Relatable Classroom Voice Levels That WORK!

When I was in the classroom, I noticed that the traditional 0-3 voice levels didn't resonate with my students. Just like we all watch TV at different volume levels based on our preference, the numbers were subjective and didn't really "click" with students. Whether you are a first year teacher or a seasoned educator, I think the voice level trick I created will work wonders in your classroom!

So, I decided to do something different. A few years ago, I created these "Voice Level Working Modes." As you can see in the image below, this resource comes with a "Current Working Mode" header bubble and a printable arrow (just attach some magnetic adhesive.) Many of you have seen this resource, and I promised a blog post on how to implement this new procedure in your classroom!

Whether you're reading this at the beginning of the school year, the end of the year, or on winter break - this procedure can be implemented immediately, and all it takes is a short lesson on what these new "modes" look like.

In my class, I implemented this for the first time at the end of the year (my favorite time for testing new procedures to see what I need to tweak for the next year!) The kids LOVED it! It was so much more fun to say, "Remember, we are in Restaurant Mode, what does that look like?" than "This is the last time... Voice Level 2!"

Here are some of my talking points for our class discussion on each of the modes below. As with any new procedure, it will take time, but if implemented with consistency, hundreds of teachers have told me of the great success they have had with my working modes.


This mode is most similar to Voice Level 0. I used to use this mode for when I was teaching a lesson, or when they had independent work that required zero talking. We talk about their experiences with movie theaters by discussing the following questions:

  • Where is your focus supposed to be during a movie at the theater? The discussion here lends itself well to the fact that the movie (presenter or independent work assignment, in their case) should be the focus of their attention.
  • Do you ever get annoyed when other moviegoers are loud and disruptive? As you can guess, this really hits home for them in relating their disruptions to being "that person" in a movie theater. If the teacher is "presenting," then the moviegoers (the students) should be focused and not interrupting. We also talk about how during a movie, it's okay to laugh at the funny parts, just like it's okay to raise your hand and ask questions or laugh if your teacher is being funny, as long as it's not disruptive to others.
  • Do you constantly get up and walk around during movies? Again, it relates so well to the fact that they don't need to get up unnecessarily during lessons or independent work, just like people don't get up unless they really need something during a movie.


This mode is most similar to Voice Level 1. I used to use this mode for independent work that didn't have to be completely silent or working quietly with partners. We talked about their experiences with coffee shops by discussing the following questions:

  • Coffee shops, a lot of the time, are where people go to work independently while they enjoy their drink or have a small one-on-one chat with friends.  When we are in coffee shop mode, that means independently working or having quiet chats with the partner we are working with.
  • People in coffee shops don't bug other patrons. If someone else is working, leave them be and let them do their jobs.


This mode is most similar to Voice Level 2. I used to use this mode for times that required working in groups of 3 or more. We talk about their experiences with restaurants by discussing the following questions:

  • At a restaurant, who do you visit with? Kids usually talk about how they visit with the people at their table, but they are not shouting across the restaurant to other tables. It's important to mention to them that we are talking about sit-down restaurants here, not fast food, where expectations are generally different.
  • At a restaurant, are other tables talking so loudly that you cannot hear your own table? We talk about how restaurants are generally louder places, but how usually tables are respectful of other guests and keep their conversations at a reasonable level so everyone can enjoy themselves. Students generally want to share a store where this isn't the case, and it's a great teaching moment on how one group can ruin it for others!
  • When you are at a restaurant, is it okay to get up to use the restroom or grab an extra menu? Yes! We also talk about how it's NOT okay to bug other tables when you do this, but that they are more than welcome to get supplies, etc. as needed as long as they aren't disrupting other groups. 


This mode is most similar to Voice Level 3. I used to use this mode for indoor recess or Fun Friday free periods. We talked about their experiences with supermarkets (grocery stores) by discussing the following questions:

  • In a store, can you smile, wave, or start conversations with people you see? A lot of students can relate to their parents or guardians running into someone they know and stopping to have a conversation with them before continuing on about their day. In Supermarket mode (generally an indoor recess or free time period) they can walk around and talk to others as they choose.
  • Do you usually see people running or shouting in supermarkets? We sure hope not! Again, you're going to get some stories, but use it as a teaching moment. Even though people are at the store for different things, they are generally not running around or screaming their heads off. 
  • Try this out now, even if the school year is almost over, to see what works and what you need to tweak for next year!
  • Discuss the voice level expectation before and after each transition until they catch on.
  • Make it a student job to change the voice level (they will help keep you accountable for changing the arrow!)
  • Relate it to the numbered voice levels they have been working with in the beginning so they see the correlation.
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Thank you!


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