Follow the steps below and you’ll never feel the need to shush, hush, or plead for silence again.
Before starting any activity, decide the voice level you want from your students. It’s important you consider this ahead of time. After all, if you don’t know what you want, your students won’t know either.
Gather your students around you and model precisely the voice level you expect. Make your modeling exercise as detailed and realistic as you can. Your students need to see and experience what you want before it makes sense to them.
Ask your students to turn to the student(s) next to them and discuss their favorite movie or other topic using the voice level you modeled. Have them practice and prove to you they understand what you expect.
Good teachers observe a lot to make sure their expectations are being met. Start your activity and monitor their voice level closely—especially within the first several minutes.
If at any time their voice level gets louder than your expectation, instead of shushing your students, stop the activity by signaling for their attention. Do this whenever they exceed the level you’ve asked for.
After getting your students attention, remind them what the voice level expectation is and put them on notice that if anyone goes beyond it, there will be a consequence—as promised by your classroom management plan.
Listening and following directions should be one of your classroom rules. As such, if any single student is unable or unwilling to keep his or her voice level as modeled and practiced, then enforce a consequence.
Note: With group discussions, voice levels tend to increase as students attempt to talk over the other voices in the room. If it becomes loud enough to distract individual groups, simply stop them, ask them to take a few deep breaths, and then restart the activity. Do not, however, enforce a consequence.
Consider standardizing the speaking levels in your classroom. For example:
- Level 0: No Talking
- Level 1: Whispering
- Level 2: Small Group Discussion
- Level 3: Whole Class Sharing
Create a small poster for reference and before every activity say simply, “For the assembly today, we’re at level zero.”
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