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December 2019 - Year 21 - Issue 6

ISSN 1755-9715

Switching Voices

Jema Abbate is an assistant professor at Dongguk University in South Korea.

Objective: To give practice in recognizing and producing changing voice quality and illustrate the importance of tone in conveying meaning'

Level: All

Time: 45-60 min.

Preparation: Photocopy or write on the board or PPT the material in Appendices 1 and 2.


  1. Remind students that our voices change to reflect our emotions, mood, age, etc.  Distribute the copies of Appendix 1 or ask them to look at the board. Give out copies of Appendix 2. Demonstrate the first pair of opposite adjectives in Appendix 1 with one of the sentences in Appendix 2 by speaking the sentence as an old or young person.
  2. Students work in groups of four. Each group must select 4 sets of opposites from Appendix 1 and one sentence from Appendix 2 to work with. They then practice speaking their sentence as indicated by the adjectives they have chosen. All members of the group should participate. Please allow ten minutes of practice.
  3. Bring the class attention back together. Group members will take turns demonstrating how they would read their sentence for each of the pairs of adjectives they have chosen, but they do not tell the class which pairs they chose. The class must collectively guess which adjectives from the way the sentence is spoken.

This activity brings attention to how we vary our voices to reflect our moods and status. Students can also come to realize that they can create these moods in English artificially, which is good preparation for drama or public speaking. With younger or lower level students, it may be preferable to offer just a few pairs of simpler adjectives (old-young, happy-sad, tired-energetic) and some simpler sentences (I like ice cream/It’s snowing/I live in the city).


Appendix 1

Old – Young

Friendly – Unfriendly

Interested – Bored

Intelligent – Stupid

Confident – Nervous

Happy – Sad

Relaxed – Angry

Tired – Energetic

Polite – Impolite


Appendix 2

You mean so much to me.

Did you follow the instructions?

That was a lovely dinner.

There’s a lot of work to do.

There’s nothing I can do to help.

Has anyone seen our lost dog?

People are really strange sometimes.

I’d love to, but I already have plans.


Actually, I never liked them.

Let’s meet after we finish studying.


Please check the Drama Techniques for the English Classroom course at Pilgrims website.

Please check the Advanced Drama and Improvisation Techniques for the English Classroom course at Pilgrims website.

Please check the  Creative Ways to Get Students Speaking More course at Pilgrims website.

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