Okay, so before I discovered CHAMPS, I would hear the "magic" teachers talk about the awesome group work their students were doing while smiling and picturing the utter loud chaotic mess my room would become if I let my students talk to each other. I could see Andre and Drew at table three continually one-upping each other in loudness while the quiet girl at table six just puts her head down and wonders how she got stuck in Mr. Robinson's class of chaos.
Before I found CHAMPS, I'd see things like noise level stop lights that go from green to yellow to red as the kids get louder and louder. But, I quickly realized that if I got one of those I'd still have a loud class that got loud too many times. Wouldn't it be better if they didn't get loud in the first place?
Yes! This is where the C of CHAMPS comes in. The "C" stands for conversation, or voice level. With CHAMPS, this is the first thing you need to explicitly tell your students before beginning an activity. It might sound like an elementary thing, but I swear by my voice level chart.
Voice level 0 is no talking; this is used for and modeled before the students do individual work. Voice Level 1 is a whisper; I sometimes call it the "don't get in trouble in church voice." Students use this voice level when working with one other person. Voice Level 2 is used when students are talking with two or more people (i.e. group activities). I call voice level 2 the "nice restaurant voice level." By the way, when installing voice levels, it's fun to see what middle schoolers consider a "nice" restaurant (ex: the Subway that isn't in the Walmart). Finally, Voice Level 3 is the class presentation, or teacher voice. Calling it the "teacher voice" also sends a message about who is usually supposed to use it.
The picture above shows a Voice Level chart I use in my class. Some of the ways you can use it is to have a big one posted that you refer to, or you could have small ones at individual tables for students to readily access. Another interesting way, for those of you who are technologically inclined, is to embed it directly into PowerPoint or Google Slide presentations.