TECHNIQUE # 56: STRONG VOICE
Strong Voice, or as it might be more aptly named, The Trained Voice earns an A+ in content. The concluding techniques in Teach Like a Champion 2.0¹ are some of the most effective, powerful classroom management strategies I’ve ever review, read or practiced. A teachers ability to control their voice, it’s tone and volume, as well as the the ability to be mindful of their posture and gestures, makes a loud impact on classroom management. Strong Voice delineates fundamental prescriptions for successful behavioral control of learners and the classroom environment; “Affirm your authority through intentional verbal and nonverbal habits, especially when you need control.”,(p.412).¹, (Heaven forbid you should ever lose it!). Lot’s of great advice, that really sticks to the ribs; habits for teachers worth processing or practicing. Strong Voice presents a plethora of wisdom and has almost nothing to with shouting; although the strategies them selves are worth shouting about!
Six Principles of Strong Voice:
- Use a Formal Register
- Square Up/Stand Still
- Exude Quiet Power
- Use Economy of Language
- Do Not Talk Over
- Do Not Engage
The Formal Register: This is controlled, precise, “no-nonsense” voice you should cultivate when addressing students. This should not register anywhere near a loud or shouting tone. Conversely, you should not be trying to sound overtly casually, like nothing’s going on, “come on now, time for joking’s done”.
- Avoid: The’ Urgent Register’ should be reserved for very urgent situations
- Do: Make changes in your “register”; save your more passionate, casual register for actual instruction. Demonstrate, via your voice, enthusiasm when speaking of content; now is the time for loud inflection.
- Do: Make changes in your “register obvious”; this will trigger students responses behaviorally or academically.
Square Up/Stand Still: I love this one and have been trying to mindfully put this into practice for several years. If you are attempting to multitask as you are giving instruction you are sending the message that you your instruction can’t be that important; your movement is primary, what you are saying becomes secondary to the student.
- Stand Still: Cease your movement in classroom when giving instruction. It’s a simple as talking at students while you are passing out papers; STOP! Give instruction or correction, then hand out the papers.
- Square Up: Check your posture before giving out correction or instruction. Shoulders back, tilt chin up slightly; this makes you a seemingly larger, taller, confident figure in the room.
Exude Quiet Power: Or silence. Squaring up and simply looking from student to student in silence is an extremely powerful mode of communication.
- Avoid: Getting louder and talking faster
- Drop your voice, makes students strain to listen from time to time
- Exude poise and calm
Use Economy of Language: Again and again, the messages get lost in the words. This sub category also has “social” implications as well as “less is more”. Verbal familiarity with students undermines the behavioral quality of the classroom.
- Avoid initiating distractions: I struggle with this one. “Chatting it up” with students is not your purpose in the classroom; especially at the secondary level.
- Make your words valuable: Using excessive words, over explaining instruction or corrections erodes the value of what you are saying.
- Don’t Dilute: Don’t change the subject or introduce topics frequently that are not part of the lesson. Does this sound impersonal, perhaps; but some of the best teachers I know, the best, are all business with their students. They understand that banter with students IS unprofessional; students are NOT your peers. Idle conversation with students leads to social and behavioral expectations; you were hired to educate them with enthusiasm and accuracy.
Do Not Talk Over: This is great! “If what you’re saying is truly worth attention, then every student has the right and the responsibility to hear it.”,(p.415)¹. Changing the register of your voice frequently develops a keener sense of listening in your students.
- Wait until there is not talking or rustling before giving instruction
- The Self-Interrupt: Start a directive, then stop mid-way to sure of 100% listener compliance. This is effective to do occasionally, even if there isn’t any extraneous talking or behavior.
- Add very formal posture to the Self-Interrupt for emphasis, or consider freezing/holding your pose.
- Drop your Voice: Emphasize that you will not shout over classroom noise level; begin instruction quietly, then Self-Interrupt, continue with your lower register.
Do Not Engage: This, as an adult, as a teacher, as member of society horrifies me; that students believe it is perfectly acceptable, to verbal engage defensively with an adult, when asked to do something. Here’s the text book example:
Teacher: James, Talking, please move your card to yellow. Thank you.
James: It wasn’t me! (Freeze right here; this is disrespect. Period).
Teacher: James, please move your card to yellow.
James: Shanice was talking! Not me! (Now we’re bordering on belligerent).
Teacher: Please get up and move your card to yellow
- Establish will all students that they are not allowed to change the subject
- Correction/Consequence conversations do not happen until all other students are on task with an activity
- Liability/Blame conversations do happen; the focus is for the student to complete with the initial instruction given. Until he/she has obeyed the initial request, there is no other conversation.
- Do not engage when students call out answers. Remind the entire group that hands must be raised if you would like to speak; “We raise our hands when we want to speak”; great phrase to deploy when a student blurts out a comment, suggestion, joke or quasi-related content statement.
The ability developing and employ a multiple “registers” is a quality that teachers who exceed the standard posses. There is a plethora of wisdom in Strong Voice; and I love the irony of the techniques title. Managing behavior in the classroom has very little to with should, or loud angry voices. In fact, shouting at scholars in today’s world is unacceptable in my opinion. I do admit to shouting when I get excited about the content I’m teaching; “Oh boy, irregular verbs int he Future Tense, I love this stuff!”. The chronology of the text does not exactly meet the standard in my opinion. The nature of this 2.0 edition is slowly coming to light; I still believe that these culminating techniques, which are, quite simply the fundamentals of superior classroom management, should be forwarded to the introductory chapters of the book. However, the ‘2.0’ of this text is shining it’s spotlight on how to develop more academic rigor and higher order activity in the classroom. Without explicit, consistent behavioral expectations, the academia gets duller and duller.