LESSON 2-Diction


Educational Objective: Students will show the importance and execution of diction in performance by creating tongue twisters to teach to and practice with the class.



  • MAD GAB cards/handouts (game)
  • Clip of Taylor Swift Caption Fail
  • The Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll


Pre-hook/ Assessment: Have them turn in their assignment from last time.  Ask them what interesting voices they heard.  Can they mimic them?  What made them stand out or interesting to listen to?  What did the type of voices teach them about the characters or the scene?


Hook: Tell the class that they are going to close their eyes and focus on your voice.  You will be saying phrases that sound like gibberish and they need to do their best to figure out what it is you are actually trying to say.  When they think they know have them raise their hand.  Take a card from the MAD GAB game and say it the way it is written.  (example: Easel Aid Ease Man –He’s a Lady’s Man; Know Sayer-Nose Hair; Eye Pillow Fizz Sigh-Apple of his eye)  Just do one or two. You will have to say each several times using a few different rates or diction changes in order for the students to recognize them. Consider projecting the gibberish phrase on the board so they have a visual as well.


After you do one or two together, divide the class into groups of 5-6 and give each group several MAD GAB cards.  Tell them to play the game in their groups and notice how they have to change the way they say the phrase in order for their teammates to understand them.


Step: After they have played a few cards discuss their experience trying to guess what the phrases were.  What made it harder? Easier?  Define ‘Diction’ for them.  Have them add this definition to their journals with the definitions from last time.  (Diction definition: Articulation in speaking or singing.  The care we take in making our words clear.)


Step: Ask them “Why would having clear diction be important when you are speaking or signing on stage?”  We are going to show a video that shows what happens to a Taylor Swift song because she is not clear enough in her diction.


Step:  Tell us about a time when you struggled to understand what someone was saying or singing in a performance?  Show a clip of Taylor Swift Caption Fail.  This is where they took one of her songs and had Google Caption translate it into what it thought she said.  Use this clip to demonstrate the importance of diction in performance.  Ask them: How did these misinterpretations change the meaning or the feeling of the song?


Step: Explain that in order to be good performers and make sure that our audience understands what is happening in the story we must practice our diction.  “Have you ever been to a performance where you could see the spit flying from a performer’s mouth?  We don’t need to spit to have proper diction, but we need to savor every move we make with our mouth.”  Briefly introduce them to their articulators (teeth, lips, tongue), you will go further in depth with this in another lesson, but you want them to pay attention to these parts of their mouth and what they feel like as they use diction.  Have them say the phrase “Percussive Diction”.  Have them slow every syllable down so they can feel every consonant and vowel.  Explain that it probably feels unnatural to them, but it sounds clear and normal to an audience member.  Explain the use of the articulators.


Step: We are going to practice with a poem by Lewis Carroll.  The Jabberwocky.  Project the poem on the overhead or screen and warn them that many of the words are gibberish and will feel strange in their mouths, but their goal should be to make it sound as normal as possible while using percussive diction.  Tell them how to say the difficult words that are in the beginning.  Consider reading the whole poem to them first so that they can hear what it is supposed to sound like.  Allow them to practice with a neighbor and then have them say the poem 2 times as a class. 


Tell them it’s a competition between the boys and girls.  The girls will say the first half using the best diction they can and then the boys will say the last half all together using the best diction they can.  Give them a few minutes to practice.  Then hold the competition


 Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

`Twas brilling, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.


“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
  The furmious Bandersnatch!”


He took his vorpal sword in hand:
  Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
  And stood awhile in thought.


And, as in uffish thought he stood,
  The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
  And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
  The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
  He went galumphing back.

“And, hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
  Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
  He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brilling, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe


Step: After the competition ask them questions like: which words or sounds were harder to make clear?  What could you do to practice diction? Point out some parts of the poem that you thought had great diction and parts that did not. 


Step: One of the ways we practice or warm up our mouths is by saying tongue twisters over and over again.  In groups of 3 create a tongue twister that you can teach to the class.  Give each group a consonant to focus their tongue twister on.  No swear words or brown-bag content.   Give them about 7 minutes to create it (if, after 7 minutes they need more time, give them a couple more).  Consider giving them a list of simple words that start with their consonant they were assigned to help them think of words.


Step: Have a couple of the groups teach the rest of the class the tongue twister and practice it several times. 


Step:  Have them add higher pitch to the tongue twister while keeping diction intact.  Say the tongue twister at a faster rate while keeping diction intact!