Well, maybe students SHOULD know how to differentiate between these four voices, but honestly many can't. Or maybe they've just never been asked to think critically about their voice choice or never been asked to distinguish between the different timbres. Many times I find that students CAN distinguish between their "four voices" but they can't always decide which is appropriate in a certain setting. For instance: the lunchroom. Which voice is most appropriate? As a teacher, I would say speaking voice or whisper voice... but lo and behold, when 11:30 rolls around, which voice do I head the most of in the lunch room? You guessed it, the shouting voice. So, we take some time and teach the different voices in the hopes that we can train their ears (to hear the differences), their brains (to know which is appropriate and when), and their habits.
I think the voice that we spend the most time working on and developing with children is their singing voice. I can tell you that working with a high ELL (English Language Learner) population, that teaching singing voice and getting students to use it correctly over and over again was the biggest challenge I faced. Shoot, for ELLs it's hard enough to use their speaking voice with confidence. They want most of all to "not mess up" while speaking in a non-native tongue. For ELL students, singing voice just adds to that struggle. And not just for ELLs, for all students singing voice is weird at first because they are not always accustomed to using their voice in that way or in that register. We work on "head voice" and lyrical quality and we try to teach them to match pitch and sing correct intervals. "Singing voice" is the voice we focus the most on in their formal training in elementary and that teaching goes on for yeas. But it all starts with students being able to identify each voice and know how to use their voices appropriately.
FOUR VOICES=FOUR PUPPET PALS
Anyway, I have a ton of these puppets and I love using them in singing games and lessons where I teach new songs and concepts. The kids LOVE the puppets and think it's so fun when "a new friend" comes out to teach us something. I use the big fluffy cat to teach the song "Naughty Kitty Cat" and I use the little Robin finger puppet when I teach Lynn Kleiner's song "Who's that Hatching." There are an infinite number of uses for these little guys.
When it came time to teach the four voices this year, I decided to pull out the puppets once again to see if they would catch the kids attention and keep them interested. It worked out beautifully and has been so much fun! A new puppet pal would come out for every new day so that students interacted with one puppet and one voice per lesson. Here's how I introduced them.
SPEAKING VOICE: PETER THE RABBIT
Sidenote: I named the rabbit puppet "Peter" because I have so many puppets that if I named him something more interesting like "Jack" or "Allegro" or something else I would absolutely forget it by the next class period. "Peter Rabbit" I will never ever forget. Maybe not as creative as it could be, but definitely a name I will remember so that I don't have to endure Kinders scolding me "that's not what you called him last time!"
Peter made sure to show the Kindergarteners his big ears. I interjected to tell them that since Peter had such big ears he heard things really, REALLY well. "If you use your shouting voice around Peter it really hurts his ears. That's probably why he prefers his speaking voice so much." Peter agreed with me. We talked a little more and then we let the kids try it out. Peter would say "speaking voice" and then they would repeat in their speaking voices the name, "speaking voice." He taught them a little rhyme. "Speaking voice is the best, it's better than all the rest." They loved it!
Love the puppet that I use for Peter? Grab it on Amazon.com by clicking HERE.
Whisper Voice: Flitter the Butterfly
Then "Flitter" the butterfly carefully flew into the room and sat down on my knee. Immediately the students "got it" and understood why they had to be quiet. I said in my whisper voice that Flitter was a good friend of mine. I always have to be careful around her because butterflies are easily scared. We talked about being outside and how butterflies often fly away when we get close. If we walk slowly towards butterflies and move quietly they don't get scared away so easily.
Then Flitter introduced herself and talked to the students in a whisper voice. If a kid would respond in their speaking voice I would make Flitter fly away for a second and come back when the students quieted down. They were entranced... Then Flitter told them this little chant, "Whisper voice is the best, it's better than all the rest." which they remembered learning with Peter. They thought it was hilarious that Flitter and Peter disagreed.
For the record, this is the only puppet in this set of four that is NOT Folkmanis brand. However, should anyone want to send me a better butterfly puppet as a gift, they could absolutely find it at this Amazon.com link and send it to David Row %Lansing Charter Academy, 3300 Express Ct. Lansing, MI 48910
Singing Voice: Snowy the Owl
Snowy the Owl sits high up in the room on top of my cabinets. She's been there all year and the students just didn't notice her until now. Snowy flew down and sang a vocal glide as she came down on a "Whoooooo." When she would fly up "her" voice would go up and when she flew down her voice would go down. Foreshadowing for vocal exploration later in the year! Finally she found a spot to sit on my knee and she introduced herself to the boys and girls in a lyrical speaking voice. More singing than speaking. She told them about herself and about how she loved to use her singing voice. She mentioned all the places she would sing and how much she loved singing. Then she started to sing "Choo Choo Train," and "Thumbkin," both of which we had been learning as a class. The class loved that she was singing their songs.
Then she said that the students would be able to sing too! She taught them this little rhyme "Singing voice is the best, it's better than all the rest!" on a Sol-Mi interval. They laughed because they were definitely familiar with that phrase by now. They sang it with her and then she told them that she had something special for each student to do.
And if you love this really cool snowy owl puppet you can get it at this Amazon.com link. This one is super cool because her wings can velcro shut if you want them to AND there is a little handle inside so that you can make her head spin. It's super awesome!
Shouting Voice: Grizzly the Bear
At the ends of sentences Grizzly starts to get louder and louder, switching from a speaking to a shouting voice. I interject as the teacher and remind him that he needs to stay calm inside the school building. The kids love this. Grizzly apologizes and tells me that he's just really excited and loves using his favorite voice. I suggest that he tell us the name of his favorite voice, but "please be sure to use your speaking voice. We don't want to get too loud!" Grizzly is happy to oblige. So he says, "Well, my favorite voice is a very loud voice. It's... YOUR.... " and then I break in and remind him that he's getting too loud and I remind him not to actually us the loud voice. "Just tell us the name of your favorite voice with your speaking voice." He apologizes again and starts to try again. "Remember, it's a really REALLY loud voice. A voice you use outside or in an emergency. It's.... YOUR... SHOU" and I cut him off again. "No, no, Grizzly! Stay calm. Not so loud." The third and final time he starts very slowly and calm. "Sorry, sorry, sorry. I'll really try and control myself.... This is my favorite voice. It's a very loud voice. It's.... Your.... (big pause).... SHOOOOOOOOUTING VOOOOOOICE!!!!!!!" And of course the kids laugh and I try and calm Grizzly/the kids back down.
I tell them that we're not going to say everyone's names in our shouting voice. Instead I tell them that they can shout "shouting voice" with Grizzly one time. He says, "well if we only get to say it once, we'd better make it good!" And they shout and have a ton of fun. With selected classes Grizzly will tell them the poem "Shouting voice is the best, it's better than all the rest. Of course they love that!
One little trick that I came up with was to keep the inside of CD spools and use those as puppet stands. They're pretty lightweight plastic but the wide base keeps them upright with most puppets. Unless you have a super top-heavy puppet, you should be fine using the CD spool center as a support. I love using these because they're FREE any time you buy a CD spool and they're also easy to get. Don't have any plans to buy blank CDs or DVDs in the future? Send out an email to your school staff and see if anyone has old spools they don't need anymore. You can also send a request (maybe attach a picture as an example) in a school newsletter and have parents bring in what you need.
Have a fun way to introduce the four voices or maybe an idea to extend this lesson? Leave a comment here or on Facebook! I'd love to hear what you think.