience with Value Line or Take a Stand. A possible writing prompt might be:

    • Reflect on your choices, behaviors and stands during the activity. Now, reflect on the choices, behaviors, and stands of others. What similarities and differences do you notice and how will you use that knowledge in future discussions?

EL Modification

When using this strategy, support English Learners by providing  visuals and breaking down tasks into scaffolded parts. Also provide language expression support using sentence frames. 

Implementation Steps: 

  1. Modify vocabulary instructions for ELs prior to discussions or giving opinions. 

    • Use modified sentence frames to give ELL students practice with academic language. 

    • Post Word-Walls that are more scaffolded than traditional content area walls.  

    • Look out for culturally unique vocabulary such as idioms and take time to explain them as much as possible even as the student grows into the language more over time.

  2. Don’t make an EL speak for his/her entire culture when you ask for their opinion or input.

  3. If the EL students are to stand in a barometer and then speak in front of class, talk to them the day before and let them know what the question and context might be, e.g. “You will be asked to give an opinion about X.  Do you agree with this idea?  Think about it or write your thoughts down.” 

Special Education Modification

Students with disabilities can benefit from the Safe Ways of Sharing Points of View strategy because it allows them an opportunity to be involved in the classroom without having to worry about a right or wrong answer. While this strategy is effective for students with disabilities, students who struggle with confidence and processing might need extra scaffolds to be successful within the strategy.

Implementation Steps:

  1. Remember you are on a team with special educators, counselors, psychologists and family in finding a way for your youth to learn skills of sharing confidently in the classroom environment. Consider what students are doing each day in their own communities outside of the classroom in order to set up effective learning communities on educational campuses.

  2. Building a supportive community in the classroom includes buy-in from other students in the class.  They must be encouraged to be friendly and supportive of students with IEPs etc.  These practices include listening respectively allowing everyone to speak, avoiding blame and speculation, criticize ideas--not individuals, etc.  All that makes things safer and more comfortable. 

  3. Build a growth mindset into the IEP with coordination with special educators and the students in the community. Focus will be on listening and sharing. This growth mindset targets students (wherever they are at moving forward with the skills beyond: “I can’t do this, yet.” to “I don’t understand, yet.” to “This will get easier.” on to “I will continue to work hard.” onto “I will eventually understand.”  and “Yes, I can or I will.” 

  4. For students who struggle with processing speed, teachers might share the prompts with students in advance so they can pre-plan their stance. Additionally, teachers might offer students the opportunity to respond to the prompts with the teacher first. 

    • Teachers might also provide students with a graphic organizer to capture their ideas; they can bring this organizer to the discussion to support their participation. 

Safe Ways of Sharing Points of View for Distance Learning

Even though physically standing on a value line or barometer is not easily done online, there are various ways for students to share “one’s point of view safely” through distance learning or virtually.

Implementation Steps:

  1. Teachers can create a shared Google Slide where students manipulate a shape to show where they fall on the line. 

  2. Use the poll feature in Zoom for students to respond; then place students in breakout rooms to discuss their reasoning. 

  3. Use the timeline template on Padlet to have students place themselves on the Value line.

Related Lessons

  • This strategy can be used with my  ELA Frames and Phrases with the Communication Arts lesson plan about Sesame Street because the Barometer and Value Lines strategy provide opportunity for developing identity, diversity, voice and action around reflections on literature, societal experiences and lives of our students.
  • This strategy can be used with my ¨The Scholarship Jacket¨ lesson plan because Take-a-Stand and Value Lines provide opportunities to promote more efficacy and social-emotional development for students.