Why Speaking Softly Is An Effective Classroom Management Strategy

You don’t always have to make big, dramatic changes to see classroom management improvement.

Sometimes it can be a slight adjustment.

A small change in the way you do things, in how you speak, move, or relate to students, can make a big difference.

Your voice is a good example.

Most teachers talk too loud. They turn up the volume because they believe that the louder they are the better their students will listen.

But it isn’t true.

Students tune out teachers who bark commands and instructions. To them it sounds like nagging or threatening or that their teacher doesn’t think they’re bright enough to follow along otherwise.

This is why students often grudgingly follow directions or ignore them altogether.

To encourage good listening, and a desire to follow directions, a soft-spoken approach is in order.

Here’s why:

Your students will become still.

When you lower your voice, your students will intuitively stop moving so they can hear you. They’ll stop fidgeting, tapping, and rustling. They’ll stop whispering and twisting in their seats. They’ll stop crumbling paper.

They’ll stop all the annoying behaviors that frustrate you, interrupt your train of thought, and cause you to repeat yourself.

Your students will lean in and look at you.

It’s best to speak just soft enough that the students in the back of the room have to strain ever so slightly to hear you. This way, when you speak, your students will lean in and watch you as you form the words.

Looking at you helps them understand what is being said. It helps them focus on you and your message. When you speak loudly, on the other hand, they’re encouraged to look away, move around, and busy themselves with other things.

Your students will want to listen.

When you speak pleasantly and calmly while giving directions, the information goes down a lot smoother. And because it sounds polite, because it sounds like you believe in your students and their ability to listen, you can ask so much more of them.

Like all of us, students appreciate being spoken to with respect. They like being trusted with the information you give them, and not hammered over the head with it. Thus, they’ll return the favor by doing what you ask.

Your students will be calmer.

Speaking softly has a calming effect on students. Just by opening your mouth you’ll be able to release classroom excitability and nervous tension—which is most often caused by loud, stressed-out, and fast-moving teachers.

A calm, polite voice sends the message that you’re in control of the class and that you know exactly what you’re doing. This is a comforting, even soothing, notion to students. And it frees them to concentrate on their learning.

Your students will take up your cue.

In many ways a class takes on the personality of their teacher, and if you shout your directions and talk over your students, you’ll have a noisy, chaotic classroom.

What you do is more influential than what you say. So when you quiet your voice and speak politely to your students, they’ll do the same. They’ll use gentler voices and be more respectful when they speak to you, as well as each other.

Tell Them What You Want

Passion and enthusiasm are important to good teaching. So when you’re presenting a lesson, motivating your troops, or playing a game with your students, let the moment dictate the volume and intensity of your voice.

Cut loose and be the inspirational teacher you were meant to be.

But when you’re giving directions, handling behavior issues, and otherwise attending to the day-to-day operations of your class, it’s best to dial it down.

Stand in one place, look your students in the eye, and speak to them in a soft voice.

Tell them exactly what you want.

And they’ll give it to you.

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17 Responses to Why Speaking Softly Is An Effective Classroom Management Strategy

  1. Sara October 1, 2011 at 6:47 pm #

    The question that arises for me is, how do I ensure that my hard of hearing student gets the material when the typically-hearing children are straining to hear?

    • Michael Linsin October 2, 2011 at 6:44 am #

      Hi Sara,

      If you have a student that has a difficulty hearing, then you have to speak loud enough that he or she can hear. Placing him or her closer to you is also an option.

      Michael

  2. Douglas W. Green, EdD October 2, 2011 at 5:03 am #

    Great advice. When students disrupt, yelling just doesn’t work, and even if it seems to work it really amount to bullying on the part of the teacher. The first step is to establish eye contact. I would then say something like “can I help you” or “are you finished.” Always use a calm voice and stop to think rather than getting into a back and forth argument. Look for this in today’s Net Nuggets at DrDougGreen.Com. Keep up the good work.

  3. Dom December 18, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    Alright, I see where you going with this, however there is more pros for being loud than soft spoken. Being loud means you are confident about the material you are presenting. Being soft-spoken requires more work to actually have to listen and then interpret that information. Do you remember any public speakers that were soft-spoken and you actually wanted to pay attention. When you see commanders in front of the troops before going to combat, they are loud when they are saying their inspiration speech. If you’re loud and enthusiastic you should have no problem.

    • Michael Linsin December 18, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

      Hi Dom,

      If you get a chance, go back and reread the article–particularly the last segment. 🙂

      Michael

  4. Alex Quan December 3, 2012 at 1:03 am #

    What about having a teacher presence? I’ve heard that to have ‘it’ AKA the teacher presence, you need a loud authoritative voice that commands respect? How to balance that with your article?

    • Michael Linsin December 3, 2012 at 7:47 am #

      Hi Alex,

      Speaking softly is a strategy when giving directions and instructions, not something I recommend teachers do all the time. (Please reread the last few paragraphs.) I apologize if that wasn’t clear enough in the article.

      :)Michael

  5. Cheryl LaMontagne May 18, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

    Thank you for that affirmation. How do I get this message across to the other teachers I work with? I am the only one with a typically quiet classroom. They always think I get the “good” class! I am not a tyrant! I have a wonderful relationship with my kids but I know the value of a calm and quiet working environment. Help me! I am going crazy!

    • Michael Linsin May 18, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

      Hi Cheryl,

      It’s probably best not to say anything at all. Let your example to your talking for you. Keep doing wonderful work for your students, and they’ll come to you.

      :)Michael

  6. Pat January 25, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    I have a naturally loud, confident and booming voice. I changed careers and am now a. First year schoolteacher. Now I notice that my “teacher voice” is way too loud. It is completely unconscious . I think about it every time I’m going to speak in front of the class but then as soon as I get into that teacher mode, I start teaching that booming “teacher voice” comes out. I am nice. It’s not an angry voice. I smile all the time to try to compensate for it. But it is a very loud voice. I hate it as much as everyone else does. More! What can I do to remember to speak in a soft voice? I try to think of cute puppies or something to remind me to soften my voice. But as soon as I get into that teacher mode it all flies out the window and that booming voice comes out again. Help!

    • Michael Linsin January 25, 2014 at 9:56 am #

      Hi Pat,

      There are times when your booming voice can be an asset–during lessons when you’re showing your passion for teaching being one. So don’t feel like you have to speak softly all the time. The best way to start speaking in a softer voice is to remind yourself often how beneficial it can be. In time, and as you notice a calmer, more attentive response in your students, you’ll improve. It definitely isn’t a make or break strategy; just a helpful one.

      :)Michael

  7. Leah August 24, 2014 at 4:08 am #

    Hi, I’m naturally soft spoken and I’ve seen pupils respond to me exactly the way you described. However, I’m also a trainee teacher and when I had my observation I was told I lacked ‘teacher presence’ [very discouraging]. Now I feel I need to fake it to pass. Any thoughts?

  8. LBN October 27, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

    Today I started a new quarter. I decided that I was not going to speak any louder than I normaly do when I am speaking to family and friends. The students came in and the first thing they said was “I can not hear you.” I notice that the students who are aalways talking and disrupting class were the students who were saying that they could not hear me. I then said “to hear me you must be attentative and still. If you do not do either one then you will not be able to hear me. DONE. The class was 100% in and the loud students came to the understanding that they had to be quiet. It was a great day!!!

    • Michael Linsin October 27, 2014 at 7:08 pm #

      Way to go, LBN! Thanks for sharing.

      Michael

  9. Estelle October 18, 2016 at 6:44 pm #

    This is not to demean my principal in any way, but she continues to tell me that I am too kind to my students. I have always gone on the premise that to speak softly will bring the best results. My principal on the other hand acts like some sort of drill sergeant. Today, due to three students having left my class because they did not want to sit in their assigned seat, she came in and began to yell at my students threatening all of them with suspension. Telling me that we was taking over my class and that I was not to send students to the office. She told them how tired she was with their behavior but seemed to simultaneously be telling me that she did not like the way I was teaching. I think that she is out of control due to her high voulume and is doing more harm than good by coming into my classroom. I am very uncomfortable with her and consider leaving art education altogether.

  10. Ann Harmon December 5, 2016 at 4:00 pm #

    With great respect for those who advocate the use of loud voices in the classroom–or anywhere else–why not use a soft, confident voice to set an example of civility? Manners rub off on young people!