Activities for Teaching Kids How to Interpret and Use Tone of Voice
Updated: Sep 3
Are you wondering why teaching tone of voice to children is important? Teaching kids about tone of voice is important because it helps them understand how the way they speak can impact their relationships with others, it also helps them understand others by learning how to interpret others' tone of voice. Being able to understand and use an appropriate tone of voice for different situations can make social interactions easier, avoid confusion, and encourage understanding. Tone of voice can show others our emotions, intentions, and attitude. Using and understanding tone of voice is an important social skill that can help build social awareness, empathy, and communication skills.
This blog post will cover what tone of voice is, what tone of voice includes (your volume, rate, emphasis, prolongation, pitch, and intonation, and activities for teaching kids how to interpret and use an appropriate tone of voice.
What is Tone of Voice? How Can Kids Learn how to Interpret and Use Tone of Voice?
Kids need to know that the words they say to others are important, and it’s also important HOW they say those words. The WAY you say something is called your tone of voice. Your tone of voice gives people clues about how you’re feeling. When you combine your tone of voice with the words you say, along with your nonverbal communication (body language and facial expression), then you get your attitude!
Your tone of voice can include:
How loud or quiet your voice is (your volume)
How fast or slow you speak (your rate)
How you emphasize or drag out certain sounds or words (emphasis and prolongation)
How high or low your voice is (your pitch)
How your voice rises and falls when you’re speaking (your intonation)
Volume and Tone of Voice
Your tone of voice can include how loud or quiet your voice is. This is called your voice volume. You can think of it like the volume button on a remote control. Some teachers use a tone of voice meter to measure volume, which can also be helpful. In this case a 0 would be silent or not talking. A 1 would be a whisper or a quiet partner voice. A 2 would be a normal speaking voice for table talk. A 3 would be a loud and proud voice to speak to the whole class. A 4 would be an outside voice for recess. A 5 would be screaming, as in to get help in an emergency.
To practice voice volume, you can say what your favorite flavor of ice cream is:
In a whisper voice like when you speak softly at a movie theater.
In an inside voice like when you’re talking to your desk partners.
In a louder voice like when you’re talking to someone who is far away across the playground.
In a yelling voice that is very loud and booming, like there is an emergency.
Rate and Tone of Voice
Your tone of voice can include how fast or slow you speak. This is called your rate.
To practice your rate of voice, try saying what your favorite song is:
Very, very, very, slowly by dragging out each sound.
At a normal rate of speech, like how you naturally talk.
Very, very, very fast!
Emphasis Prolongation, and Tone of Voice
Your tone of voice can include how you drag out or emphasize certain sounds or words. This is called emphasis and prolongation.
Practice saying: “You’re here too?” by dragging out and emphasizing the underlined word. Notice how this emphasis changes the tone and meaning:
YOU’RE here too?
You’re HERE too?
You’re here TOO?
Pitch and Tone of Voice
Your tone of voice can include how high or low your voice is. This is called your pitch. Sadness, surprise, or fearful emotions may sound higher pitched. Anger or disgust may sound lower pitched.
Practice saying these sentences with different pitches and notice if they come out higher or lower pitched.
Oh boy! I’m so surprised!
Oh no! I am scared!
That is disgusting!
I am so mad right now!
Intonation and Tone of Voice
Your tone of voice can also include how your voice rises and falls when you’re speaking. This is called your intonation. When you ask a yes or no question your voice usually rises at the end of the question.
Practice asking these yes or no questions and notice if your voice rises at the end:
Did you like it?
Are you from here?
Does he know too?
Fun Activities for Teaching Tone of Voice
I’ve created this fun tone of voice digital and print game set to help you enhance kids' social skills by teaching them all about tone of voice. This game features 109 Google slides which have 62 audio slides to match the tone with the picture and 31 discussion slides to compare and discuss two different sound clips. You’ll also get printable extension activities to deepen the learning and practice using and interpreting tone of voice, 31 sentence cards, tone of voice dice roll game, 26 emoticon cards, and 35 tone of voice picture cards. There is a lot included in this resource so you'll be able to use it over a period of time to help your kids practice, interpret, and understand different tones of voice. Please note, you must have YouTube and Google Slides to access this resource!
Google Slides presentation with 109 total slides. There are 62 slides where you play the audio clip and then identify the picture (from a field of two) that matches the tone of voice heard. There are 31 slides where you play two sound clips and discuss which tone of voice matches each clip.
Tone of Voice dice roll game
31 sentence cards to practice saying and guessing what tone of voice was used
26 Emoji cards and 35 tone of voice picture cards
Digital and print activity with full color and black and white versions
There are other activities parents and educators can use to help children learn how to use and identify different tones of voice. You can play a game where you ask a question or say a sentence in different tones of voice (see the big list below), and ask your child to identify how they think you're feeling based on your tone. You can also watch shows or movies together and ask your child to identify the tone of voice used by different characters.
Another way to help children practice using and understanding different tones of voice is through role-playing activities. You can create scenarios where your child must use a particular tone of voice to communicate their emotions, such as asking for help, expressing excitement, or apologizing. You can also encourage your child to use different tones of voice when reading a storybook out loud. This can help them understand how tone can change the way a story is told, and how it can impact the listener's emotional response.
Free Printable to Introduce Tone of Voice to Kids
Scroll to the top of this page, or head to this link, to sign up for my freebie SEL subscriber library. When you sign up, I suggest using a personal email and checking promo folders if you don't get the opt-in right away. Once you opt-in, you'll be on my email list, and you'll unlock my whole resource library - which includes a small sample of my tone of voice activity set. If you're already a subscriber, just head to the resource library to grab this today!
Tone of Voice Examples:
Amazed / Impressed
Annoyed / Irritated
Angry / Upset
Calm / Relaxed
Confused / Uncertain
Disinterested / Bored / Monotone / Flat
Friendly / Respectful / Polite
Interested / Satisfied
Pleased / Happy / Cheery / Upbeat / Joyful
Rude / Accusing / Disrespectful
Sad / Disappointed
Sarcastic / Sardonic / Bitter / Cynical
Scared / Nervous / Worried
Super Duper Excited / Enthusiastic / Energetic
Surprised / Shocked
Sympathetic / Sorry
How Tone of Voice Can Change the Meaning of Your Words
Your tone of voice can convey a wide range of emotions, from excitement and happiness to anger and frustration. Understanding tone of voice is crucial for effective communication, as it can change the meaning of a message or even the way in which it is received. Tone of voice can greatly influence the meaning of a message, and even change it entirely. A simple statement like "That's okay" can have different meanings depending on the tone of voice used. If spoken in a reassuring tone, it can indicate that everything is fine. However, if spoken in an annoyed or sarcastic tone, it can indicate that the speaker is actually upset. Similarly, a sentence like "I didn't say you were wrong" can be interpreted as either defensive or supportive, depending on the tone of voice used. Or saying "I'm fine" in a cheerful tone can mean that everything is great, while saying the same words in a flat or sarcastic tone can indicate the opposite.
It's important to be aware of how tone of voice can be misinterpreted, as it can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. For example, a child might interpret a parent's angry tone of voice as criticism or rejection, even if the parent's words weren’t intended that way. By understanding the nuances of tone of voice, children can better understand the emotional content of messages.
In conclusion, being aware of tone of voice is essential for effective communication. By helping children understand tone of voice, they can become better communicators and more effective in conveying their emotions and intentions. Tone can greatly influence the meaning of a message and even change it entirely. By helping children understand the importance of tone of voice, and by providing them with opportunities to practice using different tones, parents and educators can help them become more skilled at communicating their emotions and intentions. With practice and guidance, children can learn and interpret tone of voice effectively and become confident and skilled communicators.