Social Scripts: Tone of Voice
I’m sure you have heard the phrase, “It’s not what you say but how you say it.” When working with children who struggle with pragmatic language skills, we spend a lot of time teaching them to what to say. But, we can’t forget that we also need to teach them how to say things in the right way. The way a speaker emphasizes or stresses words creates an “attitude,” that expresses how the speaker is feeling about a situation or person. If a speaker’s tone is not appropriate for a given situation, the listener can become confused or even insulted. It’s our job to help our students express themselves clearly and appropriately.
First, it’s important to assess your student’s understanding of tone of voice (TOV). I have found it helpful to break it in to four parts; can s/he identify TOV when heard, can s/he use TOV during structured activity, can s/he identify appropriate situations for a target TOV, and can s/he use TOV appropriately in everyday situations.
It is also important to assess your student’s understanding of TOV vocabulary. How can you tell a student they are being rude when they don’t know what rude is? To assess this, I have students sort target words in to 3 categories, positive, neutral, and negative.
The next step is the fun part, the acting. We LOVE to act in the speech room. To do this, I provide my students with scripts including a social situation and a line.
Then, as the director, give them a target TOV to say their line with. In group situations, have students take turns being the actor. You can tell the acting child the target TOV quietly and ask the other students to listen closely when the child is acting to guess what TOV was being used. To extend the activity, have your students discuss whether or not the TOV was appropriate for the situation. You can also have your students add on to the script.
Scenario: “It is dismissal and you are waiting outside with your teacher to get picked up. Your mom is 10 minutes late and you are the last child left.”
Script: “Where were you?” Direct the student to say the line in a “rude,” tone. Then ask s/he or the group to imagine how the rest of that conversation would go. How would your mom respond to your tone? How do you think it would make her feel? Is it appropriate? How do you think you should have said it?
Communication is not just what we say, but how we say it. It’s important to teach our students with pragmatic language challenges this important message.
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