Classroom communication while masked

Supporting the mask and other policies

Instructors should review the University’s mask policy, which could change over the course of the semester.  The authoritative source for the mask policy, as well as all other policies, is the COVID-19 Information website, Policies and Protocols.

In addition, suggested practices include:

  • modeling strategies for sipping water while masked (straw)
  • for group work, have students work with the same group all the time.  This creates cohesion, supports peer-to-peer reliance, and lessens the number of individuals that each student is in close contact with. Note that the University is complying with CDC ventilation guidelines, detailed at the Facility CoronaVirus FAQs.

Maximizing communication with masks

  • Dress in layers and get ready to sweat. Teaching with a mask is different from going to the grocery store masked, or even talking with a few friends masked.  Projecting your voice across a classroom and speaking at length, often while moving and gesturing, is a bit of work-out for your cardiovascular system as well as your voice.  Wear layers, and get ready to shed them.  It’s hot under the mask.
  • Raise the issue of the communication challenge with students.  Students need to know that communication is a shared problem.  Ask them to join you in addressing the challenge.
  • Experiment with different masks. Audibility and comfort vary with different masks. Bring several, and try them out.  If you find a great one, let us know.
  • Consider technological alternatives to an oral discussion, even in the classroom!
  • Check your audibility. Ask students if they can hear you, and to raise their hand or otherwise indicate if they cannot.  If you are having trouble being heard, try these tips from the Instructional Technology and Design Services team.  In addition:
  • Check your hearing.  If you anticipate difficulty hearing students, you are not alone.  Some suggestions
    • Ask students to stand when they speak.  It works.
    • Insist that only one person speaks at a time.
    • Move around the room, positioning yourself closer to students who speak softly.
    • Repeat student contributions if you can hear them and you think others cannot; or, alternatively, ask louder neighbors of soft students to repeat student contributions.
    • If you wear a hearing aid (great!), here are some tips on wearing masks with hearing aids.
    • Enlist students’ help in transcribing speakers’ points in a shared, projected google doc that you, and other students who can’t hear, can read from.
    • Review these tips on hearing better in the classroom from Dr. Olson at the University of Arizona (warning: purchases required)