Now that you have your rules established, there are some other considerations for managing group work in a science or STEM class. One thing to consider is the voice level. You can set specific guidelines for students.
Teachers have different types of teaching styles. Some teachers like a quiet atmosphere, while other teachers don’t mind noise. Integral parts of both science and STEM are communication and collaboration. To this end, students should be talking during these classes! That is how learning takes place!
Students need to know that talking is encouraged. However, they need to know what the voice level expectations are. Below is a chart that I created specifically with a lab in mind.
Voice Level 0
In a science lab or STEM classroom, students should not be spending much time at Voice Level 0. However, there are times when students should be listening and not talking. For example, when the class first enters the lab, and they are waiting for instructions from the teacher. Sometimes the teacher has new content to introduce. Another time that students shouldn’t be talking is when one of their peers is presenting information.
Voice Level 1
Many times in a lab, students are working with a partner. Usually, this means that others are working with partners too. Therefore students should be using whisper voices when talking to their partners so that others can hear what their partners are saying. If everyone is using a conversational voice, in short order, it would get very loud. Students start using a more booming voice to be heard.
Voice Level 2
When the class is working in small groups, everyone in the group should be encouraged to contribute. Consequently, everyone in the group should be talking at some point. While one person is talking, other members of the group should be listening. Small group work is an appropriate time to use a quiet conversational voice.
Voice Level 3
When students are talking to the whole class, you want them to use Voice Level 3. This voice projects across the room. This voice should be loud and confident. Other students shouldn’t have to strain to hear what’s being said.
Using the Voice Level Chart
Display a voice level chart prominently in the classroom. I also make smaller charts that I laminate and put on tables when students are in groups working. If a group is getting too loud, I simply walk by and point to the appropriate level on the card. This way I don’t have to say a word.
The Yakker Tracker
One device that can help you to monitor noise the in classroom is called a Yakker Tracker. When the voice level is appropriate the light is green. If it is getting a little noisy the light turns orange. The light turns red when the noise level gets too high. A teacher can set a Yakker Tracker so that the noise level is within their individual acceptable range by adjusting the decibels. The Yakker Tracker can also be set to sound an alarm at the red level. However, I found using it without the alarm was more effective. The alarm was easily set off by a door shutting, or multiple students moving chairs, etc. Besides that, there is always a student that loved to sound the alarm.
Modeling appropriate voice levels is a must. Students need to know what a whisper voice or Voice Level 1 sounds like in your class. Likewise, students need to know what a quiet conversational voice and the appropriate volume is for addressing the entire class. Model appropriate voice levels more than once. The teacher can model with a student. Then give others a chance to practice with each other. The teachers can also use a voice level that would be inappropriate for a certain activity and ask for input as to why the voice level wasn’t good.
To summarize, managing an appropriate noise level in the science lab or STEM classroom will allow everyday tasks to flow more smoothly. Clear expectations and modeling will help this to happen.
If you enjoyed this post you might like to read about Encouraging a Sense of Wonder!
And remember, it’s all science!