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Vocal projection...and how to teach it

Those of you who are familiar with my blog posts will know that I love talking about the magical effect drama can have on child development. It’s something that we’re 100% passionate about at Perform.

Every week, as well as lots of  singing, dancing and acting, our classes focus on important social or life skill. These range from using eye contact, to confident body language, to being kind to others. We’ve devised a different one for each week of the term, but there’s one that recurs regularly because of its importance, and that’s how to project your voice.

Next week is our “Vocal Projection” week and I know that many parents are really interested in how we go about improving children's vocal clarity and enunciation.

So how do we do this?

First of all, we have to demonstrate what vocal projection is. As trained actors, all our teachers are extremely skilled in projecting their voices. It’s actually something I test them on at their initial Perform audition. Nevertheless, we still have to explain what projection means and we do this with examples. A teacher might walk onto the stage and recite a poem quietly and then do it again with great projection. We then ask the children to explain why the latter is better.

We go on to look at when we should project our voices -  situations where a loud voice is a good idea and when it isn’t! We do some fun role-play here to explain about using your voice sympathetically for the environment you’re in. For example, you wouldn’t project if you were in the same room as a sleeping baby. We explain why shouting is not projecting and how you can hurt your voice by shouting whereas, with good technique, you can’t hurt your voice. We always warm up our voices vocally each week and play lots of games to help the children preserve and strengthen their voices.

We also play games such as Word in One, when a child must project a sentence to the rest of the class but without facing them or Find the Treasure where something is hidden in the room and the children have to communicate where it is with vocal signs. My favourite is my new Goldilocks Voices game where, instead of Goldilocks discovering the three bowls of different porridge, she discovers three types of voices (Quiet, Medium and Loud).

Finally, we look at body language. No one can be heard if their shoulders and head are down and their posture is slouchy. Standing tall with head up high is so crucial for great projection.

But just like times tables, the only real way you can develop great projection is with practise. Taking part in a termly show in front of an audience or school assemblies is the best way to put all the above training together to help your child understand the importance of using their voice for the occasion.

If want to help your child learn vocal projection, one simple exercise you can do is ask them to recite a song or poem to you from a different room in your house. If you have stairs, then ask them to upstairs and see if you can hear them. If they’re initially quiet, do it every week until they start to really be clear. Even just sitting eating around the table at home, you can all just go around and say your name but in different ways, again encouraging the various ways we speak which are quiet, medium and loud. It shouldn’t disrupt the neighbours as you won’t be “shouting”. You can also play Project 10 - a good one for the car. You count to 10 but 1-4 is loud, 5-7 is quiet and 8- 10 is medium. And then keep mixing it up.

Although we live in a world of amplifiers and microphones, the ability to project naturally has never been so important. If we can teach that to a child at four, they will hopefully have it forever. After all,  everybody wants their child to be heard.

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