Child raises hand in classroom

Improve your classroom's acoustics

Preschool – Year 12
0

Resources are provided with this practice

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Summary

Students spend an estimated 45%–60% of their school day listening to their teacher and classmates. If students are to succeed in the classroom, they must be able to hear what has been said. Classroom acoustics are a key factor affecting what school children can hear.

Improving your classroom’s acoustics is easier than you think.

How the practice works

You can use two strategies to improve your classroom’s acoustics:

  1. Make your classroom quieter by finding and fixing the sources of noise in your classroom.
  2. Make your voice louder by using devices that raise your voice so you don’t have to.

Apply this practice with your students

The tabs below provide information to support your implementation of this practice. The sequence aligns with the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership's High-Quality Professional Learning Cycle. You can find out more about high quality professional learning in the Australian Charter for the Professional Learning of Teachers and School Leaders.

A. Plan

Before you improve your classroom’s acoustics, you can measure them. The Assess your classroom’s acoustics practice explains how to do this.

Not all recommendations for improving classroom acoustics will work in all classrooms, so you should first consider the circumstances of your particular classroom. This will help you to decide which recommendations you may try first, which you may try later, and which you won’t try at all.

The videos below show how one school considered the circumstances of their particular classrooms. 
 

How to consider the sound pathways in your classroom

Acoustic challenges in the classroom and adjustments you can consider

A teacher explains some of the challenges she experiences in her classroom.

Associate professor and project leader Dr Wayne Wilson discusses how the materials in a classroom can affect acoustics.

Dr Wayne Wilson discusses additional considerations for demountables.

B. Set goals

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C. Apply the practice

Step 1: Try to make your classroom quieter

There are many things you can try to make your classroom quieter:

Identify the sources of noise

Inside the classroom

Outside the classroom

o fans

o neighbouring classrooms

o air vents

o air conditioning units

o chair legs scraping on hard floors

o general-purpose assembly areas

o power and cooling systems for things like computers and whiteboards.

o school maintenance work (e.g., lawn mowing)

 

o road traffic

 

Reduce noise

Simple example

Complex example

o   cut tennis balls in half and stick them to the ends of chair legs

o   increase the duct length of central air conditioning systems

Absorb noise by covering hard surfaces with soft

Simple example

Complex example

o   carpet or rugs on the floor

o   curtains (the heavier the better) over windows,

o   corkboards/soft pin boards over walls

o   netting on the ceiling filled with soft material such as foam

o   Strategically place separator boards covered in soft materials such as foam, felt or flannel in the classroom

o   install acoustic tiles (special materials designed to absorb sound) on the floors, walls and ceiling.

Reflect the noise by “bouncing” it out of the classroom

 

Simple example

strategically place an uncovered separator board in front of a noise source to “bounce” that noise away from the students and out of the classroom

Isolate the classroom - relevant for “dual cell” classrooms

Typically, concertina dividers separate classrooms visually but not acoustically: You can still hear the class nextdoor.

Simple example

Complex example

o   use a heavy (the heavier the better) concertina divider that separates the classrooms both visually and acoustically

o   build a hard wall between the classrooms

Audiologists, acoustic engineers and even acoustic architects can specialise in this kind of work. One place you can try to find acoustic engineers in your region is via the Australian Acoustical Society

 

Step 2: Try to make your voice louder

To make your voice louder, you may wish to try:

  • Arrange classroom furniture to reduce the distance between you and your students.
  • For some individual children, a Personal Sound Amplification (PSA) system may be recommended (a.k.a. Remote Microphone Hearing Aids or personal FM systems). You wear a microphone and transmitter. The child wears a receiver and earpiece.
  • Sound Field Amplification ( SFA ) systems help raise your voice over the background noise. You wear a microphone and transmitter. A speaker or speakers are placed in the classroom. When functioning optimally, SFA allows you to speak at a comfortable level while the system projects your voice so that it can be easily heard throughout the classroom.

Step 3: Trial and error

Adopt a trial-and-error approach to improving your classroom’s acoustics. Sometimes you will immediately hear the improvement in your classroom after you’ve tried a strategy. Other times, assessing your classroom’s acoustics before and after you’ve applied a strategy might help you to decide if the strategy is working. 

Assessing your classroom’s acoustics before and after you’ve applied a strategy might also give you the data you need to support your strategies and possibly get more support to try other strategies

Step 4: Seek professional help

You may also wish to seek professional help to improve your classroom’s acoustics. You could seek help from specialists such as audiologists, acoustic engineers, or acoustic architects. 

You can find acoustic engineers in your region on the Australian Acoustical Society website.

D. Reflect and refine

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Reflect on your student goals

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Reflect on your teacher goals

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E. Share

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Similar practices

This practice is from the core research project