Building Self-Advocacy Through Student Led Discussions

Daily student-led discussions are an essential part of the early transition planning process in my classroom. In Utah, we are required to begin transition planning at age 14, but I like to start as soon as I get new 7th graders. My students need a lot of repetition and practice with new skills, and I believe middle school is an ideal time to start working on self-advocacy and self-determination. 

Self Advocacy through Student Led Discussions

One way that we address these skills is through our end-of-the-class period routine. At the end of every class period, staff and/or peer tutors have a discussion with each student about something they did well and something they can improve on. 

It takes us several months of practicing this before my students really learn to specifically identify their strengths and needs. Being able to identify their own strengths and needs is an essential skill for the rest of their lives. In order to advocate for yourself, you need to know what you need help with and learn to ask. It's also helpful for goal setting and managing their own behavior. 

I love watching my students grow over the year and generate their own ideas. But it takes time. This is a critical thinking skill; it requires them to recall specific details, analyze what went well and what didn't, and then express their thoughts. It can be tough at first, so with some students, I provide visual support in addition to the sentence starters. We also spend a lot of time modeling and giving students choices during our discussions.

visual supports

Here is what their daily planner looks like and the prompts we use for our discussions.

If you want to grab a copy, you can download it here. It's fully editable, so you can change it to fit your students' needs. If you start this in your classroom, I'd love to hear how it goes!

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