In the afternoon there was this PTA meeting at my children’s school in Shah Alam. I went in right on time but as usual the VIP will arrive late due to previous engagement. I picked a seat after filling up a form for an insurance agent. I was attracted by the goodie bag but actually it was just that— a goodie bag— with nothing much inside…..a pack of tissue, a thumb-sized notepad and a bunch of leaflets that have no use whatsoever. I saw the most idiotic presentation that anyone could possibly imagine—choral speaking—I don’t know who created this stupid presentation, but it is all over the schools in Malaysia and even have a national level competition. They spoke together in English (i guess that what “choral” is)like telling us some stories, no rhythm. they moved while doing the talking but so stiff and awkward. Frankly , it’s just boring. What else can I say ? Even after reconsidered it and replayed it a thousand times in my mind, it’s still came out exactly that—uninteresting. I pity the students who have practiced and practiced maybe a zillion times to make it so; but sorry guys choral speaking is not my thing. I would love to see the performance with more innovations such as some bits of soprano, ghazal or cha-cha in between the “speaking” thing. in other words, make it more interesting. maybe you guys were too conscious with the rules and regulations for this type of performance—-but, do me a favor next time , BREAK IT! break all the rules and make all the parents dancing in their seats with excitement. Then I would get up and say BRAVO ! BRAVO!. You could have done that, but you did not. Too bad.
then the emcee and big people just kept praising the Pengarah guy for coming….what are you talking about? that’s his job! to come around and check on his subjects. Would he come on his own time and accord? I don’t think so. Can we just do away with praising the VIPs? and give them gifts as well. can’t you understand that it is his job to come! All this tradition has made our VIP so bigheaded. and it is more so for events in schools when they call on a hot shot from Kementerian or Pejabat Negeri/Daerah. A tradition deeply rooted among teachers and their KP goonies. I left the event midway through.
About Choral Speaking
by Anita Geller, Arts Consultant with the District School Board of Niagara and is based on The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8, The Arts, 1998. Thanks Anita, from all of us at CODE!
What is Choral Speaking? When groups of students recite passages they’ve committed to memory, they are involved in choral speaking. (In choral reading and reader’s theatre, students are not required to memorize the text, as the names imply). Students interpret text (poems, stories and other sources) by exploring the elements of choral speaking and movement. Together, they experiment with language and explore their voices in a “safe” environment. Since choral speaking is such a highly flexible strategy, individual student needs can easily be addressed within the context of whole group activities. For example, students who are less comfortable “performing” can be placed in large or small groups; others, more excited by the opportunity to experiment, can be given greater challenges such as solo lines.
How do I get started? Find a piece your students are interested in exploring. Select several poems, stories or prepared pieces to begin with and then explore them all with the group. Choose your favorite! Beginners find Shel Silverstein’s poems wonderful starting points! Take time to discuss the meaning of the piece you’ve collectively selected (interpretation), after reading through it several times. You need to do this in order to know what you hope to eventually ‘say”!
Practice speaking the piece, focusing on one element of choral speaking at a time. Through this work, you will discover a great deal about the poem, its meaning, not to mention the group itself.
What are the elements of choral speaking’?
They are, in random order:
Number of voices: Choral speaking utilizes every voice in the group. Students can be given solo lines, divided into sections or small groups, or the entire group can speak a line simultaneously. This ability allows you to increase or decrease the sound or volume as well as express the meaning of the text. “Playing” with the number of voices in this way is a large part of the learning process.
Pitch: Pitch refers to the “highness” or “lowness” of a sound, or more technically to the variations of the voice on a musical scale. This is often referred to as inflection as well.
Tempo: Tempo refers to speed. The rate at which a piece is recited has an impact on both the reader(s) and the listener(s). The tempo, ideally, should relate to the overall rhythm of the piece.
Dynamics: Dynamics refers to volume or loudness. Altering this element allows for emphasis (either sentence, phrase, or word). This emphasis conveys mood, emotion and meaning to the listener.
Tone: Tone refers to the quality of sound unique to each voice. Our ears perceive voices as “light’, “medium”, or “heavy/dark’. Depending on the piece, you will combine students who have similar tones, grouping them together for effect, or you will combine a variety of tones for special effects.
Movement: Choral speaking involves movement! Experiment with gesture, large physical actions, or even choreography!
Rhythm: Rhythm reflects patterns of sound. Sounds can be short, medium or long, and they can be arranged in a variety of forms. The rhythms in a piece are often more easily identified as phrases or combinations of rhythms. Rhythm often involves repetition and through this repetition a feeling of movement is evoked.
These are the essential elements. If you choose to share your work with other classes in the school, you may wish to consider staging: this involves organizing the students either on stage or risers or mime boxes for the benefit of the audience. Practical concerns involve sight-lines (i.e. can the students be seen by the audience) as well as other logistical considerations such as: entrances; exits; and movement. Costumes too can be worn if desired! Use simple “suggestions’ of character such as hats, scarves, canes, etc., or dress in full character attire.
Are there different types of Choral Sneaking?
Yes! Use one or all of these common forms below either individually or combine a few within a piece (length permitting) to produce the effect you and your students collectively desire! The key is to experiment until you have achieved your intention for the piece.
- Unison: The entire groups reads the material together. You may add sound effects if desired.
- Antiphon: The class is divided into two or more groups, each responsible for a different portion of the piece you’ve chosen.
- Refrain: A “narrator” reads the majority of the text; the refrain or “chorus” is spoken by the rest of the group. Solo: Individual students are assigned lines within the piece.
- Cumulative: Here individual voices or groups of voices are either added or subtracted, depending on the desired effect.
Teacher Tips: Be sure students have had ample opportunity to become familiar with the
text before putting it “on its feet”. Focus on one or two elements at a time when rehearsing the piece, making sure to discuss the effect each had for both the listener(s) and speaker(s). As students gain experience, allow them to suggest possible changes such as the number of voices designated to individual lines or any other changes they feel would enhance the piece. Have them work in groups to prepare new pieces on their own, using he elements of choral speaking they have learned thus far. Think of the group as you would a choir of singers. They too are broken into sections, have solos, etc. The key principle is unity. When groups of voices speak a line together they must remain unified at all times. This means paying careful attention to articulation and inflection. The benefits of choral speaking are many and the process of preparing pieces is enjoyable for students (and teachers!).
In addition to meeting overall and specific expectations for drama and dance, you will find growth in the following areas: x diction/enunciation cooperative group skills/inter-personal skills vocabulary knowledge of literature .Try choral speaking with your class, using poems or selecting material from the source book JAZZ CHANTS. Keep in mind that there is no ‘right” way to interpret the material; experiment and have fun!