The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Monitoring Voice Levels

Just yesterday I wrote about the need for me to be more consistent with my expectations of voice levels in my classroom and the need to reteach what the specific voice levels should be. Today I decided to act on this double obligation from the very start of the day.

After having the students write descriptions of each voice level in their own words, we discussed as a class what they sounded like and when they should be used. Then I had the students model for me what each level sounds like, starting at the highest.

Level 5 is out of control; it is yelling and screaming and should never be used indoors. Our chart says it is a playground voice but I pointed out that screaming should only be done when students feel they are in danger. because a scream is a signal for those around you that you are in need of immediate assistance.

Level 4 is the voice you use in a loud crowd; it is speaking so loudly that others can hear you over their own voices. Our poster suggests it is a presenting voice but if everyone else is silent, a Level 4 is too loud. We determined that Level 4 is the voice used most often in the gym and on the playground.

Level 3 is our normal conversational voice; it is the voice level that I use when talking to my entire class so that everyone can hear me. It is the voice we use with friends when talking to them outside or in the lunchroom. It is a loud voice but not too loud.

Level 2 is the voice that students should typically use in the classroom because it is our small group voice level. My students do a lot of collaborative work in the room. When they practiced speaking to each other with Level 2 voices, they all noticed how much quieter it was than usual in our room but they also noticed that they could still hear each other when everyone was using the same voice level.

Level 1 is the most difficult voice level to use because it is a whisper. It is the voice you use when you only want one other person to hear you. We don’t actually use Level 1 in my classroom very often but we do use it when we are with our Learning Buddies.

Level 0 is easy to understand because it is total silence; nobody should be talking to anybody at all. We use this when taking a test or doing independent tasks when someone else is doing an assessment. This is also the voice level expectation for the hallways. I try not to require Level 0 in the classroom unless we are doing assessments.

After practicing all of the voice levels, I had the students put their new skills to the test throughout the day and I have to say, it was much much much better! We will go over these expectations again tomorrow so that the students can keep building on their success.

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