How quiet is too quiet, when it comes to writing workshop?
When the room is utterly silent, my voice feels like an enormous intrusion. If the room is absent of any background noise, a conversation with an individual student becomes the focal point of the entire classroom, a noisy distraction.
There is quite a bit of research into the topic of background noise and productivity. In recent years, the popularity of open-plan offices has sparked widespread interest in what level of noise, and what type of noise is helpful to staying focused, being productive, and being creative.
In one recent study, researchers found that there is an optimal volume of noise for many people, when it comes to being productive and creative. For many, too quiet an environment can be stifling, and too loud can be distracting–but there is a sweet spot, right around 70 decibels that seems to be optimal (that’s approximately the volume of running a shower, according to this source).
A sound machine or play list can drown out distracting noises to help you create an environment in your classroom that is not too quiet, or too loud, but just right. There are a number of websites and apps that specialize in background noises. Here are a few of my personal favorites:
I like Noisli because you can mix ambient sounds yourself and create a personal playlist for your classroom or for individual students to listen to using headphones. Also, the basic version of it is free and simple to use on any device.
White Noise, Pink Noise, Brown Noise
Some experts differentiate between different types of white noise. If you are super sensitive to different sounds, it’s helpful to be able to put a name to the nuanced differences. This post provides examples of all three, plus some nice suggestions for lyric-free background music. Also, educators over at TeachThought.com made their own white noise for the classroom.
This site/app is perfect if you love working in coffee shops and want to bring some of that atmosphere to your classroom.
This site uses electronic music generated by its AI technology to provide sounds that reportedly improve brain function.
I like this one for its simplicity – it’s just a rain soundtrack, updated daily.
Background noise is not for everyone. For some learners, silence is incredibly helpful. Achieving total silence in any group setting is nearly impossible, so I highly recommend noise-blocking ear muffs for the handful of students that can’t focus with background noise, lyric-less music, or nature sounds. You can find them at many retailers – here’s a very inexpensive pair on Amazon.
With any new aspect of writing workshop, a little trial and error will go a long way in finding the tool that is right for your students, in your classroom. What works for one classroom, may not be right for yours.