Voice control is one of your basic non-verbal cues in the classroom. This simple essential can transform behaviour management.
So how can you get it right?
Use Your Voice to Get Attention
Rather than shouting over your class and hoping they might stop talking, use your voice deliberately to catch their attention.
Your normal teaching voice should be quiet so that when you have to raise it, there is an obvious difference. After this loud voice, immediately reduce your volume.
To catch the attention of the class:
· Use a short loud command such as a 3,2,1 countdown
· Train your class to know what your expectations are
· Reward those who instantly stop when you ask
Get the Pitch Right
Teachers often get higher and shriller when trying to get attention. This sounds out of control and is hard for them to hear over the general din.
Instead, deliberately pitch your voice low, slow and loud to make it carry across the room.
At first, it will feel unnatural to use a lower voice but soon it will become second nature when you need your class to listen.
Think about How You Speak
Children respond best when you speak to them with respect. It really is that simple. Keep your voice polite and pleasant, even when addressing negative behaviours.
Sarcasm might work well with adults but is something to avoid with your class.
Young children simply do not understand sarcasm. They will be confused or answer you literally. Older children will hear the tone of your voice and dislike how you are speaking to them.
2: Rhetorical Questions
Rhetorical questions, much like sarcasm, just do not work in the classroom:
“Is there someone talking?”
“Why can I see people still working?”
“Who deserves a house point?”
Rhetorical questions encourage children to call out. Instead, tell children what you are looking for:
“I am looking for children who have stopped talking.”
“I need everyone to stop working and look this way.”
“I am seeing who deserves a house point.”
3: Public Humiliation
Public humiliation is another common teacher tactic that never gets the required effect.
You end up with:
· Challenging children who enjoy the spotlight, even for a negative reason
· Escalating behaviour
· Children who feel embarrassed and dislike you for making them feel that way
· Children stamped as ‘the naughty one’ by their classmates
Instead of broadcasting bad behaviour for the whole class to hear, speak quietly and privately to a student who isn’t on task. It is far more likely to work.
Make Your Voice Interesting
Think of a boring lecture, droning on and on for hours on end. You don’t want to be that teacher! Think of yourself as an actor on the stage. Your job is to catch and keep the attention of your audience.
To help keep the focus on you when you speak, try:
· Slowing down. Often teachers speak so quickly that children lose track of what is being said. Try slowing down and repeating key sentences. Make sure important information is heard and remembered.
· Dramatic effect. Everyone switches off when you sound monotonous. Instead, make your voice sound interesting by adding expression.
· Vary Your Tone. Varying the way you speak will keep the attention of your listeners. Experiment with changing the volume, expression, and tone.
It is too easy to fill every minute with sixty seconds full of speech. Instead, add in dramatic pauses and leave sentences hanging to add excitement to what you are saying.
When you need to get the attention of your class, think about how you can get them to stop without using your voice at all.
You could try:
· Hand signals
· Clapping patterns
· Sound effects
Looking After Your Voice
A 2008 survey undertaken by the Royal National Institute for the Deaf found that teachers in around 60 percent of schools complain of vocal problems.
Your voice is essential, so remember to look after it.
· Hydration: Drink throughout the day whilst you are teaching. Skip the caffeine and try herbal teas, squash or juice if you’re not a fan of water.
· Posture: Sit up and relax your shoulders to help your voice travel efficiently.
· Breathing and relaxation: Practise slow and deep breathing or meditation exercises to avoid stress building
· Ventilation: Classrooms can be dry, dusty places, especially if you teach a subject like Art or DT. Open windows and doors wherever possible to allow fresh air into your room.
· Warm up your voice: Just like an actor, warm up your voice before teaching and in between lessons. There are loads of YouTube videos full of ideas, like this one from Voice Science:
Your Teacher Voice
Getting your teacher voice right can have a significant impact on your classroom management. Remember:
· Go low and loud for attention
· Vary how you speak to keep interest
· Think about how you speak to children and what you are saying
· Look after your voice with basic self-care
How does your teaching voice impact your classroom teaching?