Teachers need to mind their voices as they return to school

Raise your hand, not your voice!

Returning to school after the holidays can be a shock to the system in more ways than we think. Teachers’ voices come under a lot of strain in the first weeks after the holidays, as children are excited and full of energy, while teachers may need more time to get back into the routine of school, and the demands it puts on their voice.

There are some things that teachers can do to protect their voices;

Habits to avoid: Try to:
Don’t clear your throat or cough habitually ·Sip some water, swallowing slowly

·Yawn (behind your hand!) to relax your throat before speaking

·Hum to warm up your voice

Don’t yell, cheer or scream habitually ·Use non-vocal sounds or visual cues to attract attention, for example clapping, a bell, raise your hand

·Find non-vocal ways to discipline       children, for example a 1-3 score on the board for negative behaviour

Avoid prolonged talking over long distances and outdoors ·Move closer, so you can be heard without yelling, or use a vocal amplification system.

·Learn good vocal projection techniques such as breathing techniques

Avoid talking in noisy situations: over loud music, office equipment, noisy classrooms, in cars, buses, aeroplanes, etc. ·Reduce background noise when you speak

·Always face the people you are speaking with

·Position yourself close to your listeners

·Wait until students / audiences are quiet, or use hand signals or a bell to gain silence

·Find non-vocal ways to elicit attention (as above)

Don’t try to address large audiences without proper voice amplification. You should be able to lecture at a comfortable loudness. ·Use a high-quality vocal amplification system for public speaking

·Learn good microphone technique

Don’t sing or vocalize beyond your comfortable range ·Respect your vocal limits

·Seek professional voice training

·Always use an adequate acoustic monitor during vocal performances

·Never sing high notes that you can’t sing quietly

Avoid vocally abusive nervous habits during public speaking: throat-clearing, breath-holding, speaking quickly, speaking on insufficient breath, speaking on a low and monotone pitch, aggressive or low-pitched fillers (‘um..’, ‘ah..’) ·Monitor and reduce vocal habits that detract from your presentation

·Learn strategies for effective public speaking

·Prepare your presentation well so you can relax and attend to good vocal production

Don’t speak extensively during strenuous physical exercise ·Avoid aggressive vocal ‘grunts’ while lifting weights, or during martial arts, tennis, etc.

·After aerobic exercise, wait until your breathing system can accommodate relaxed voice

Don’t talk with a very low-pitched monotone voice, or in an unnaturally high voice. Don’t allow your vocal energy to drop so low that the sound becomes rough and gravelly (‘glottal fry’). Try to avoid speaking in different voices or pitches (e.g. when reading a children’s story). ·Keep your voice powered by breath flow, so the tone carries, varies and rings

·Allow your vocal pitch to vary as you speak

·Ask children to read any story parts that require a different vocal pitch

Don’t hold your breath as you’re planning what to say. Avoid tense voice onsets (‘glottal attacks’) ·Keep your throat relaxed when you speak

·Use the breathing muscles and airflow to start speech phrases, as with ‘hmm’

Don’t speak beyond a natural breath cycle: avoid squeezing out the last few words of a thought with insufficient breath power ·Speak slowly, pausing at natural phrase boundaries, so your body can replenish air naturally, and without strain
Don’t tighten your upper chest, shoulders, neck and throat to breathe in, or to push sound out ·Allow your body to stay aligned and relaxed so that breathing is natural: your ribcage and abdomen should move freely
Don’t clench your teeth, tense your jaw or tongue ·Keep your upper and lower teeth separated

·Let your jaw move freely during speech

·Learn relaxation exercises for speaking


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