Teacher Voice

Now that you have established your classroom rules and procedures the real challenge begins: maintaining those expectations over the entire school year. In this section, we will look at ways that you can be proactive in your efforts to help students be successful in meeting your expectations. Specifically, we will explore how your facial expressions, posture, and tone influence the messages you send.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Stand and speak with purpose.
  • Give clear, concise instructions.

Teacher Voice

In addition to having a plan of how you want your students to behave and how you will organize your classroom, it is also important to think about how you will present yourself when things begin to go slightly off track. In his blog and other Teach Like A Champion books, Doug Lemov (2015) refers to this skill as Strong Voice. Over time, your students may just refer to it as your “Teacher Voice.” Whatever you call it, one thing you must realize is that your posture, facial expression, and tone have a strong influence on the learning environment. According to Lemov (2015), there are six foundational principles for presenting a strong teacher voice. Therefore, it is worth your time to practice developing self-control in these areas so as not to send the wrong messages to your students.

Key Elements of a Strong Teacher Voice:
  • Use Formal Register: Speak and stand with a purpose.
  • Square Up, Stand Still: Stand tall, face audience, and hold.
  • Quiet power: Lower your voice and speak slower.
  • Economy of Language: Excess words initiate distraction
  • Do Not Talk Over: “Self-interrupt” to wait for students to listen.
  • Do Not Engage: Don’t stray, stay focused on the current issue

To see a detailed breakdown of the video above, check out Doug Lemov’s blog post, Erin Krafft Uses Just Enough Correction.


Register encompasses eye contact, body position, gestures, facial expression, and rhythm of language by a person during a conversation or interaction (Lemov, Hernandez, & Kim, 2016). Recognize the difference between casual, formal, and urgent registers. Learn how to use each in the classroom and make your shifts between the registers obvious.

Three Types of Registers
Register Voice/Words Body Language
Casual Words may run together (pitter-patter rhythm)

Wide range of inflection and tone

Language itself is colloquial

Asymmetrical/relaxed body posture (e.g., leaning more on one foot, or leaning on a wall)

Inconsistent eye contact

Repetitive/sweeping hand gestures

Formal Clear, slower articulation of syllables and distinction between words

Words chosen carefully


Words chosen carefully

Symmetrical body posture

Standing up straight

Steady eye contact

Chin up

Hands clasped or behind back; simple, controlled hand gestures

Urgent Heightened tone and volume

Words run together

Increased tension in voice

Wide eyes

Leaning in vs. standing straight up

Sharp gestures

*Table adopted from Lemov, D., Hernandez, J., & Kim, J. (2016)

In the video below, watch how the teacher’s posture, facial expressions, and tone change based upon her interactions with her students and her perceived objectives.

Clear Directions

Throughout a class period, you may give your students dozens of directions. How well your students execute those directions will depend on how clear you are in delivering those directions. When providing directions (for a task or to correct off-task behavior), recall your principles of a strong teacher voice and provide directions that are formal, concise, and actionable.

Key Principles of Clear Directions
  • Positive: Don’t waste your time telling them what not to do.
  • Specific: Tell students what to do and how to do it.
  • Concrete: Provide clear actionable steps.
  • Sequential: State what you want, in the order you want it.
  • Observable: Actions you can see.
  • Check: Check for understanding

Watch how this teacher uses the principles of clear directions and strong teacher voice to ensure that her students know what is expected.

To see a detailed breakdown of the video above, check out Doug Lemov’s blog post, Portrait of a Teacher in 8 Scenes.


Key Understandings

  • Your facial expressions, posture, and tone influence the messages you send.
  • Sometimes students don’t follow your instructions because your instructions are unclear.
  • Unclear instructions allow students the opportunity to interpret based on what is most appealing to them.
  • Set students up for success with clear directions of what to do next.

Suggested Activity

Classroom Video Analysis

Effective teachers use their presence to assist in developing the classroom environment. A teacher can use multiple strategies to build a presence within the classroom, such as developing a strong voice, non-verbal cues, and teacher radar (Lemov, 2015). Whatever you call it, one thing you must realize is that your posture, facial expression, tone, and actions all influence the learning environment. To gain a better understanding of what your presence looks like, record a classroom session and track how you interact and communicate with your learners.

As you watch the video, note how you use gestures, voice, presence, and directions. Use the questions below to guide your observation and to help you organize/track what you notice.

  • What kind of gestures did you use during the lesson? What are they used for, and what is the effect on learners?
  • How did you use different voice registers at different stages of the lesson? Why was this important?
  • How did you present yourself professionally through your behavior and interaction with learners? What effect was achieved?
  • What overall atmosphere is there in the class? To what extent is your presence and manner contributing to this?
  • What do you notice about the way you provide directions to your students? How did your directions align with the Principles of Key Directions described in the textbook?

* Inspired by the work of Matt O’Leary in Classroom Observation: A Guide to the Effective Observation of Teaching and Learning.

References & Attribution

Lemov, D. (2015). Teach like a champion 2.0: 62 techniques that put students on the path to college. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Lemov, D., Hernandez, J., & Kim, J. (2016). Teach Like A Champion Field Guide 2.0. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass


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Teaching Methods & Practices Copyright © by Jason Proctor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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