School theater productions encourage children to not fear public speaking. Lessons in diction and voice projection produce the foundation for success when it comes to lines being clearly heard throughout the theater. Children learn well through games. Practicing diction/production-strengthening games several times a week will build the platform needed for opening night success.
Use bean bags to illustrate the importance of voice projection to students. Have the students sit next to each other in a horizontal row. Walk 15 feet in front of the row and place a bean bag on the floor. Place the next one 25 feet away and the third one 45 feet away. Direct each child to take a turn stating his name and the name of his favorite food while looking at the first bean bag. Repeat the exercise while they each look at the second and the third bean bag. Children naturally raise their voices when speaking to objects placed farther away. When finished, tell them they just played a part to the second, fourth and seventh row of a theater audience. Discuss the importance of projecting voices to be sure everyone in the theater will be able to hear them.
Practice diction by having students play the funny sentence game. The first child stands and is told to repeat the sentence, "My puppy jumped into the hole and I had to pull him out!" Have the second child stand and repeat the sentence but tell him he must use a different voice, while remaining understandable. Each child in the class stands and repeats the sentence using a different voice, pitch and volume. This game illustrates the importance of diction as they work to be understood even though they are using different tones, voices and volumes.
One at a time, each student stands in front of the class with his back turned to the students. He is given a card with a famous quote written on it. Direct him to speak the quote on his card in a normal volume voice using the clearest diction possible. Seated students write down what they believe they heard and give their answers to the teacher. The speaking student gets one point for each student who correctly heard and wrote the quote down. All students get a chance at the front of the class. The student with the most points at the end of the game wins a prize.
Repeat projection and diction games several times a week leading to the production. Habits develop with practice, and students will remain comfortable in projecting their voices on the stage and clearly speaking their lines.
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