Lesson Plan

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

Students will gain mastery with Tone, which is the emotion or attitude in one's voice.
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 tone and explain it to others

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

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

4) remix a movie trailer by changing it's tone to feel like a different style or genre of movie

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.  The Youtube video can be shown again, and this time tell students instead of talking about Sentence Stress the topic will be Tone.  The discussion this time can focus on the emotion people show in their voice, for example if someone is sad they sound said, if they're happy they sound happy.  When we're happy we don't have to say it, people can tell - even when it's a different language.  When we're angry or sad people can tell that too.  That emotion in our voice is tone. 

2 What is Tone?


For this step, the teacher really needs to assess the previous knowledge of the class and how much time is available.

If students seem to understand the concept of tone easily then students may quickly move on to practicing it. If students struggle with it, it would be helpful to show students pictures of various emotions with the same caption.  For example, a happy child saying "I'll do it!" and then an angry child saying "I'll do it!" The words are the same, but the meaning is different because they sound different, and they sound different because of tone.  Other examples may be helpful as well, such as "Who did this?" with a happy and angry child. Or simply "Why?" with an excited child and a scared child.  After this, if there is time students could create their own examples using themselves as a model and taking selfies. Captions could be added using Typorama or similar app.  It could also be fun to share the pictures with each other with a messenger app. 

3 Student Practice

Activity: Conversing

For this student activity have students work in pairs or groups.  Using Keynote or Powerpoint display some words or phrases and descriptions of tones that students can use to practice with each other.  For example:


1) enthusiastically agree to do something

2) finally agree to do something you don't like doing

3) showing interest, encouraging the other person to tell you more

4) showing amusement

5) showing boredom


1) to a friend

2) to friend you haven't seen in 3 years

3) to a neighbor you don't like

4) to a baby

5) to someone you just found doing something they shouldn't

6) to someone on the phone and you're not sure if they're on the other end

After students have practiced these, have them work to create short conversations with their partners.  The conversation should be simple and short and then they can create different scenarios in which the words of the conversation will be the same, but the tone will be different. 

4 Student Activity: Movie Trailer Remix

For this activity students will demonstrate their mastery of the concept of tone by  remixing a movie trailer.  The easiest and probably best examples use children's animated movies.  Children's animated movies usually have a happy, humorous, or adventurous tone to it, especially the trailers.  Students will create their own trailer from scenes in the movie.  Students can use a movie editing app like iMovie or something similar and add new narration, new music, and select certain parts of scenes in a movie to completely change the tone of the movie trailer.  Often times it's best to change from a happy tone trailer to a horror tone trailer.  For some examples, simply search Youtube for "If FROZEN was a horror film" or "if *MOVIE TITLE* was a horror film" there are plenty of examples to view and show your students what to do.  Let students be creative, don't force them to make a horror movie, but allow them to choose.  This make take quite a while to create and edit so be sure to allow plenty of time for students to complete the task. You may wish to create a rubric to assess them.  Also when it is time to share the trailers, have students present them, explain their choices, and allow for some Q & A after. 

5 Wrap-Up

Activity: Assessing

To finish, students can self-reflect about how tone can help them understand and use English better.  This is similar to the wrap-up for sentence stress, but I would have students really try to think and connect to social and emotional learning here.  It wasn't a focus of the lesson, but I think it's something good for students to think about and connect to. How can recognizing and responding to tone help them be more empathetic?  Feedback to their responses could really help them become more emotionally aware. Here are a few questions to guide their thinking:

What makes identifying tone 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.