Controlling Noise: Voice-O-Meter

Middle School Classroom

You look down at your attendance pad and take a moment to put worksheets into today’s absent folder. It starts with a little whisper at first, almost like a change dropping on the floor. It grows louder and louder, until the moment officially comes: chatter has taken over your class.

I have noticed a pattern that runs itself as the foundation of noise level in the classroom. Are you ready for it?– Kids don’t understand your expectations.

Yes, I am talking to you. When you tell them to quiet down, and yesterday that meant whispering was okay, but today you yell at the class because you actually meant complete silence… it’s not their fault. It’s actually your’s!

So, while attention getters, call-and-response, and seating arrangements have a lot to do with your students using their voices appropriately in your class, so does setting a foundation for noise expectations.

Mrs. Middle School’s Voice-O-Meter

In my classroom, my voice-o-meter has done wonders. I don’t use it everyday. In fact, usually my students’ noise level is okay with me. I believe that all humans need to talk to learn, so I ensure that my kids have times to talk during the class. But, some days I do address which “meter” their voices should be on. I try to do it during my directions for an activity, but it can also be used to change the level of the voices in the middle of the class.

You could certainly modify this idea to fit your style and expectations. I have seen other teachers do similar meters with simply numbers, zero being no talking, and 4 being as loud as it should get. Here is an explanation of my meter, though:

0: Ninja Mode- No talking. No one can hear you. We use this whenever we are taking quizzes, working on independent work, or silently reading.

1: Spy Talk- Shhh…whisper. Only one person can hear you. We use this whenever we are partner reading or working with one other person to complete classwork.

2: Squad Voice- It’s top secret! Only your group can hear you. We use this when we are working on projects or group assignments. I made sure to still make this “top secret” though so that they understand this doesn’t mean yelling. In fact, when we go over these in class, I remind them that they wouldn’t want other groups to take their ideas or answers! (They love competitions and wouldn’t want to give away their secrets!)

The voice-o-meter helps set expectations in my classroom because if students are operating at a squad voice, instead of saying “quiet down” and them not knowing who I’m talking to or what that exactly means, I can ask them to turn into spies! This resonates really well with middle school students.

I have found that whenever I use this system heavily at the beginning of the year, the kids usually understand my expectations in certain situations, so know that we’re ending the year, I don’t use it as much. This is a perk of the system.

Supplies to construct your very own voice-o-meter:

  • hard poster board or poster board with intention to laminate
  • printed words or markers to hand write words
  • bulletin board numbers or stickers
  • fabric or bulletin border to decorate
  • hot glue gun (fun!)
  • chip clip to mark which meter it is on

Good luck crafting!

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