Intro to Voice and Diction


Students will demonstrate their ability to use projection and diction in speaking by creating a tongue twister and teaching it to the class.


Materials Needed

The House That Jack Built poem
Tongue Twisters paper
My Fair Lady (movie)
DVD player and TV


Related Documents

• The House that Jack Built
• Tongue Twisters


Lesson Directions



Anticipatory Set/Hook

Watch a clip from My Fair Lady. Body language can communicate many things, what can voice communicate? What are the distinct characteristics of their voices? What is different about them? What do they communicate? We need to be aware of how we are speaking. That often influences how people think of you. There are often stereotypes of “people” Valley girl, dude man surfer dude, nerd talks, proper British man, royalty often British.
(Scene Ideas: The best two scenes to use would be either the opening scene between Eliza (as the flower seller) and Higgins (taking notes), and/or the lesson where Eliza “gets” the pronunciation)



Transition – Ask the students what point Henry Higgins was making as he talked to Eliza. Discuss with them that how people talk affects how they are thought of. For example, a person using low-level speech would be thought to be an uneducated person and a person who spoke clearly and precisely would be thought to be well-mannered and educated. Ask them what they believe people might think about them from the way they speak.


Checking for Understanding – Relate the discussion now to this class. Brainstorm with the students how important voice is to portraying a character. Some answers might be that voice could demonstrate a character’s background, education, social status, relationship, etc. Teach the students that there is much more to speaking on stage than saying words, and that they will be studying specific tools they can use with their voice to convey meaning and emotion on stage.


Group Practice- Gather the students in a circle. Play the game 3x FAST. This activity will help them with their voice and get it warmed up a little. This is a name game that even though the students know each other’s names will help emphasize the point of volume and diction. The students are in a circle and 1 student is in the middle. The student in the middle says someone in the circle name 3x really fast. That person that had their name said has to say the person in the middle’s name once. If the student in the middle says the other person’s name 3x before the other can say their name once they switch places. Continue as long as you would like.


Check for Understanding- Ask the students what were important things to try and remember during this activity, voice, diction, speed, etc. As a class we are going to explore the many things that will influence and manipulate our voice!


Transition- Tell them that as an actor, their voice is one of their most important tools. Memorizing Shakespeare does an actor no good if they can’t say the line and communicate to an audience. Tell the students that an important aspect of the actor’s voice is to project. This is why vocal warm ups before performance is preferred. Let them know that in this lesson they will be participating in vocal warm-ups.


Instruction- Ask the students what one of the most important parts of using one’s voice is. Answer: using the diaphragm. Ask if anyone can describe the diaphragm and what it does. Answer: it is a muscle under the lungs that controls our breathing. Tell them that speaking from the diaphragm will make their vocal power stronger. Have the students take in a deep breath. Tell them to make sure their stomach, not their shoulders or chest, is moving. Tell them it’s okay to feel silly; it’s kind of like being Santa Claus, but instead of belly of jelly, it’s air. Have them say “Ha!” several times to feel where the diaphragm is. Their stomach should move with each “Ha.” Have them inhale and then continue saying “Ha ha ha ha ha” until they run out of air.
Have the students make a “sss” sound. Inhale make the sss sound as they exhale. Have a competition for who can go the longest. This is where you voice should come from. We want to get out of the habit of talking with our throats. In theatre that will just ruin your voice faster.


Group Practice- To get proper voice when speaking we are using the diaphragm but we must learn to breath properly and take breath only when necessary. Conduct the activity of learning to breath with the poem, “The house that Jack Built” Using your breath is essential to getting good volume and diction. Hand each student the poem and go through only taking breaths when indicated.


Modeling/Group Practice- Ask them what happens if an actor is loud, but she mumbles? What else does an actor need to do/use? Answer: Pronunciation, enunciation, diction, etc. Tell them that this is to warm up the other vocal tools, the places of articulation. Have them massage their jaw and face with their hands. Then do Lion and Mouse. For Lion, have students open their mouths wide, also open their eyes wide as if the whole face is stretching open. Then, for Mouse have them squinch their faces close and tight as if all their facial features are being pulled in to the nose. Mouth will pucker, eyes should close tight, even forehead muscles should squint close. Have them repeat opening wide and closing shut tight.


Modeling- Teach them the warm up: “The teeth, the lips, the tip of the tongue, the tip of the tongue, the teeth, the lips.” Make sure they enunciate, or even over enunciate each consonant.


STEP 10:
Group Practice- Start doing various tongue twisters with them starting with a familiar one such as Peter Piper. Have them feel their diaphragm throughout. Continue through any number of tongue twisters. (These tongue twister have a repetition of sounds.) Go through each slowly, one fragment at a time and then repeat all together.


STEP 11:
Transition- Now that we have warmed up our voices we want to practice projection in a large space. (Hopefully we can be in the auditorium if not stand at the other end of the classroom) Move the class to the auditorium.


STEP 12:
Group Practice/Instructions- Play the activity Shoot Your Voice. Split the group in half. The first group stands in a horizontal line in front of you and the other group stand in line with you. Group 1 says a phrase like, “How are you?” then they take two steps back and say it again. They repeat the phrase until they reach the back of the classroom or auditorium. Repeat with Group 2. The point of this is to get the students to send their voice to you using the diaphragm like they felt when they breathed with the book. You have to always be able to hear them and the words they are saying. They must all move together. Remind them to take a deep breath and use the diaphragm not the throat!


STEP 13:
Group Practice- Now have them pick a short phrase that they can say over and over again. For example, “Wait for me!” “I can’t believe he did that” “Don’t leave me”. Same groups, this time they will all be saying different things. This time they do not have to move together, but know that they have to send their voice to the teacher and the other classmates.


STEP 14:
Check for Understanding- Now have all the students line up in a single file line and one by one walk to center stage and say a line such as, “How are you?” Stand at the back of the auditorium or about half way. Have each student project that phrase, if it’s not clear or loud enough have them repeat and do it again.


STEP 15:
Individual Practice- Now let’s practice your diction skills even more. Each of you in partners will be creating your own tongue twister. Have the students get with a partner and create a tongue twister at least 10 words long. Go around the auditorium and offer assistance as necessary. For example, if students are at a loss, give them a sound to work with such as “m.”


STEP 16:
Performance- Have the students sit in the auditorium seats. Sit back about halfway again and have them project to you. Have each group come up and present their tongue twister for the class. Remind them they are to project and use diction when speaking. After presenting it once, have them teach it to the class by reciting one fragment at a time and the class repeating it.


STEP 17:
Transition- Have the students write their names on their tongue twisters and turn them in.



As the students present their tongue twisters, take general notes on their projection and diction and participation in activities.