My first year of teaching was a mess. I thought that if I told students to “use a whisper voice”, they would of course use a whisper voice. I can just hear all of you seasoned teachers laughing at me ;). Well, as everyone knows, this is just not the case. When I started my 2nd year, I knew that I had to teach my kids what a “whisper voice” was before they would be able to use one. I would say a sentence, my students would repeat back in a “whisper voice”.
There are 3 key” ideas” that you always need to make sure your students know before you send them off to do anything, especially in the first few weeks. Students need to know what every activity looks like, and what every activity sounds like:
- Volume – Students always need to know what their voice level should be. The first 2 weeks of school, I do not let my kindergarteners talk to each other, ever. I know this sounds harsh but it’s much harder to try to change the “wrong” behavior than it is to teach them the “right” behavior. After about 2 weeks, I slowly start allowing my students to whisper to one another. We practice, over and over. If at anytime a student gets too loud, I call everyone back to the rug where we review what a “whisper voice” sounds like.
- Participation – Students need to know exactly what they should be doing. In a middle school classroom, this may be as simple as saying, “put your name on your paper.” In a kindergarten classroom, you need to break up this step much further: pick up your pencil, point to the beginning of the black line at the top of your paper, write the first letter of your name – all while modeling on the ELMO.
- Movement – Last but not least, if you do not tell a child where their bottoms should be, they will be everywhere! I learned this the hard way. Tell the students exactly where you want them to be – “you are sitting in your chair, your legs are under the table” or “you are sitting in your square, you have criss cross applesauce legs”.
It may sound something like this: “You are sitting in your seat with legs under the table, you are writing in your journal, and there is no talking.”
Remember, you are the teacher so make sure that you model first, then allow a student to model and praise all the appropriate behaviors.