Students will demonstrate their understanding of voice by preparing a short scene focusing on various vocal techniques.
Materials needed: index cards with different voice aspects, video clips, scene scripts
Hook: As the students enter the room, there is a stack of cards with various voice techniques (i.e. loud, soft, emphatic, slurred, different accents). Tell the students to pick a card and go around the room and share a story from their day with five people using the technique written, then join them in the activity.
Step 1: Transition
Discuss how the students felt when using different vocal techniques. Ask how it affected their communication. Elaborate this question with positives and negatives, such as the level of understanding or hindrance to the conversation.
Step 2: Discussion
Write the word “VOICE” on the board. Ask the students what it is and what it means, and write what they say on the board as well. Narrow down the responses with the class to form a clear, simple definition. (i.e. voice: the vocal techniques and choices one uses in performance.)
Step 3: Instruction
Write down the following aspects of voice and have the students explain what they think each one is. Afterward, once again come to a final definition as a class.
Accent – style or setting
An accent is a manner of pronunciation peculiar to a particular individual, location, or nation. An accent may be identified with the locality in which its speakers reside (a regional or geographical accent), the socio-economic status of its speakers, their ethnicity, their caste or social class (a social accent), or influence from their first language (a foreign accent). Accents typically differ in quality of the voice, pronunciation and distinction of vowels and consonants, and stresses. Although grammar, semantics, vocabulary, and other language characteristics often vary concurrently with accent, the word “accent” may refer specifically to the differences in pronunciation, whereas the word “dialect” encompasses the broader set of linguistic differences. Often “accent” is a subset of “dialect.” (Wikipedia)
Volume is the relative loudness of sound that is associated with the decibel levels of speech (whisper vs. shout). Projection is a technique that involves strong diction, frontal placement of sounds, and the intention to be heard that gets that volume further into the house (stage whisper).
Clarity can be encompassed by diction, or the distinctiveness of speech. Diction means speech is clearly heard and understood to its fullest complexity and extremity. It has to do with your pronunciation and tone. Your pace or the speed at which you speak can also affect your clarity. Once can speak quickly but if they use diction can be understood. Using diction and pace together helps your clarity in speech, and helps define your character.
The tone of voice is how a person says something. An individual’s tone of voice is conveyed through changes in pitch, loudness, timbre, speech rate, and pauses. It is perceived or decoded slightly worse than facial expressions, but accuracy varies with emotion.
Explain how you can use each of these aspects to develop a character and enhance a performance. Show the following clip, but with no visual so as to better focus on the audio. Discuss what was heard. Then play the clip again with the visual and talk about how the voice and body work together to create a character. clip: Napoleon Dynamite – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qntlixQ9M7U
Step 4: Modeling
Have everyone sit in a circle and choose a short, single line from the AVPM scene. Pick one of the four aspects of voice and go around the circle saying the line using that aspect. Each student will say the same line, but they must say it differently than what was done before. For example, if the aspect was tone, the first student could say the line happily, the next could say it angrily, then sadly, etc. As each round goes by, take a moment to observe how changing the vocal technique can change the interpretation and reception of the line. Do this four times, one for each of the four aspects of voice.
Step 5: Group practice
Give the students some time to go through their scene and write down any notes or thoughts on how they can apply these voice techniques into their scripts. Inform them that this will be their grade for the day so they know to do it well. After enough time has passed for all the students to write their notes and practice a little, have a mini-performance. Each group will perform their scene, but they will only do it with their voice. Have the performers sit on the stage and speak their lines without moving, so they can focus on conveying their character through their voice.
Closure: After the performances, gather the students back together for a discussion. Ask them what they learned and how they might apply it to every day real life. Talk about how having control of your voice and the different aspects we have talked about can help someone be more confident, professional, and sociable (they would be better at communicating with people in general, and it helps with interviews and presentations).
Assessment: Check their script for notes and annotations. Score 5 points for writing something down, plus an additional 5 points for every technique they apply, and another 5 for their performance. Daily total points is 30.
Voice aspects to be written on index cards (two of each):