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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pump up the Volume

My last post was about kids who answer (nearly) every question with the words, "I don't know."

But what do you do about kids who answer so softly that you can't even hear them?

I have a couple of kids in class who I am constantly urging to speak louder in class. When I call on them, I can see their mouth moving, but even the person next to them can't possibly hear what they are saying. It's even worse when the air conditioning is blowing and making noise. Then, there is NO chance of hearing these kids.

Some of them are kids who just don't like to be called on, but some are kids who always want to be the "teacher of the moment," even asking to be called on to go up to the board to work out a problem.

I have a strict rule in my class that when someone works a problem in front of the class, they are not allowed to just write and DO the problem. They have to explain the steps verbally as they go. In some cases, I have to stop a kid midway through their first step and say, "We can't hear you." Usually, they pause for a heartbeat, then start over AT EXACTLY THE SAME VOLUME LEVEL. So I repeat, "We can't hear you. Please speak louder."

Apparently, they think "louder" means "don't change a thing."

There are some days when I think we could play the game all day long, with me just repeating the same request and them starting the first half of their sentence with no change. Over and over and over.

Even out-of-the-ordinary entreaties often fail to have any effect:

"I've heard you yelling at people out on the playground, so I KNOW you can speak louder!"

"Pretend you're talking to everyone in the whole school!"

"I can't hear you -- I'm OUTSIDE your head!!"

Sure, I could go over and put my ear directly beside each child's mouth as they speak. However, besides not wanting to contract every disease and illness they have, that doesn't solve the problem. The point is not just for ME to be able to hear them, but for the whole class to hear what they are saying.


Mrs. T said...

Oy- that drives me nuts! I also have a kid who writes so small- the equivalent of like size 3 font, no joke. I can barely SEE it- kind of like being inaudible, only in written form.

Kimberly said...

Well for the small writing that's simple - you do it over until I'm satisfied - no questions, no arguments.

Volume is tougher. I have to be careful because I have a child in my room who didn't speak in school in K or 1 so as a 2nd grader child I accept the low volume. In most cases I sit towards the back if they are in the front sharing and I usually can persuade them to be louder by asking for one word at a time. Persistance!

Anonymous said...

I think you are being cruel. It takes a great deal of courage for some kids to go up to the board. You don't know what happened a year or two before to make them frightened. This type of requirement makes it even harder for the shy to speak up.

I had a horrible bully for a teacher in 3rd grade. She encouraged the bullying by students. If I got a problem wrong in front of the class - I was made fun of. If I got it right - I got the daylights beaten out of me - sometimes in class.

I didn't speak up in class again till university. A girl I went to HS with went to my University. She was shocked to hear me speak at University - because she thought I was mute. In 4 years of HS she never heard me talk.

Why can't your soft talkers have a buddy to project for them? Soft talker does the problem explains and buddy must "broadcast" what soft talker says word for word. It would give your bouncy loud students something constructive to do and they would have to apy attention.

Mister Teacher said...

I'm not being cruel. You're making an assumption here that these kids are the frightened ones. No, I'm talking about kids who want to go up to the board every time, or answer every question. They just do it with an incredibly soft volume. It's not like I'm coaxing words out of them, I'm just trying to get everybody to hear them.

I would certainly never make fun of my kids in front of the other kids. But I WILL ask them to speak louder when nobody can hear them.

Good idea about a broadcast buddy though, I'll keep that in mind.

nbosch said...

I had a kiddo last year full of OCD, anxiety and Aspergers. He spoke so quietly we could hardly hear him, he had great things to say. We did podcasts as passengers of the Titanic and his voice was clear and articulate. Couldn't believe it was the same kid--I asked him about it and he said when he'd memorized what he was going to say he wasn't anxious about it. Interesting.

Another idea--microphone.