Sunday, 9 March 2008

Tips for Choral Speaking

It's a lazy Sunday morning and I'm archiving emails when I chance upon this note from Katrina Sprott. She first wrote to me when this blog first started, asking for some tips on choral speaking. I was happy to share my limited experience with her, and hopefully spread some good practices across the globe.

Katrina writes:

Dear Joanna,

Hello, I was reading your blog on the internet and was interested in your work teaching Choral Speaking. I am a new teacher working in Hong Kong and have been asked to teach a choral speaking/chanting class this year. I had never heard of it before and don't really know what they expect. You seem to have a vast knowledge and your students seem to like the stuff you do so I was wondering if you had any suggestions for a novice teacher. My class will be around 6 to 8 years old, and English is their second language. Most of the things I found on the internet are religious or too difficult for my students level. Plus most were boring. I need something that will motivate the kids and I want them to enjoy it. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Joanna replies:

Thanks for your interest, Katrina. Most of the Choral Speaking I've done is for 13 - 17 year olds. But all is not lost...there are some poems that may be suitable for younger kids. "Matilda" and "Goldilocks" in the link below are good examples. Roald Dahl's work is an excellent resource. Or just write one that would appeal to HK kids!

Some tips:
1) Get every child to recite one line. You can then divide their voices into light (sweet & airy), medium or dark (strong & authoritative). Then get the lights to stand in front, medium in the middle, and dark at the back (on elevated platforms)

2) You can then use the different voices to express different emotions in the poem. Lights for "romantic sighs", Dark for "Charge of the Light Brigade" - you get the picture :-)

3) Focus on pronunciation, expression (facial) and volume (loud/soft) to bring out the aesthetics of the poem

4) Last but not least, HAVE FUN!

It is such a joy to watch individual kids come together as a team and speak as one voice. All the best!


Mrs Thanenthiran, the senior English teacher at BBGS for many years, explains Choral Speaking in an interview with The Star on 10 April 1984:

" Choral Speaking is reciting poetry composed by the students or adapted from the work of a poet. It enables the students to learn to read and interpret poems. It gives them an opportunity for creative imagination. It creates a love for poetry.

On the whole, it helps improve their English, especially the oral part. And for students of English Literature, it helps them in the poetry section. Choral speaking is a good introduction to English literature.

If the poem is composed by the students, the whole class will pitch in to suggest titles and polish up the lines. It takes at least three weeks for them to produce the final copy which has to be approved by their teacher. When it is all over, the girls will be ready for the competition held at the end of the first school term.

The contest is divided into the junior section (Forms One and Two), intermediate (Forms Three and Four) and senior (Forms Five and Six). Only one class from each Form will take part in the finals. There will be three external judges who will give marks for timing, special effects, pose and demeanour, and pronunciation."


Note from author of Back to BBGS blog, Joanna Yeoh (August 2011)

Given the tremendous interest among English teachers for Choral Speaking scripts, I have updated the following link with some prize-winning poems from BBGS. We are happy to share our treasure trove with you, and ask that in return, you credit this blog when citing sources. Thank you.

1 comment:

Stella C. said...

Dear Joanna

A delightful find of the Sounds of London Town on your blog. My class also presented and won the School's 1981 choral speaking competition based on an invigorating rendition of this poem. Special tributes to Mrs Wee, our fun and funny English teacher, as well as Mrs Joanna Lau, whom was tasked to improve our intonation and expression. Totally memorable was my part of rendition of the 'paper boy' in the poem. I can still remember it as if it was just yesterday. Such fond memories. Thank you and please keep up the good work.

Stella Choy
Form 5, Class of 1984