Tone and Emphasis

Lesson 4— Tone and Emphasis



Students will demonstrate their understanding of tone and emphasis by determining where they will use tone and emphasis in their podcast.



Bell ringer question: How do you convey emotion with your voice?

Vocabulary: Tone (don’t have them define it yet)


  • Tone Activity

Have the students write down a sentence on 1 slip of paper and an emotion on a different slip of paper. The sentence should be directed at another person, for example: “Hi, how are you doing today?” “Don’t just sit there!” “Who do you think you are?” “You’re such a worry wort!” etc. Place the sentences in one container and the emotions in another. Have each student then draw an emotion and a sentence out of the hat. Give them time to rehearse that sentence with that emotion. Then have students volunteer to come up to the front and perform their sentence while portraying the emotion they drew. Don’t have them share the emotion, it isn’t necessary for students to be able to respond and knowing the emotion could make them focus only on the emotion that was used, not the scenario or the context of the sentence. After a few performances, ask, “What happens when we perform the same sentence with different emotions?” have two students come up and draw 1 sentence and 2 emotions. Have each of them perform their sentence with their different emotions.


  • Tone Discussion
  • What happened when we changed the emotion that a sentence was said in?
  • What do you think the other (imaginary) characters said to each student to make them respond in different ways?
  • What was did each student want from the other characters?
  • What do you think the scenarios surrounding these sentences were?
  • What meaning was being conveyed with each sentence?


The idea of conveying meaning with our vocal inflection is called “tone”. Have the students define tone in their own words and write it down in their bell ringer notebook for their vocab.

  • When your mama says, “Don’t you take that tone with me!” what does she mean?


Tone can also convey “subtext”. What do you think subtext means? Give an example of two or three different tones used with the same sentence and ask the students what you said without actually saying it aloud. For example, “hey” said gently and sweetly as if to say “are you doing ok?” and, “hey” said slightly drawn out and with a “wink” to it as if to say “Dang your fine!” and, “hey” said firmly and harshly as if to say “what you are doing isn’t ok”.

  • Where do you see tone used in everyday life?
  • How can tone of voice affect your character?
  • What tone of voice does your character use? When?


  • Emphasis Activity

There’s one other thing we can do to convey meaning with our vocal variety. Draw a new sentence out of the hat and have 1 student come up per word in the sentence. Assign each student a word and have each of them say the sentence while emphasizing their assigned word. Give them a minute to practice their sentence before performing it for the class.


  • Emphasis Discussion
  • How did the meaning of the sentence change when we emphasized different words?
  • Go through each version of the sentence and discuss what they thought the sentence meant with the different emphasis.
  • What was the subtext of each sentence?
  • Where might your character use emphasis in your podcast?
  • Where do you see emphasis used in your daily life?


  • Adding tone and emphasis to podcasts

Have the students write down where they will use tone and emphasis in their podcasts. Then have them gather with their group to discuss where they decided their character will use tone and emphasis.


  • Working on podcasts

Have the students create a new goal for their podcasts for the day. The goal should be something that they can complete during this class period and will advance the progress of their podcast.



Students can be assessed on their written determination of where they will use tone and emphasis.