As the new school year approaches, the first weeks are all about procedures, procedures, procedures. The longer I teach, the more I realize how important it is to explicitly teach the expectations I have for the students in my classroom. There were years I was so ready to jump into content that I brushed over rules, procedures, and expectations. I was in such a hurry to get to the “good” stuff that I failed to let students identify, model, and role-play what behaviors look and sound like in our classroom and our school. Those were years when wrangling monsters was an every day – every hour – occurrence. We can learn so much through the experiences of characters in a book, so I started finding read-alouds that would lend themselves to teaching classroom procedures, behaviors, rules, and expectations.
Having a conversation about voice volume with your students is certainly a valuable one regardless of your own personal tolerance for a noisy classroom. I agree that classrooms are messy and noisy places – after all, learning is happening – but I also believe voice levels need to adjust to the activities of the school day according to where students are and what they are doing. Decibella and Her 6-Inch Voice by Julia Cook (an author who has an extensive collection of books specifically written with student behavior in mind) is the perfect book to get your conversation started.
Isabella – also referred to as Decibella – is illustrated as a wide-mouthed, freckle-faced girl with a mop of red curls spiraling out in every direction as she noisily bounces around her classroom, home, and community. Using the word – SLURPADOODLE – Isabella’s teacher provides her with guided practice through five voice volumes: whisper, 6-inch, table talk, strong speaker, and outside. By the end of the book, Isabella – and your students – will become voice volume experts that will help them have better control over the voice they choose for the variety of activities and spaces they encounter throughout the school day.
Cook offers parents and educators 11 helpful tips for teaching voice volume at the back of the book that is definitely worth reading and implementing as you move forward with instructing your class about noise levels. She also encourages the adults to understand why a student may be loud – seeking attention; possible hearing impairments that need to be addressed by a physician; tiredness or hunger; or feelings of being ignored/unheard. Try to get at the source of the loudness; and remember, sometimes, little monsters are just naturally loud talkers who are not even aware of their volume.
If you’re interested, you can download the free Decibella and Her 6-Inch Voice Bookmarks, Card Sort and Brag Tags I created. The bookmarks come in a variety of colors and review the five voice volumes mentioned in the book. In addition, there is a card sort activity with 30 situation cards that can be sorted on a mat labeled with the five voice volumes. Finally, you’ll find a page of Voice Volume Expert brag tags that can be given to students once they’ve mastered voice volume in the classroom.
The Book Wrangler