Think back to the last time you listened to student speeches or presentations. You probably remember the students’ presentations who had captivating voices. Now imagine yourself teaching during class. The way your voice sounds when speaking to students works the same way when you listen to speeches; students will listen and be engaged if your voice is captivating.
Gene Kahne, a teacher for 24 years in the Alameda Unified School District, used to teach a unit of California history to 4th-grade students. He’d quickly leave the classroom before lessons and would enter as a new person: Crusty the prospector. He spoke in a “scratchy, old-timey voice” that captured students’ attention. Kahne now teaches high school students and caters his voice by whispering to call out important facts or ideas.
When a student is not paying attention in class, for example, try whispering instead of raising your voice. Kahne says this tactic de-escalates everything, but still shows sign of severity without embarrassing a student in front of classmates.
Remember to keep your audience in mind when trying new vocal patterns. Kindergartners will react different than middle school students and high school students. Ask colleagues if they use different tones of voice when teaching and if they’ve found some are more successful than others.
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