While it is important that students operate within the general rules present in your classroom, it is also important that students recognize their strength and power as individuals. By engaging your students in activities designed to empower them, you can show them that they have some control over their lives, and prepare them to take the reigns and preside over this ever-increasing power as they age.
Begin your exploration of empowerment with your students by defining the term. Start by brainstorming related terms. Write the term "Empowerment" in the center of the classroom chalkboard. Ask students to volunteer words that they think of when they think of empowerment. Write the students' volunteered words around this central term. Further expand students' understanding of this term by assigning them to create posters that illustrate the definition of this term. Place these posters prominently in your classroom.
Classroom Set-up Opportunities
While you can't give your students control over everything in the classroom, you can allow them to leave their mark to demonstrate empowerment. Start by empowering your students to create classroom rules. Allow students to suggest rules that they would like to see on the class rule list, and engage them in a discussion in which they explore the merits of each rule addition option. Also, allow your students to make a physical impact on their classroom. Have them sketch out potential classroom floor plans, showing how they would like to see the desks and materials arranged. Give students the opportunity to vote in these floor plan options and change your classroom set-up, at least temporarily, aligning the space with this student-created plan.
Give your students the chance to explore empowerment poetically. Ask students to compose "I Can..." poems, in which they outline things that they can do. Set your own rules for these poems, requiring that students rhyme as you wish or asking them to ape classic poets. Engage students in gathering empowerment-rich poems by asking them to find poems that they feel are empowering. Ask students to print copies of these poems, and place the collected ones on a classroom empowerment bulletin board.
Allow your artsy students to reflect empowerment in their art. Ask students to create "I Am..." pieces by laying on large sheets of paper and having peers outline their body, then filling the outline with images reflective of their most prized skills. Or engage your students in the art of collage by asking them to craft collages featuring images representative of powers they have or skills they possess. For example, a student could place an image of an "I Voted Today" sticker, and a picture of a basketball player making a slam dunk, in his collage to represent his right to vote and his basketball skill.