“I love CI. But I have 7 large classes a day. My voice begins to give out by my 4th period. What can I do?”
Señora Spicer emailed in this question to the We Teach Languages podcast after listening to me chat with Stacey about how to write comprehensible texts on Episode 56 (click here to listen in iTunes!).
When I read this question, this is what I hear:
“I love telling stories to my students. I love having discussions in the target language. I love creating stories, images, and even entire worlds with my students! I love the measurable and the intangible results that come from speaking language to my students that they understand. BUT—I have 7 large classes a day. My voice begins to give out by my fourth period. What can I do?”
I can totally relate. My teaching situation was very similar: I had five (not 7!) rowdy classes of 35 students. It.was.exhausting.
No matter which subject you teach or which methods you use, it is important for you to take care of your body, your mind, and your spirit. When you notice a trend that is impacting your health in any of those areas, STOP! Take some time to reflect and to look for solutions. There is always a way! For this particular concern, there are a lot of great solutions. Apply just a small amount of strategic planning, and your voice will be singing from August to May!
GET A MIC
I had a Promethean Board in my room, and a microphone was integrated with the system. The microphone hung from a lanyard on my neck, and it was connected with the speaker system in the room. This microphone was an absolute life saver. I could speak at a normal volume all day long—even when trying to grab students’ attention for a transition—and my voice rarely felt worn out by the end of the day. Microphones are also incredibly helpful to students with even slight hearing impairments, and they are also helpful to students with attention disorders. There are many different “Wireless Voice Amplifiers” available for purchase on Amazon and other sites, ranging from reasonable in cost to quite expensive. I would recommend requesting that your school purchase you a high quality, wireless voice amplifier for the coming year! If they are unwilling or unable, then I would recommend finding and purchasing a reasonably well rated, low-cost wireless voice amplifier for yourself.
Many of the teacher speaking activities that you do in class will require you to respond in-the-moment to your students. This includes class discussion, storyasking; even straight up telling a story. You can provide comprehensible input to your students without feedback, but in order for ensure to know that it is comprehended input, you will need to adjust what is being said to your students. This might mean repeating a statement in the same or in a different way, asking a clarifying question, or doing a quick comprehension check and then following up.
There are, however, opportunities for you to record yourself or for you to record other excellent speakers of the target language! This is particularly helpful if you teach multiple sections of the same class.
- If you are giving students a listening assessment, consider recording the text ahead of time (or having another learner-sympathetic speaker record it!).
- MovieTalks can also be recorded ahead of time using screencast applications. I prefer to apply TPRS strategies to MovieTalk (personalizing, checking for comprehension, etc.), but as MovieTalk was originally designed, the teacher did not adjust the oral text to student feedback.
- If students will be doing an illustration activity (drawing a storyboard or mural), you would likely be reading the text straight through and so pre-recording it is an option.
- Strip BINGO (or ‘Rip BINGO’, if you prefer to be non-controversial–I don’t remember which teacher came up with this name!) is another great activity to pre-record!
Copyright is a big concern when creating a recording of yourself. If you write a text that is not based on any copyrighted work, there is no problem. For use in your own classroom, you can probably make a case for recording original texts that describe someone else’s content—music videos, short films, etc., but sharing it with other teachers is probably not okay—not even for free. You can not record yourself reading aloud a copyrighted text: for example, a chapter from your favorite book. Many of the novels that you will want to use with your students from Fluency Matters, TPRS Books, Mira Canion, and CPLI have audio versions available, so please purchase the official audio version and play it for your students instead of going rogue and violating copyright law by creating an original recording. If you ever happen to be bopping around the internet and find a recording on YouTube or elsewhere of a teacher-created recording of a novel, please email the link to the publisher!
CHOOSE YOUR POISON
Be strategic about the activities that you do across classes. There are two approaches; try them both and see what works best for you:
- Do the most demanding-for-the-teacher activities on the same day in all classes. This is the poison that I chose. I would do all of my TPRS stories on the same day in all of my classes. This helped me to know at the beginning of the day that I would be running an input marathon and to prepare accordingly. It also meant that I could schedule days of “rest” before and after.
- Plan just one or two vocally demanding classes per day, and reserve more restful activities for the other classes.
Of course, each of these approaches implies the existence of activities that place high demands on your vocal chords and activities that do not. So…
GIVE READING INPUT
Beginning and sustaining a free reading program in your class will allow your voice regular rest time (and believe me, this is the smallest of the benefits to implementing such a program!). To me, Alina Filipescu is the queen of free reading and has written an incredibly valuable post on the topic here, and find more materials on this collaborative Pinboard:
Web based applications (such as Textivate, Señor Wooly, Fluency Matters e-learning, etc.) are always an option for vocal rest. In addition to web based applications that provide reading and listening opportunities for your students in the target language, there are many reading based activities that will give your students input and your voice a break. Read my recent post on surviving the end of the school year here!
GIVE MY VOICE A BREAK
So now YOU tell ME–what strategies have you used in the past to keep your voice at full capacity for the entire school year?