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More voice-based activities to raise learners’ awareness of the power of their voice

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Young woman covering her laughFollowing his first post on giving the learners a ‘pragmatic shock’, Arizio Sweeting returns with more voice-based activities to get your students speaking in English.

In this second voice based post, I would like to share with you two activities to help learners become more aware of the power of their voice.

I have called these activities: Intonation Gap and Voiceover, respectively.

The first activity, Intonation Gap, aims to encourage learners to notice what their voice sounds like when expressing emotions such as fear, shock, excitement, and so on in their speech.

The activity works like this:

  • Divide the class into two groups: A and B.
  • First, give the learners some nonsense sounds on the board e.g. piupiu, etc.
  • Tell the learners that they are going to ask a question using the nonsense sounds.
  • The questions must be short, preferably one-word questions e.g. piupiu? Demo what to do.
  • On the board, write up some adjectives such as afraid, surprised, angry, pleased, excited, questioning, etc.
  • Using the nonsense sounds, learners practise asking questions expressing the emotions on the adjectives on the board. If you have small mirror, give these to the learners so they can see the facial expressions or mouth articulations. The same procedure is repeated for answers.
  • Give each learner the name of a suburb. Alternatively, you could use shop names, street names etc.
  • Tell the learners to mingle and ask each other questions to find someone with the same information, trying to communicate the emotions that would go with the adjectives on the board. This time, they should use real words e.g. Marble Arch? And short answers such as Yes and No.
  • Learners should respond in the same way, paying close attention to the emotion being expressed before giving an answer.

The second activity is called Voiceover, and it is ideal for a class project. Personally, I have found this activity a great confidence builder as well as a challenger of misguided learner perceptions that a ‘beautiful voice’ is only that of a BBC announcer, for instance.

In fact, it has been a great help to show the learners that their voice can be as good as anyone else’s, given the proper work, of course.

This activity works like this:

  • Select a YouTube video with no voice over. Wildlife videos can be a good source of material.
  • Learners using iPhones, iPads and Android devices can access the videos on their gadgets.
  • Learners watch the video and identify the various themes on it e.g. love, bravery etc.
  • Select a song or poem which you think would go well with the video. If you decide to use this activity as a class project, give learners time to find their own poems or songs.
  • Learners watch the video and match the song or poem with the video. Encourage the learners to use their creativity as well and write new lines to go with the video.
  • Using speech symbols, learners study the poem or song, marking it with speech symbols and practise saying it on their own or mirroring each other’s mouths without making a sound.
  • Engage the learners into breathing exercises for relaxation and confidence.
  • Organise the learners into groups for them to narrate the videos in real time.

In summary, I hope you will find these activities of useful for helping your learners discover the power of their voice so that they can use it to do the work for their pronunciation development.

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2 thoughts on “More voice-based activities to raise learners’ awareness of the power of their voice

  1. It seems really interesting and I’d love to include these activities in my “language and language learning” unit, but I don’t quite understand how they work !!! And, as everybody knows, they is nothing worse than a badly prepared activity.
    Here are my questions : What are speech symbols ? (in “Voiceover”) and do learners ask “Marble Arch”, for instance, in the emotions they choose to use ? and how can they find the same information ? Does it mean the teacher has given pairs of identical cards around the class ? And what is on the cards : is it “Marble Arch” ? or “Angry” ?…

    Thanks very much.

  2. He Daems
    I’m sorry about the very late reply. Basically, the speech symbols are codes which you create such as capital letters for stress patterns (e.g. pronunciAtion) or ——- for quick pace. Some pronunciation materials have speech codes prepared. In my book, Language Through Film, there is one available and I use it with learners preparing for giving oral presentations.

    In the other activity, you give two learners in class the same card and they need to try to find the person with the same questions by asking a questions using one of the emotions on the board. If, for instance, learner A approaches learner B and asks Marble Arch? (sounding angry), learner B must answer Yes or No copying the same emotion used by A. If it is answer is YES, the learners should stick together. It’s simply a mingle find someone who has the same card. The only difference is that it is meant to be an awareness raising exercise for learners to focus on other people’s voices. The accuracy of the information i.e. finding the right person is sort of secondary. The important outcome is that the learners can hear the emotive voice and copy it.

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