Helping Teachers Find Their Voice

Students spend the majority of their time listening–three-quarters of their day, in fact!–which makes it their primary channel for learning. But there are a range of issues that can interfere with that channel, from student hearing impairments to background noise that makes it difficult to understand even the speech they can hear.

We’ve compiled insights from research studies and education leaders to provide you with tips to help your teachers find their voices–or at least ensure they’re heard:

Use an alert sound. Background noise can drown out the sound of soft consonants in speech, rendering the words unintelligible. Teachers can use something like a bell or a musical triangle to alert students that it’s time to quiet down so everyone can listen.

Bring students closer. Sound intensity falls off rapidly over distance. Students in the back of the class likely hear their teacher at about half the level students at the front do. Encourage your teachers to try out different seating arrangements to bring themselves toward the center of the room and reduce the distance to the farthest students.

Talk less. Teachers spend an average of four out of every five minutes talking during the school day. Encourage them to incorporate nonverbal approaches more often, from images to text to more small group instruction.

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Slow down and check in. Nearly one in three students have some form of mild hearing loss and almost all of them will experience some temporary hearing loss from ear infections, allergies, or medication by age 11. Encourage teachers to check in with their students regularly to ask them if they can hear instruction.

Boost the volume with technology. In the end, the best way to make sure every student can hear is to turn the volume up. But you can’t ask teachers to shout all day. Nearly a fifth of teachers miss work each year because of voice issues as it is. Give them a break with classroom audio solutions.

We ask teachers to transfer a great deal of knowledge with their voices, and that means we also expect students to acquire that knowledge through listening. First, though, we have to make sure they can hear.