Lesson Plan

It's Not What You Say It's How You Say It - Intonation

Students will gain mastery with Intonation, which is the rising or falling of your voice to show meaning or intent.
Aaron S.
Classroom teacher
Wuhan Foreign Languages School
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My Grades 11
My Subjects English Language Learning
EdTech Mentor

Students will be able to...

1) remember the definition of intonation and explain it to others

2) identify intonation in conversations and demonstrate correct understanding of tone by replying correctly, appropriately, and in a timely manner

3) add intonation into their conversations by initiating the use of tone correctly and appropriately

4) write or perform a scene/skit that utilizes intonation correctly

English Language Learning
Grades 9 - 12
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Introducing It's Not What You Said It's How You Said It

This is another lesson in a unit about voice modulation, and how it affects the meaning of what we are saying.  To begin, it may be helpful to review what was discussed last lesson about Sentence Stress and Tone.  The Youtube video can be shown again, and this time tell students the topic will be intonation.  A good way to introduce this topic is ask students to tell you the difference between "really?" and "really!" How do you know what I mean? How do you know what to say next? It's the same word, but the responses to it are different. So what is the difference between saying "really?" and "really!" Have students talk with each other and then share with the group.  In group discussions like this it's wise to use an app or some method to get responses from the entire class not just a brave few.  So to get responses from the entire class an app like plickers could be used, but for a more versatile approach, and one that offers students a choice in how they would like to respond is have a group chat that includes the entire class in a messaging app. Then students can choose to reply either in the group out loud or respond via message in the app.   

2 What is Intonation?

After introducing intonation, have students work in groups to formulate a definition of what intonation is.  On a keynote presentation have some other examples ready for students to look at. For example, when asking a question it is common to raise your voice at the end.  When stating the answer to the question often times your voice will fall.  Also when saying a list, your voice will usually rise on each item until the last item when it will fall.  It would also be very valuable to offer "real life" examples of these from tv show clips.  These could be searched for on Youtube, but if that search is on fruitful the teacher or students could model them.  Again, after all these examples, have students work together to discuss their definition of intonation.  If they need to make changes be sure to have them explain why they made changes, if they didn't make any change, explain why not.  Have students share the definitions with the class.  Again this can be either out loud or via a chat group on a messaging app. Students should arrive a definition that is similar to: the raising and falling of your voice to show meaning or intent.  Sometimes it is referred to as the punctuation of spoken English.

3 Student Practice

Students can create their own examples or find new examples online of intonation.  They can use there device's camera to record a video of themselves and then use clips or imovie to edit it. These videos can be shared with the class, and the teacher should offer feedback on them as well to check student understanding.

In the previous lessons of Tone and Sentence Stress it has been suggested that students can create their own examples and share them with each other via a messaging app.  They are able to do the same again.  If students have been doing this for each lesson, they can collect their work together and create their own classroom dictionary for these concepts.  Each student can keep their own copies saved on their personal device, or they could be all uploaded to a central location such as a classroom website or blog.  It is really cool then to use these student examples when it is time to review.  These examples can be used in conjunction with a quiz app like kahoot. Youtube has some great tutorials on how to upload videos into kahoot. 

4 Student Activity: 2 Line Vocabulary

This is adapted from the old TV show "Whose Line Is It Anyways."  It is a game called, "Two Line Vocabulary."  Three people will play, two people can only say two sentences or lines each, and the third can say anything he or she wants.  The 3 actors have to perform a scene or scenario that is told to them.  The scene only lasts about 2 minutes.  The actor that can say anything will begin and the other two actors will respond to him by saying only their two sentences.  They can say them however they want, so they'll have to use sentence stress, tone, and intonation to convey the meaning they want.  An example from youtube is linked to the side as an off-site resource.  After students understand the game, depending on their level they can perform the same scene they saw in the example, or they can write and perform their own scene.  Make sure students use and review all of the concepts from previous lessons: sentence stress, tone, and intonation. 

5 Wrap-Up

Activity: Assessing

To finish, students can self-reflect about how intonation can help them understand and communicate with English better.  This is similar to the wrap-up for sentence stress and tone. Here are a few questions to guide their thinking:

What makes identifying intonation difficult?

What can I do to improve my understanding?

What did I learn today that can help me in the future?

What did I struggle with today or what do I need more practice with?

What advice would I give to someone learning this topic?

Students can reflect and share anyway they are comfortable with audio recording, writing, selfie-video, etc.