A convention used to deepen students' understanding of a conflict or a difficult choice facing a character in the drama. The student representing the character remains silent while others standing behind speak out to express the thoughts and feelings the character might be experiencing at this point. (2009 Ontario Arts Curriculum)
An Instructional Approach
- What conflicts might students at their age experience? As we think about choices we have to make, do we think in sentences in our heads? Do we say out loud all of the thoughts that are in our heads? What kinds of thoughts and details do we leave out of the things we say and keep in our heads?
- Each student chooses one conflict that they would like to explore further and writes it down on a card. Teacher collects cards for later use.
- Teacher provides an example to students of a decision that might cause a character to have an internal conflict, (i.e. what high school to attend).
- Students then brainstorm thoughts someone might have when making this decision (i.e. where friends are going, what activities are offered at the school, travel time, strength of athletics or academics, school reputation, etc.)
- Ask two students to volunteer to demonstrate an example of "voices in the head". Student (A) will represent what the character would actually say, and student (B) will represent (and say out loud) what the character might be thinking.
- The teacher supplies the two students with a new scenario that includes character, setting and a decision that needs to be made, (i.e. you are invited to two birthday parties the next day, by two close friends. What do you do?)
- Provide time for the two students to discuss what the character would say out loud versus what the character would be thinking.
- Students then improvise a short scene using "voices in the head".
- The teacher might begin the improvisation by asking student A, "What are you doing tomorrow night? "
- A - I'm not sure.
- B - I really want to go to Sarah's party because it sounds like more fun than Daniel's, but I know my parents will want me to go to Daniel's because they are friends with his parents.
- A - Maybe I'll just stay home. (etc.)
- Discuss as a class if there are any other things the character might have been thinking.
Practice in Pairs
- Students pair up and find their own space in the room.
- The teacher selects a card from the student suggestions and gives all pairs the scenario.
- Students practise the voice in the head technique while teacher observes and coaches. Students alternate the role of 'voice in the head' as the teacher reads out different scenarios from cards.
Encourage students to recreate scenes in front of the whole class if they have made some interesting discoveries in their improvisation.
Variations for Different Levels of Readiness
- During the sample, provide the two volunteers with the lines that are actually spoken, and the students determine what is thought by the character.
- Use a novel, children's book, or fairytale. Stop at a point in the story when the character needs to make a decision and have students use "voices in the head" to determine the character's thoughts.
- Focus on character's emotions, instead of intellectual ideas when hearing their thoughts.
- Study a script and encourage students to examine the underlying subtext to determine what the character's thoughts might be. During the performance of the script, use "voices in the head" to examine what the character is actually thinking.
- Perform a scene with three students, having two students speak the thoughts. One as good conscience, the other as bad conscience.
- Perform a scene with four students, having the thoughts of two characters being heard.
- Seat one student in the centre of the group to represent the character in a conflict and allow the whole group each in turn to touch the character on the shoulder and speak one of the voices in the character's head.
Cross Curricular Uses
Examine two sides of an issue.
Health and Physical Education
Use "voices in the head" to make decisions relating to personal safety and healthy habits.