Posted in Drama for children

Choral Speaking with Children


Choral verse/speaking is an excellent way to introduce a large class to poetry and sound. It develops the ear. It requires discipline and it gives the student the experience of performing within a group. The shy child is not overlooked. It also keeps the entire group occupied all the time.
The following points should be considered:

Choice of Poem:
Not all poems lend themselves to interpretation by Choral Speaking however poetry is meant to be recited aloud so there is a wide selection to choose from. Poems expressing individual emotion are usually more suited to the solo voice. Poems must be suited to the age group.

Group Awareness:
The group must learn to trust each other, to anticipate each other reactions and to coordinate cues.

Tonal Quality of Voices:
Where the teacher is unfamiliar with students’ voices, ask the class to stand in two groups according to their own assessment e.g. light voices, dark voices.
First reading of the poem:
Ask the students to read/say the poem in unison.
What’s it about?
What’s the author’s intention?
Are they any hidden meanings?
Would background noises help?

Sound Effects:
In some poems, descriptive background noise can be used to enhance the poem and to create an atmosphere. E.g. to preface a poem about the sea, very effective sea noise can be use, In a town poem experiment with traffic noises. Imaginative use of the voice can produce some very original work, but care must be taken not to get carried away by the ideas, so beauty of the words is not lost in the cacophony of sound.

Movement:This can be helpful, expressive and visually attractive but must not go over the top. Movement must be subtle and suggestive rather than dramatic, it must complement but not dominate the poem. Under this heading can also include facial expression ad the use of the eyes, this is very important. If the words are deeply felt, they must be reflected in the face and more importantly in the eyes. Tre involvement in the poem must be expressed in the eyes. An audience can be riveted by the intensity of eye power.


Divide the class into two groups. Each group must come up with a choral speaking performance of the following poem:

Old King Cole was a merry old soul,
And a merry old soul was he;
He called for his pipe,
He called for his bowl,
And he called for his fiddlers three.

Then he for his fifers two
And they puffed and they blew tootle-oo;
And King Cole laughed as his glass he quaffed,
And his fifers puffed tootle-ooo

The he called for his drummer boy,
The army’s pride and joy,
And the thuds out-rang with a loud bang! bang!
The noise of noisiest toy.

Then he called for his trumpeters four,
Who stood at his own palace door,
And they played trang-a-tang.
Whist the drummer went bang,
And king Cole he called for more.

He called for a man to conduct,
Who into his bed had been tuck’d,
And he had to get up without bite or sup
And waggle his stick and conduct.

Old King Cole laughed with glee,
Such rare antics to see;
There never was man in merry England
Who was half as merry as he.


Things to think about:
How would divide the group? Solos, light voices, dark voices.
What movement would you use?
What sound effects would use?
What would be the shape of the group?
Come up with additional ideas for this poem.

Examples of additional ideas:
Creative and art can be incorporated into this activity by having the children make homemade instruments. Children will enjoy becoming the orchestra and playing their musical creations. You can switch the orchestra to a marching band and stage the parade in the classroom. The teacher could be the conductor.

Nursery Rhymes:
The following are some Nursery Rhymes that can be used as choral verse. These rhymes can be interpreted in more than one way literally, telling the story, or miming the characters caught in amusing or nonsensical situations.

Simple Simon
Simple Simon Simple Simon met a pieman going to the fair;
Said Simple Simon to the pieman “Let me taste your ware”
Said the pieman to Simple Simon “Show me first your penny”
Said Simple Simon to the pieman “Sir, I have not any!”

Simple Simon went a-fishing for to catch a whale;
All the water he had got was in his mother’s pail.
Simple Simon went to look if plums grew on a thistle;
He pricked his fingers very much which made poor Simon whistle.
He went for water in a sieve but soon it all fell through;
And now poor Simple Simon bids you all “Adieu”


The Queen of Hearts
The Queen of Hearts she made some tarts all on a summer’s day;
The Knave of Hearts he stole the tarts and took them clean away.
The King of Hearts called for the tarts and beat the Knave full sore
The Knave of Hearts brought back the tarts and
vowed he’d steal no more.

Old Mother Hubbard
Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard
To get her poor dog a bone;
But when she got there,
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none.

She went to the baker’s
To buy him some bread;
And when she came back,
The poor dog was dead.

She went to the joiner’s
To buy him a coffin;
And when she came back,
The doggy was laughin’.

She went to the butcher’s
To buy him some tripe;
And when she came back,
He was smoking his pipe.

She went to the hatter’s
To buy him a hat;
And when she came back,
He was feeding the cat.

She went to the barber’s
To buy him a wig;
And when she came back,
He was dancing a jig.

She went to the tailor’s
To buy him a coat;
And when she came back,
He was riding a goat.

She went to the cobbler’s
To buy him some shoes;
And when she came back,
He was reading the news.

Little Miss Muffet
Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her,
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the King’s men
Could not put Humpty together again.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the King’s men
Could not put Humpty together again.

They tried to push him up.
They tried to pull him up.
They tried to patch him up.
Couldn’t put him back together again.


Echo is a variation on Nursey rhymes. As the poem is unfamiliar to you will have to read it aloud first and in your groups, spend a little time talking about echoes and where you hear them.


Sometimes wonder where he lives,
This Echo I never see.
I hear his voice now in the hedge,
Then down behind the willow tree.

And when I call “Oh, please come out,”
“Come out,” he always quick replies.
“Hello, hello,” again I say;
“Hello, hello,” he cries.

He must be jolly, Echo must,
For when I laugh, “Ho, ho, ho,”
He answers me “Ho,ho,ho.

I think perhaps he’d like to play;
I know some splendid things to do.
He must be lonely hiding there;
I wouldn’t like it. Now, would you?

Each group must make up an original story based on the poem. If there is time each group could do a freeze frame, or an improvisation based on their stories.


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