Vocal Expression and Diction

LESSON 3: Vocal Expression and Diction


Educational Objective: Students will understand components of diction such as vocal expression and voice placement by performing a short poem.


Standards: Standard L1.T.P.5: Use voice to communicate meaning through volume, pitch, tone, rate of speed, and vocal clarity.


Materials Needed: Clip: Proper Vocal Technique through Vocal Placement https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gim3aCJuUyY

Clip: Singing Placement Techniques


Short Poems for Practicing Diction sheet  Lesson 3.Short Poems


Hook: New VOICE!

            Directions: This game is very similar to the improv game “New Choice.” Two performers start an improv scene (potential adaptation, students may prompt the performers with giving suggestions for characters, settings, and situations). One person (that is not an actor) will be designated as the “buzzer.” The buzzer’s job is to tell the actors to make a “new voice” for their character as they perform the scenario. The buzzer can buzz either of the two actors, but once the actor receives a new voice, give them some time to experiment with the new voice before being prompted with another one. Remember to still use diction– speak clearly and distinctly!

Potential Adaptation: Give students a prompt for the kind of voice they can use; for example, “New voice: __________”

            Possible voices:
An opera singer.
An angry toddler
A bored teenager.
A bride on her wedding day.
A British king or queen
A bratty girl getting ready for prom.
A wicked witch
A weatherman/woman
An innocent princess.
A dashing, confident prince
A ghost

An army drill sergeant
A ship captain

Discussion: How did you experiment with your voice in portraying new voices– different pitch, tone, etc. Did you notice where your voice may be coming from? Have the students practice different vocal placements and analyze their differences– ex. wicked witch (from your nose– nasal) vs. ghost (from the back of your throat– velar). Other comparisons may include: an innocent princess vs. army drill sergeant, opera singer vs. angry toddler, etc.– experiment with where you place them. Often, when we hear different character voices, they make their voice come from different places, elongate sounds, emphasize sounds (or leave out sounds), etc.


Introduce the Upcoming Unit: Inform the students that in the next several days they will be learning about creating characters by using vocal variations. They will be introduced to several vocal variations and will choose at least two of those variations to portray characters in their cartoons. Each character must have distinct vocal characteristics– use vocal variety to make the voices sound different from each other.


Guided Practice: Placements of Voice

Clip: Proper Vocal Technique through Vocal Placement https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gim3aCJuUyY

Clip: Singing Placement Techniques


  • Pause periodically to practice the principles from the video with the students– practicing finding their natural voice and varying vocal placements.
  • Keep in mind the vocal elements we have reviewed– projection, diction, tone, pitch, rate, etc. These are all parts of vocal expression…practice vocal variety/ expression while saying the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” rhyme.

Twinkle twinkle little star

How I wonder what you are

Up above the world so high

Like a diamond in the sky

Twinkle twinkle little star

How I wonder what you are.


Have students practice the following vocal placements with a partner as they go through the rhyme: up in your nose, down deep in your throat, elongate vowels, emphasize consonants, etc.


Transition/Guided Practice: Putting Expression into Your Voice (adapted from “Children Tell Stories: Teaching and Using Storytelling in the Classroom” textbook, pg. 110-111)

  • Depending on how you say the same word, you can give that word a completely different meaning. I am going to tell you a variety of ways to say one word: “oh.” As I give you these verbal prompts, I want you to use lots of expression in your voice and faces. So, say “oh” in response to…
    • “How wonderful!”
    • “How disgusting!”
    • “I’m so sorry.”
    • “LOOK OUT!”
    • “That’s not important.”
    • “Do we really have to do this?
    • “NOW I understand.”
    • “How disappointing.”
    • “I’m so surprised!”
    • “I’m very suspicious of that.”
    • “That hurts.”
    • “That scared me!”
  • Now we are going to shift gears a little and look at saying sentences with vocal expression and emotion. For example, ask “What are you doing?” as though…
    • You were furious at your sibling going through your stuff in your room.
    • You came into class and found your teacher standing on their head.
    • You are suspicious.
    • You’re a big mean bully picking on someone small.
    • You are small and frightened by a bully who you caught doing something wrong.
  • As we went through expressing “oh” and “what are you doing?” in different ways, did you notice how your voice changed? That’s vocal expression!


Assessment: Performing a Short Poem

Directions: For this assessment, students must exhibit the following while reading a short poem:



Vocal Variety/ Expression (pitch, tone, and rate)

Write those elements on the board so the students can refer to them during the activity. Due to the large class size, students will read aloud their poems (chosen from a handout– see below) in groups of 2-3 people. They will stand at the back of the room, away from other students, and say the poem they have chosen. Groups may either say the poems in unison or alternate who says what lines of the text. After a few minutes of practice in their groups (which they can choose on their own), they will sign-up for an order in which to perform the poem. After each group performs, they will receive a couple of comments of feedback. Feedback should surround questions such as:

  • What did you like about their vocal expression– what emotions did you see from them?
  • Could you hear each word clearly and distinctly?
  • Were they projecting properly–breathing deep and having a full sound?