As teachers and educators, we rely on our voices to teach effectively and communicate information across the classroom, school hall - or even whole playgrounds. But when we project our voices in the wrong way, we can experience frequent sore throats or even damage our vocal cords.
In this week's quickfire strategy episode, I explain how to project your voice the right way... so pupils will be able to hear you clearly, so you can speak to large groups of students without causing damage to your throat.
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Show notes / transcription
Simon Currigan 0:00
Hi there. My name is Simon Currigan and welcome to school behaviour secrets. This is the fourth quickfire strategy episode I'm sharing with you over the summer, where I give you one strategy or idea to think about a news with your new class all condensed into an easy to listen to five to 10 minute episode. We'll go back to our normal format in a few weeks in September. But if you've been enjoying this episode format, or you're hating it, and you've been listening to these and thinking oh my god, Simon has lost his mind, what is he doing?
Let me know on social media look for us on Facebook as beacon score support. And we're also on Twitter at Beacon support is our handle and tell me what you think today's quickfire strategy tip is about how to project your voice without damaging it. Teachers have something in common with both actors and singers. Our ability to work professionally is completely tied up with our voices. If we can't speak, it's almost impossible to teach. But many teachers use their voice in a way that makes them more prone to sore throats or even problems with their vocal cords. And those conditions can come back again and again. So it's important we know how to use our voices correctly. Quick side note here that I was once told by Well, you know I won't name names, let's just say I came across a senior leader once and they said that a teacher should be able to do their job perfectly well, even if they can't speak. And I did walk away from that conversation thinking how we're putting on a puppet show, and communicating the underlying mechanics of photosynthesis using nothing but the art of gesture. So unless you are a talented puppeteer our voices as teachers play a vitally important role in how we teach. But unlike professional actors and singers, we're given virtually no advice on how to use and protect our voices. Which is why in today's episode, I want to focus on how to project your voice across a classroom or across a whole during assembly or even across an entire playground. So first things first projecting is different to shouting. When we shout We increase the volume and the intensity of our voice in a way that can actually damage our vocal cords. And this is something we want to avoid. It's not good for us. So we should always avoid shouting, not just from the perspective of what it does to the children, but also our own personal well being in terms of taking care of our vocal cords. projecting on the other hand is where we speak in a way that has strength and carries across the distance. So think about an actor on the stage. Yep, think about an actor on the stage, they use their voice in a way that carries across the theatre that fills the space that has power and it has depth, you can be sat in the back row and still hear what they're saying. But they achieved this without shouting their lines out you and if they were shouting, they wouldn't be able to perform more than a few nights in a row without experiencing problems with their throat. In schools. Projecting is a useful tool for when we want to address the whole class during a whole class discussions. We want the children at the back of the room to easily hear and absorb the information we're sharing to give them instructions on how to complete their work so they can hear any answers to the questions they may have about the content and so on. And this is even more important if you're addressing hundreds of children during say an assembly. And what I find is the acoustics in the school halls I've worked in have been universally dreadful, and they tend to swallow up the speaker's voice. Add to that all of the micro movements and shuffling from the kids unless you're using your voice in an intentional way, the kids at the back are simply not going to hear you. And they're going to get bored before very long. And on the playground, you may need to project to let the children know it's time to stop and come in from play. I mean, you know, a bell is probably ideal in this situation, but you've got to work with what you got. And even if you do use a bell to bring everyone's attention together, in many schools, the systems might be that you call out the names of your groups or classes, one at a time to come into school. So it's important in that situation that your voice carries. So how do we project in the right way, without straining and damaging our voices, the first thing to do is to make sure we're powering our voices from our diaphragm, that's the big muscle that sits above our stomach. And underneath our lungs, only about 1/3 of people naturally use their diaphragm when they're projecting or speaking, the other two thirds of people, when they raise their voice will tend to power their words from their lungs rather than their diaphragm. And it's this group that tends to strain their voices more easily. A quick way to tell if you're a lung breather or a diaphragm breather is to put your hands on your stomach right now, don't do this if you're driving, and take a few long, deep, slow breaths. And if you can feel your stomach rising and falling like a balloon, you're probably using your diaphragm to breathe. And this is a good thing. If you feel very little movement, and it's your chest that's expanding and contracting, then you're definitely using your lungs. If you're in the last group, right, it's not your fault. There's no blame to be apportioned. But you should know that you're in more danger of harming your vocal cords when you raise your voice, and attempt to project and it does mean two things. First of all, if I were you, I would Google a technique called belly breathing, or look at videos on this on YouTube, and learn how to use this approach to breathing that uses the much stronger muscle of your diaphragm. One simple way of doing this is to lie flat on the floor, place a brick on your stomach and then breathe in and out in a way that you see the bricks slowly rising up and down. As an adult a brick has got a good weight to it for you to feel and work against. It feels when you do it like the air is going in and out of your stomach. But obviously, it isn't really you're using your lungs, but it's an indication that you're using your diaphragm to breathe. And then when you're next in a situation where you need to project instead of breathing normally from your lungs, deliberately, intentionally switch to pairing your words from your diaphragm and you'll find three things. First, it's a lot easier on your throat. Second, you will find your voice has more power, and it travels more easily. And thirdly, you'll find your voice has a deeper warmer tone. And that last point is important to what kind of tones travel the best through the air. Yeah, deeper base your tones if your neighbours have ever had a party, and all you can hear through the wall is the baseline of the music that they're playing. And you're asking yourself What the hell is that tune as you try to get to sleep there, you'll know the truth of that statement base carries than if you have to project your voice a really long way, like across a playground. That's the range in your voice that you should focus on projecting the lower base your notes in your voice think again about that actor on the stage. When it comes to a loud part they boom their voice rather than shout and that base helps their words carry.
So my two tips for projecting are when you need to project firstly, intentionally switch to pairing your words with your diaphragm using belly breathing. And secondly, embrace the bass notes in your voice. Rather than trying to power the higher notes. Do this and your voice should carry and you'll be less likely to have issues with sore throats and vocal cord issues. And that's it for today's quick fire strategy episode. If you liked this episode today, don't forget to share it with three friends who'd find it useful. Simply open up your podcast app, hit the share button and your app will help you send a direct link to the episode through text messaging, email, or whatever. And if you've enjoyed the podcast today, while you've got your podcast app open, remember to hit the subscribe button to make sure you don't miss future episodes. And if you're working with kids with challenging behaviour, and you're not sure why they're acting the way they are, we've got a free download that can help. It's called the Sen. D handbook. And it will help you link behaviours you're seeing in the classroom with possible underlying causes, like autism, trauma or ADHD. The idea here isn't for teachers to make a diagnosis. We're not qualified to do that. But if we can start linking classroom behaviours to possible causes quickly, it means we can get the right help from the right professionals and get early intervention strategies in place to support our kids. It's a completely free download, go to our website beaconschoolsupport.co.uk I click on the free resources tab near the top. I'll put a link in the episode description. I hope you found that information useful today. Have a brilliant week and I look forward to seeing you next time.
(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)