Bonnie Waltz, Deanna Mayers, Tracy Rains
English Language Arts
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
9, 10, 11, 12
Active Speaking and Listening, English, Public Speaking, Vocal Variation
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
Media Formats:
Downloadable docs, Interactive, Text/HTML, Video

Vocal Variety Matters

Vocal Variety Matters


When giving a speech or presentation, it is important to plan your words according to audience and purpose. It is also important to focus on the sound of your voice and the different ways to use it. After all, who wants to listen to a monotone speaker drone on and on about a topic, even if the topic itself is interesting? This seminar will focus on vocal variation--the different sounds of your speaking voice and how to use them to effectively.


Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions on grades level topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g. visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.
Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning; ensure that the presentation is appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.


Introductory warm-up activity

Watch this video to see how not to present clearly and concisely. The clip shows a teacher who doesn’t attempt to engage his audience, and his students want no parts of the lesson. As you watch, think about how you might teach the class differently. In other words, what’s wrong with the presentation--body language, pacing, volume, boredom, etc.? Jot down words of advice you have for this teacher or anyone else who speaks or presents in a similar fashion. You can revisit your advice later as you learn more about public speaking.


Read or watch the resources to learn about this concept, then do the practice activity.


This article will explain some of the features of your voice. It’s important to understand that your voice is a musical instrument capable of many different sounds, including the sounds of words which become sentences when we speak. As you read, jot down new terms, key points, and questions you have. Chances are you’ll make additions and connections to your list during the rest of the seminar.

This video will prepare you with the basics of using your voice to the fullest degree. Remember, a good speech or presentation isn’t just about what you say but also how you say it. Your voice is a powerful tool. Follow the tips here and use your voice to captivate your audiences.

Here is a list of terms that pertains to the way a speaker can vary his or her voice during a speech or presentation. Review the terms and the definitions. Then arrange the terms into at least three different categories. Classify the words based on the topics of your choice: how frequently you might use them vs. infrequency, how familiar or unfamiliar you are with the terms, different settings in which you’d use those particular terms/strategies, etc. Try for three categories; if you can’t get three, at least put the terms in two separate classifications.



Discuss your ideas / opinions / understandings.


Have a conversation (online or face-to-face) with someone about the information in the seminar so far. Focus on these questions and prompts and any other topical points that come up.

  1. Why is vocal variety important for any speech or presentation?

  2. How might someone with a sense of elocution get a job before someone who lacks it?

  3. Explain why pitch and tempo should be pre-planned for a speech.

  4. Describe a couple of instances in which timbre would be especially effective when speaking.

  5. Cadence is a term often associated with music and poetry. How does it also pertain to public speaking?


Now it is time to self-check how much you have learned about the this topic.  If you do not know as much as you thought, go back to the “Explore” section of this seminar and reread, rewatch, or redo the activities listed.  See your facilitator if you have questions.

Click here to take the quiz online. You do not have to log into the quiz site in order to take this quiz. If a window pops up asking you to sign up for the quiz site, just close the sign-up window and start your quiz.


This is a task or project where you can show what you know.


Your task in the elaborate stage of this seminar is to prepare and deliver a 2 - 3 minute speech about vocal variety. That’s right, the topic of your speech is the topic of this seminar: speaking with varying tones, paces, emotions, etc. You may deliver the speech to a live audience or record the speech--in either case, you are proving your understanding of vocal variety. Follow this rubric.


Complete this wrap-up activity where you reflect on your learning.  

Reflect on this seminar, specifically your overall learning. What was most eye-opening for you? What challenged you or at least pushed your learning along? How did your prior knowledge help you in certain areas? How will the skills or concepts in this seminar carry over to other classes or even life outside of the classroom?