One voice in the preschool classroom

by Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. on April 25, 2010

in Professional Development

The thing about working with preschoolers is you are always having to either talk over lots of little voices or find creative ways to capture their attention. Lots of little voices all going at once is to be expected but lots of teacher voices all going at once should not be part of the plan.


Working together to create one voice!

Too many teacher voices

If there are two or more teachers in the classroom and each are talking equally loud to get the attention of the entire class – the result is often more chaotic then helpful. The children need to know who to focus on and for a few moments – there should be only one voice.

Not so helpful

I have observed many classrooms where one teacher is in the front speaking to the children and the other teacher will call out across the room telling the children to listen. Each time one teacher raises the volume of his or her voice to help the other teacher it creates a conflict as to who the children should look at and listen to at that specific moment.

Who is in charge?

The lead teacher would normally be the main voice in the classroom. While the lead teacher is gaining the attention of students, all other teachers should use softer voices or even body language to support the lead teacher’s efforts. If a student continues to be disruptive – the most helpful thing the assistant teacher can do at that moment is to discretely walk over and quietly address that child individually by reminding or encouraging the child to listen to what the lead teacher has to say.

Ultimately, every teacher should have a voice in the classroom but the goal is to use each voice effectively so that the children are not confused by who is in charge at a given moment. When one teacher is in the lead – then let that voice be the dominant voice.

One Voice

The next time you are in the classroom and you see another teacher ask for the children’s attention, read a story, sing a song, or call for clean-up time; consider being the supportive voice that works behind the scenes helping to discretely guide children towards the main voice at that moment.

Remember…more than one dominating teacher voice along with lots of little voices does not lead to effective classroom management and communication.

Ideally, every teacher in the classroom needs to work together to create ONE focal point and ONE voice.

This article is being shared with you by Deborah Stewart of Teach Preschool - Promoting excellence in early childhood education at home and in the preschool classroom!

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Comments on this entry are closed.

1 Amy April 25, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Thank you. Now, how to address my assistant that constantly over speaks me. She is significantly older than I am and has been there a little longer, however, I am the lead teacher. I am always trying to come up with ways to quiet her down. An example is that when we get the children into circle time they used to get a carpet square from me and form a circle. She would constantly tell them to “spread out, spread out….you don’t need to be on top of each other”. Sooooo…..I now have names on the carpet squares and made it into a game. When they are done cleaning up they are to quietly come to the circle area and without any help from the teachers (this keeps her semi-quiet) they are to walk around the circle and find their name on the carpet square. It is exhausting. I think I do more creative thinking on how to micro manage her than the children. Phew!
.-= Amy´s last blog ..Tips on scissor skills =-.

2 Deborah J. Stewart April 25, 2010 at 8:24 pm

I do think at some point you are going to have to actually tell her that you want to see if the children can do more all by themselves without “our” constant urging. If she still doesn’t get it, then perhaps you should share this article with her:) It is a very common problem that I see all too often – most times, it is not without good intentions but in the end it is not effective and more stressful when teacher voices are battling each other for the attention of the children.

3 Barbara April 25, 2010 at 8:33 pm

I teach a special ed preschool class. I have 4 other grown-ups in my room and often find this a problem. Great article and I will share it with them!

4 Deborah J. Stewart April 25, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Wow – this is especially important in your environment. I hope this is helpful or at least facilitates conversation between you all about how to communicate with your students effectively together.

5 Michelle April 25, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Deborah,
This article speaks to me very much. As the “lead” (only) teacher at the daycare, I am used to there just being my voice, my rules, my guidance… I am the assistant to a wonderful women in a Montessori Sunday School with 3-5yr olds and I have struggled with not being the focal point, the one voice. It took practice and patience (from both of us) to find our places in the room. But we did it, and are now finishing our 2nd year together and I look forward to many years of working with her. After a hard day today, your article was perfect to remind me that the focal point in that classroom is her and not me. I am just the behind the scenes guide, helping to run a successful classroom. Thanks again, I learn so much from your posts!!!

6 Deborah J. Stewart April 25, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Michelle,
Your commitment and willingness to be reflective and supportive are what makes the children and the lead teacher successful! Sometimes we do feel (and possibly can) do things better if we just did it ourselves – this is what makes assisting others so challenging and often times why we over-step or speak over the other teachers. But we are all there to improve our skills and be the best we know how to be. Having people to support our efforts and to share in our success leads everyone involved to true excellence in early childhood education (and Sunday School too:)!

7 Teacher Tom April 25, 2010 at 10:37 pm

As a cooperative we never have fewer than 7 “teachers” in the room at once, sometimes as many as 12. Fortunately, I have a naturally loud voice, and as a male the pitch of my voice helps it stand out from the other adult voices in the room. My many years as a baseball coach has also made me a bit of a “chatterer,” so I don’t usually have a problem commanding attention, even when other adults are speaking loudly. =)

Our stated procedure is if children are being disruptive while I’m addressing the class — like at circle time — my job is to simply ignore it while one of my many assistant teachers is to take the disruptive child on her lap. If there is more than one disruptive kid, there are plenty of laps to go around. I expect them to whisper, but very often there isn’t even a need to speak. By this time of the year, the kids know that the “consequence” of goofing off during circle time is sitting on a lap. The moment the child wants off the lap, he is let off, but most choose to calm down by snuggling for a bit. =)
.-= Teacher Tom´s last blog ..Full Body Language Learning =-.

8 Deborah J. Stewart April 25, 2010 at 11:06 pm

I love that you shared this comment Tom! I love how the parents all understand their role in supporting your efforts to lead. I have a soft voice so I have a much harder time when there are too many adult voices competing with mine.

9 Colin Wee April 27, 2010 at 3:00 am

Deb – too bad you can’t integrate the FB comments as well as your blog comments … there were some good responses there. I have a dialog with another blogger and have posted that is similar to yours: Do you hear that? BE QUIET! It talks about my experiences as a Montessori coordinator, how much effort it takes to whisper, and the net effect of making people listen to this volume of speech. :-) Cheers, Colin
.-= Colin Wee´s last blog ..Do You Hear That? BE QUIET! =-.

10 Kelly Be A Fun Mum April 27, 2010 at 9:58 pm

This is a very useful post. So is the thrust of the argument is there should be a clear leader and any other adults should support that one person. I can see how this would be effective for young children.

Interesting, it made me think of the military. The established role of command is extremely important for communcation.
.-= Kelly Be A Fun Mum´s last blog ..BE QUIET! =-.

11 Deborah J. Stewart April 27, 2010 at 11:30 pm

That’s right – ultimately any environment needs leadership and leadership needs support!

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