Question:  I am stuck on how to keep my kids quiet (or using inside voices) during work time.  I teach young 5’s, and they seem to get louder as the day goes on.  I have many boys in my class, and it is hard for them to use an inside voice.

Myrna Shure:  If noise during times needed for quiet is the issue, you can ask, “Does it bother you if someone else is talking while you’re working on your (e.g., shapes)?” “Can you tell me why?” Then ask, “Do you think it bothers other people if you are talking while they’re trying to do their work?”  Now ask, “What can you do so they can think about their work?”  Children will be surprised by these kinds of questions, and will likely quiet down because they thought of the idea themselves.

If voices are getting louder as the day wears on, regardless of the activity at the moment, wait until the children are gathered for story time or other group activity and ask “Who can say something (lower your voice) in an inside voice?” Next, ask “Who can say something (raise your voice) in a not-inside voice?”  Let the children have fun making up silly things to say in soft and loud voices.  Now ask, “Why do you think we need an inside voice when we’re inside?”  If needed, give a hint such as, “Can you hear me when I’m talking to you if you’re talking too loud at the same time?”  “How do the other kids feel when a lot of noise is near them?”  

When children are talking too loud, you can remind them of the questions you asked about this, and then say, “I know you can think of a way to use your inside voice now.”  Associating that question with the fun they had saying things in different levels of softness and loudness will usually result in softer voices inside.

A postscript: during free play, if no one is disturbed, it might be ok to let the children talk a little louder if they’re laughing and having fun.  They will be able to learn when quiet and not-so-quiet voices are acceptable.