Is Raising Your Voice An Effective Classroom Management Strategy?

Is Raising Your Voice An Effective Classroom Management Strategy?Stroll through virtually any school and you’ll hear teacher voices spilling out into the hallways.

You’ll hear them echoing above the clatter of their classrooms.

You’ll hear them correcting and admonishing, directing and demanding for attention.

If it were an office building, library, or museum, it would seem out of place, absurd, even ridiculous.

But within our schools it’s commonplace. It’s commonplace because . . . well, it works.

When you raise your voice loud enough to startle or alarm students, you’re rewarded with immediate attention and compliance.

Without even saying so, you’re communicating your seriousness. You’re showing your displeasure. You’re telling them in no uncertain terms that what you’re saying really matters, that they better listen or else.

So what’s not to like?

Well, a lot. Although it can indeed stop students in their tracks, which is why it’s so prevalent, raising your voice is a monumental mistake.

Here’s why:

It ruins the teacher-student relationship.

Yelling, shouting, barking orders, and the like is antagonistic. It creates a you-against-them relationship rather than one grounded in respect and rapport. The result is an unlikable teacher whose only means of influence is intimidation.

Furthermore, if your students dislike you, your rules and consequences will mean little to them.

It’s your likability, after all, that is key to creating leverage, to getting students to want to behave, to giving your classroom management plan the power to eliminate misbehavior.

It weakens over time.

Raising your voice has a diminishing effect. The more you use it with the same group of students, the less effective it becomes. This will cause you to up the ante, to become louder and more aggressive, to be the ogre you never wanted to be.

It also teaches students that unless you show your frustration, then you must not mean it. It must not be very important, so they tune you out.

Your normal speaking voice, then, no longer registers, and you’ll struggle to reach an audience that just doesn’t care.

It causes students to do the same.

Reacting emotionally to misbehavior provides a terrible role model for your students. It teaches them to complain and stomp their feet when things don’t go their way.

It teaches them to be selfish and impatient with each other and disrespectful toward you.

It creates the antithesis of a calm and peaceful learning environment, filling your room with a buzz of tension every visitor will feel the moment they walk through your door.

It opens you to complaints.

When you get in the habit of raising your voice, you’ll inevitably say things you’ll regret. You’ll take misbehavior personally, lower yourself into the gutter of incivility, and cut your students down to size.

This opens you to complaints from parents and administrators that are very difficult to defend.

We often hear from teachers upset about students going behind their back to complain to the principal. In 100% of cases, it’s because the teacher made it personal.

It makes behavior worse.

When you use fearful, loud, or startling tactics, it may indeed curb misbehavior in the moment, but it increases misbehavior overall.

It causes students to dislike you, resent you, and desire for revenge.

Yet so many teachers continue in this vein day after day because they don’t know a better way. They’re caught in a cycle of stress and discouragement and can’t find their way out.

The Alternative

So, is there ever a time to raise your voice?

Yes, most definitely! If you’re involved in a compelling lesson or giving a rousing speech or telling a hilarious story, you can and should let loose and be as loud and as fun and as demonstrative as you wish.

You may also need to increase your volume while outdoors or while ensuring the safety of your students.

But while asking for attention, enforcing consequences, giving directions, responding to misbehavior, and all other classroom management-related circumstances, it’s best to speak in a soft but clear voice.

It’s best to stand in one place and speak just loud enough to be heard.

It’s best to make eye contact and tell it like it is, to see the best in your students, to rely exclusively on your classroom management plan, to laugh and love and enjoy your students without reservation.

This way, when you open your mouth to address your class, they’ll lean in. They’ll follow you with their eyes, their heart, and their mind.

They’ll hang on your every word.

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10 Responses to Is Raising Your Voice An Effective Classroom Management Strategy?

  1. Amy July 6, 2015 at 3:58 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    Another thought-provoking and helpful article, thank you. I have confidence in your classroom management plan but wonder how you feel a teacher should respond to a class new to them when a precedence of shouting over a class has been set by a previous teacher? I am thinking in particular of student teachers who may take over a class for a short time part-way through a term, or new teachers in a school which may already, unfortunately, have a culture of shouting. Over time steadfastly following the classroom management plan with calmness and consistency may bring the class “on board” with the teacher, but what could a teacher do in the immediate moment if they happen to walk into a class which is not ready to show them respect from the start?

    Thank you,

    • Michael Linsin July 7, 2015 at 6:45 am #

      Hi Amy,

      I’m glad you like the article. It’s important, regardless of who the previous teacher was, to establish your own way of doing things by teaching your classroom management plan, as well as core routines, as if it were the first day of school. You must show them what you expect and then prove that you’re going to hold them to it. Students adjust quickly to a strong, confident teacher.


  2. Chris July 7, 2015 at 5:13 am #

    Great article, thanks!

    Just when I need it the most!

    I have one class who are basically completely ignoring me (almost all of the students). It wasn’t like this at the start of the year (just 2 months ago) – they were the model class of perfectly behaved students back then. But somewhere along the line, probably due to me raising my voice too often, I became invisible. It’s distressing, actually.

    I will try a much softer voice from now on. And the last thing I want to do is scare them, but of course that may be the case, especially since they are only 11.

    I should really try to view it from their perspective more often.

    • Michael Linsin July 7, 2015 at 6:52 am #

      You’re welcome, Chris! When you get a chance, also read through the Listening & Attentiveness category of the archive. You should find some helpful articles there.


  3. Maria Jose July 7, 2015 at 5:00 pm #

    I’m 20. I teach English to preschool level and I thank God for YOU! Thank you for helping me to become a teacher students look up to and can learn from. 🙂 Lots of love all the way from ECUADOR!

    • Michael Linsin July 7, 2015 at 5:08 pm #

      It’s my pleasure, Maria! Right back at you!


  4. Pete July 13, 2015 at 3:21 pm #

    Generally speaking, I agree that one shouldn’t yell at the students, for all of the reasons you listed. I can think of one exception, though:

    This past year, while on a field trip with our seventh graders to a state park that was known for its wildlife, including alligators. At one point, we encountered an alligator lying on the path. We stopped a solid fifty yards away from it, and the other chaperone, who was the grade level chair, eyed each other, unsure of what to do. We had never actually had a professional development covering such a situation, shockingly. While discussing whether to wait or to turn around, he saw two boys sneaking toward the alligator and turned around and ripped into them like there was no tomorrow. Even the alligator was scared. Literally – it ran off into the water, and the boys went uneaten.

    So in general, yelling = bad. In the presence of alligators, though, it can save lives.

    • Michael Linsin July 13, 2015 at 4:11 pm #

      Hi Pete,

      This exception was noted in the final section of the article: You may also need to increase your volume while outdoors or while ensuring the safety of your students.


  5. Maria speroni June 12, 2016 at 8:22 am #

    I will try your approach. Thank you. However I do have a coment which is this – you say that it would be completely inappropriate to pass by a room in a business where somebody was raising their Voice, as you say is often the case in schools. Of course in a business office there would not be 28 youngsters with only one teacher. Remember the unreasonable expectations put upon teachers in this day and age.