Tips for Teaching in Person with a Mask

The use of required safety face masks in the classroom comes with many considerations for teaching and learning. Masks are helpful at mitigating health risks but make it harder to read emotions, listen clearly, and can create a barrier for social and physical learning. Below is a list of helpful tips to guide you in navigating the classroom with a mask on.

Some of these tips come from Dr. Chaya Nanjundeswaran Guntupalli, an associate professor in the Department of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology at East Tennessee State University. To learn more about these strategies for teaching in a mask, tune in to Dr. Guntupalli’s short video seminar.

  1. Determine the right mask and microphone: Some masks cause muffling more than others. Think about the material and which one will allow your jaw to move freely. Consider a microphone with a portable amplifier to enhance your loudness. View the mask sound quality tests from Florida State University. Contact your local IT person from your department or college to discuss microphone options at Cornell.

  1. Project your voice:

    • Exaggerate your articulation behind the mask. Open your mouth wide and enunciate every sound with precision.
    • Speak slower and pause frequently to take breaths. Students may miss something that you said so you may need to repeat or rephrase.
  1. Protect your voice and avoid vocal fatigue

    • Take vocal naps (short breaks for your voice). Work these breaks into your teaching activities every 30 minutes.
    • Drink water frequently, especially at breaks.
    • Use other means of communication when possible, such as gestures and writing on the board.
  1. Try these classroom strategies

    • Add more body language: Nonverbal body and hand gestures can go a long way towards helping convey meaning (Landau, 2020).
    • Warm up the classroom: Masks can make a classroom feel more sterile or cold. Instead, find ways to build connections. Some ideas include building community with icebreakers, checking in on how students are doing (polls can be used in large classes), using more visuals and multimedia, incorporating humor, or add engaging activities such as polls or games.
    • Check-in regularly with how things are working for students each week and ask what could be better. Last year, students shared ideas on improving the environment in masked classrooms.

For questions regarding classroom IT support, visit https://it.cornell.edu/classtech/classroom-technology-support-information
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Sources:

Guntupalli, C. (2020). Professor providing voice tips for teachers wearing masks. East Tennessee State University https://www.etsu.edu/etsu-news/2020/09-september/voice-tips-for-teachers.php
Landau, J. (2020). How to Teach F2F With a Mask and Create Caring Classrooms. InsideHigherED.https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2020/08/26/effective-ways-teach-person-mask-opinion
Office of Distance Learning (2020) Teaching in a Mask? Avoid the Mask Muffle! Florida State University. https://odl.fsu.edu/teaching-in-a-mask
Whitaker, J. (2020) 3 tips on teaching while wearing a mask. Indiana University.https://news.iu.edu/stories/2020/08/iupui/inside/17-tips-for-instructors-professors-teaching-with-masks.html