Creating Vocal Character in Puppetry Unit, Lesson 2

Lesson 2


TH:Cr3.1.7b. Develop effective physical and vocal traits of characters in an improvised or scripted drama/theatre work.
Standard 7–8.T.P.5:
Communicate meaning using the voice through volume, pitch, tone, rate, and clarity.


Enduring Understanding:

Theatre artists make strong choices to effectively convey meaning. (Anchor Standard 4)
Theatre artists work to discover different ways of communicating meaning. (Anchor Standard 2)


Essential Question:

Theatre artists make strong choices to effectively convey meaning. (Anchor Standard 4) How, when, and why do theatre artists’ choices change? (Anchor Standard 2)


Educational Objective:

Students will demonstrate an understanding of pitch, rate, and tone by performing a nonsense (contentless) scene utilizing these vocal qualities for the class.



●  Students need to bring a pencil with them

●  Scratch pieces of paper

●  A Hat

●  Contentless scenes

●  Powerpoint explaining terms

●  Reference (


Pre-Class (5 minutes)

●  Have students write one sentence about something that is their favorite (like “My favorite animal is dog.”) and put it into a hat as they come into the classroom. Mix the sentences up in the hat.

●  Provide scratch paper for them. Have students use their own pencil and then put it away when they are done.


Hook (10 minutes)

● Watch this clip of Arnie the Doughnut from Storyline Online

● Discussion

○  Turn to the person next to you and talk about “What was the story?”

○  Turn to a new person and talk about “What characters were in the story?”

○  How did this actor make the character voices distinct?

○  How did the actor help you understand when the most intense part of the story


○  What else did they do with their voice to help tell the story?

● Transition: Have students turn to the people sitting next to them and brainstorm a definition for tone, pitch, and rate and how they were used in this video example.

○  It’s okay if the students aren’t correct because we will be going over those terms.

○  Listen in on their conversations to see if anyone gets it correct. You can have

them share with the class if you would like.


Teaching Presentation (15 minutes)

● Have students sit on the apron of the stage, facing the projector. Have a student lower it for you. Pass the hat with the sentences in it around to each student while the projector is being lowered and powerpoint being pulled up. Each student will take one slip of paper.

○ Don’t share the sentence with anyone next to you.

●  Introduce the 3 new terms of tone, pitch, and rate.

○  As each term is introduced, the students will use their slip of paper with a sentence on it to practice the new term. Practice the sentence to yourself for 10 seconds, then do it for the person next to you. Each time with someone different. Practice saying your sentence, manipulating either tone, pitch, or rate with your partner as we discuss those terms.

○  Tone – This is the emotion in our voice. Ask the class to give you as many examples as they can of different emotions. “When does our tone of voice change?” Now practice.

○  Pitch – High versus low. Brainstorm characters with high or low with the person next to you. “When might cause our pitch change? Give me an example.” Now practice.

○  Rate – Fast versus slow. “When does the rate at which we speak change? Give me an example.” Now practice.

●  Come back to the Arnie the Doughnut video example. Have the students tell you about the tone, pitch, and rate of the characters.

○  Tone – have students share with the people next to them

○  Pitch – call on individual students to share with the class

○  Rate – volunteer student to share


Guided Practice: (5 minutes)

●  Everybody switch partners! Find someone that you haven’t worked with yet today.

●  Give students one of the characters from the list on the projector. You will each say

something in your character voice. You can use your sentence on your slip of paper or say something else.

●  Have each student think about how they are going to use tone, pitch, and rate to create that character. Now, when I say go, …

○  MODELING: – have a partnership volunteer to help you explain.

○  For example, if I was partnering with ______, and I had chosen an old woman for my character, I would say, “Good morning young man, my name is Judith” using my best grandma voice. My partner would guess if I had chosen “old woman” off the board. Then your partner would introduce themself to you. Then you would guess which character your partner is from the board.”

●  In their partnerships, have students practice with each other as those different types of characters:

○ Old man, little girl, someone in love, someone who is in a really big hurry, someone in a lot of pain.

● Pick a partnership that is really utilizing tone, pitch, and rate to share with the class.


Independent Practice: (15 minutes)

●  Everybody switch partners! Find someone that you haven’t worked with yet.

●  “I’m going to number you 1- 4. Based on your partner number, that is the number scene you will pick up. These scenes are purposefully vague, so you have a chance to practice creating a character. You can pick a stereotypical character from earlier or something else, but it needs to be specific enough that you know how to manipulate your voice.”

○  Before you go anywhere, brainstorm with your partner what your character is going to be. You need to use tone, pitch, and rate to create your character.

○  Find your own space in the auditorium with your partner and practice your scene focusing on tone, pitch, and rate.

●  Now find another partnership and perform for each other.

●  Once all the groups perform for someone else, share with your group of 4 about the

following questions. Now share with the class.

○  What did you hear?

○  How did that help us understand the character?


Closure: (10 minutes)

●  Have volunteers perform for the class.

●  Discussion during people’s performances:

○ Which vocal term did you use and why?

  • ANNOUNCEMENT – bring puppet body (sock, paper bag, even a popsicle stick, but

preferably a sock or paper bag).