Teacher tips: How to use your voice as an effective teaching tool

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One of the most effective tools you have as a teacher is your voice. Think back to your favorite school teachers – what was it about them that won your heart? Chances are, they knew how to catch your attention, make the subject interesting and inspire you to learn.You can do the same for your students, too. Start each day with a cheerful greeting or a bit of news or trivia that will grab their attention. Why not ask them a thought-provoking question to wake up their brains? What you communicate to your class early on sets the tone for the day ahead.
There are many ways you can use your voice as an effective teaching tool. Consider the following:
Expression –
In the classroom, what you say and how you say it is important. Use an expressive, sincere voice to encourage a student that struggles with new concepts. Quietly affirm someone who has little support or encouragement at home. When the class (or a student) is overly-excited, a calm, steady voice can help diffuse the situation.
Express pride in children and groups when they are cooperative and helpful. When special events are on the schedule, share your anticipation through the tone of your voice. Your facial expressions. tone of voice and pitch automatically come into play as you speak. Be expressive as you teach and never hesitate to inject true emotion into your voice. This helps the children learn to be expressive, too.
Volume –
There’s just something about a whisper young children can’t ignore! It signals intrigue, mystery, secrets and more. Place a finger to your lips to signal for quiet, then speak in a whisper to introduce the next activity. Whisper, “I’ve got a brand new story you’ll love. Let’s tiptoe over and find our places very quietly.” Be sure to vary the circumstance and occasions for using whispers. If you whisper every story time, it will soon lose its appeal and intrigue.
The rise and fall of volume helps maintain interest for all students and can be especially effective for older children. During a history lesson, quote a couple characters, using different voices and volumes to peak interest. When posing class questions, making announcements and giving assignments, a bit louder volume is in order. You want everyone to hear you clearly. On the other hand, yelling is never in order! It shows the teacher has lost control of the situation and also feeds the frenzy you are trying to dispel.
Inflection –
The dictionary defines inflection as “any change in tone or pitch of the voice … a modulation to signal a question by a rising inflection.” Inflection of the voice adds interest to what you say and can actually change the meaning of what you say.
For instance, consider the word “really.” In a flat monotone, the word sounds like dull and robotic. With a slight inflection, the word takes on real meaning. For instance, when the rise in pitch comes at the end of the word, it asks the question, “Really?” With a higher pitch at the beginning of the word and a drop at the end of the word, one affirms the question with “Really!”
Most of us use inflection without even thinking about it. It’s one of those skills we learned as a child by listening and imitating the way those around us spoke.
Inflection is also one of the most effective tools you’ll use as a teacher. Variation of tone and pitch is a vital part of the communication process, and without it, what we say can be misunderstood. For instance, the following sentence without inflection (in a flat monotone with no change of pitch) actually means the opposite of what it states:
“I am so excited about your good grades. ”
Would your child actually believe you were happy and pleased excited if you said those words in a monotone voice? Now try the same sentence with inflection – the way you would normally say it if you saw straight A’s on a report card. “I am so excited about your good grades!” Say it again a couple times and notice the natural inflection in your voice.
As a teacher, you have the ability to change the atmosphere in your room with your voice. A whisper is an unexpected change in volume level that will catch students’ attention – and hold it – for brief periods of time. Using a monotone voice will certainly do the same!
Inflection, however, is the one tool you must wield daily to keep your classes interesting. If you’re reading aloud, explaining a new concept, sharing information or making announcements, inflection helps maintain interest in what you are saying.
The human voice is truly an amazing gift. Every time you stand before your students and speak, 15 parts of your body are actively working! The generators of sound include your lungs, rib cage, diaphragm and related muscles. As they move air upwards in the chest, the vibrators of sound – the larynx and vocal cords – begin to quiver.
The resonators of sound are the oral mouth, throat and nasal cavity. These determine the quality of your speech. Finally, the articulators of sound are the jaw, lips, teeth, gum ridge, hard and soft palates and the tongue. These work to help you pronounce words distinctly. And you thought all you had to do was open your mouth and teach!
Remember, the ability to speak and teach is truly a gift. By using your voice as an effective teaching tool, you can impress the hearts and lives of your students. Who knows? You may be the one favorite teacher they’ll remember for years to come!

Nan Keltie

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