Tip for Tuesday: The Importance of Tone of Voice
One area of teaching which is sometimes forgotten, but vitally important, is the tone of voice. Consciously or unconsciously, humans are constantly reading visual and auditory cues to understand meaning and emotions and with teaching - particularly when teaching in a different language - it becomes even more important to get this right. As Woolfolk and Brooks note in their paper The Influence of Teachers’ Nonverbal Behaviours on Students’ Perceptions and Performance, “the teacher’s words are only part of her message’. In the same way we use a sing-song voice to speak to a dog to get it to wag its tail and understand our happy emotions, humans too react to tonal differences in voice far more than we may first assume.
Think about your classes at school and which were the most boring. Did your teacher have a monotonous voice and seem to go on and on? There have been many studies to show that varying tone of voice can have a positive impact on the student’s concentration and enjoyment of a class.
If your tone of voice is seemingly monotonous or you sound like you’re bored in a class, it is likely to be rubbing off on the student too. This leads to a lack of participation, the student losing concentration, and both Bready and Buddy getting frustrated and disappointed throughout the lesson. Morgan and Fonsesca-Mora pinpoint how tone of voice has an affect on “not only self-esteem, anxiety, inhibition, willingness to take risks, tolerance of ambiguity, learning styles, introversion/extroversion, self-efficacy, and motivation, but also relational aspects such as empathy, teacher-learner rapport, or cross-cultural processes.” In other words, the tone of voice affects every area of a Bready’s learning process and ability to answer questions and engage confidently. If the Bready feels the tone of voice is warm, understanding and engaged with the content, they will too. This is also important to think about when praising a student it is highly important it comes across as genuine through a higher tone of voice.
We’ve all experienced bad classes and talks where the speaker has sent us to sleep with their voice - and not in a good way so talking about tone of voice may seem a little obvious but surprisingly it’s something that our teaching quality manager, training and sales team have noticed as a common area for improvement.
So top tips for tone of voice in class:
Make sure you vary your tone as you speak, particularly to younger students.
It’s not about being high pitched all the time but varying sounds to help the Bready feel that not only are you interested in what you’re teaching, but what they’re answering too. For young Breadies especially a change in tone keeps their attention as it moves up and down and almost creates a story out of the lesson.
Know your content well beforehand
If you’re familiar with your lesson’s content you can rely a lot more on your voice and knowledge that on simply reading from a slide or book.
Make sure you praise the right level for the action
Whilst it is important the Bready feels praised for their answers, this does not mean it has to be over the top and the same amount of praise each time. Breadies - like all humans - are looking for confirmation and one of the fastest ways to feel valued is through tone of voice.
Watch some of your classes back and evaluate your own tone of voice
It is often a horrible experience listening to your own voice but perhaps in doing so you can pinpoint where you need to change the tone, perhaps you need to be a little bit louder or quieter. Maybe when a student answers incorrectly you sound a little too disappointed. By watching back you will be able to clearly see how you can improve.
Watch successful classes for tone of voice
What did they do differently? How was the tone of voice effective throughout the class? Did the student stay engaged? There is a wealth of past sessions you can look through and if you speak to Daniel he will be able to give you examples of effective tone of voice.
When you’re teaching eight classes back to back or you’ve had a tiring week and have a cold it can be difficult to always sound sing-songy and cheerful but it is important to try and work through this whilst in the classroom. If you sound like you’re enjoying it, the Bready will enjoy it more too and this in turn will have a positive effect of you!