Using Your Chill, Everyday “Blue Voice;” Yelling, Danger “Red Voice;” or Firm “Purple Voice”
With many teachers having to teach virtually over video chat this year, they're facing a whole new set of challenges. For example, communication is more difficult when technical difficulties arise and they can't talk to students in person. These issues also make keeping students engaged harder. If you've been working from home, you likely understand the challenge of trying to pay attention and hearing "I think you're frozen" repeatedly without knowing exactly how to fix it. Since little kids especially may struggle or not understand technology, teachers are also helping parents navigate the virtual and educational aspects. The struggle is relatable for many, and can even be comical sometimes.
Several teachers are sharing helpful information over on TikTok, including @ms.frazzled. She suggested a tip from the "Cool Tools" system created by the University of California Los Angeles's Lab School. "Cool Tools" is a component of the Lab School's Safe School System, which guides elementary-aged students to build lifelong strategies for resolving conflicts using concrete objects to teach abstract ideas. The system comes with a box of materials to help students learn those communication skills. Visible, touchable objects help students understand helpful metaphors more clearly. In classrooms, these items are often labeled as "manipulatives," and one of their most important uses is to help students make a connection between the concrete and the abstract. "They get something they can see as tangible and are able to understand, and from there, they can talk about the analogy," said Laurie Ramirez, the "Cool Tools" coordinator at the UCLA Lab School, in an interview with the Santa Monica Daily Press.
One of the materials included is a microphone, which reminds students to use the right "choice of voice." For example, a student can use their loud "red voice" when they feel angry or want to emphasize something, and they can use their calm "blue voice" when talking normally. The "purple voice" is a mix of their "red voice" and "blue voice," so students usually use it when they're speaking sternly or firmly, including times when they need to stand up for themselves. While students primarily use and label their voices, Ms. Frazzled does so with her tones, too. She uses her "blue voice" in the same ways the students do, but her reasoning for using her "red voice" and "purple voice" differs from that slightly. She uses her "red voice" when she's yelling because of imminent danger, and her "purple voice" when she needs to discipline a student. Since students look to model the behavior of adults, her engaging in this tool with them is helpful.
By understanding and using differently "colored" voices, Ms. Frazzled and her students are able to communicate a message more clearly and on children's social and emotional level. According to Leslie Lainer, a principal who integrated these tools at her school, the primary goal with this tone skill is to help children communicate effectively without always needing a teacher present to guide them, she explained in a school newsletter. "Children are taught that it's okay for them to exit from a situation that is unsafe or uncomfortable and to seek adult support, and that they can work together to repair conflict. The long-term goal of the program is to create and maintain a common language and a community that encourages learning," she wrote in the same newsletter. And through this tool, students are able to learn how to set boundaries at an early age, which is so important.
Further, students learn how their tone can affect a situation. If they'd like to calm a conflict, they can use their "blue voice" since their screaming "red voice" could escalate the situation. In addition, Ms. Frazzled discussed how tone can affect a message and how she uses her tone to improve communication with her students. "We [teachers] change our tone of voice to (a) hold student engagement . . . or (b), we use it to emphasize parts of speech and different sentence types," she said in a video. To learn more about how Ms. Frazzled describes and uses her "colorful" voices to communicate with students (and get a better sense of how you can try it at home), check out the following TikTok videos!