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THE USE OF THE VOICE
As social beings, we must communicate our thoughts. We do this by talking and writing. Much attention is given to writing in our schools, and but little to the voice; yet we use the voice a hundred times for every time we use the pen.
If the voice is not given attention in the reading lesson, it will be utterly neglected. Therefore, teachers should be ever mindful of the importance of oral exercises for the development of pleasing and effective expression. This study of expression should have its basis in the reading lesson, but care must be taken that it is made a habit in conversation.
Pupils should be led to understand that neither beauty nor jewels will make them so acceptable and attractive, so winning and helpful, as a pleasant and effective way of expressing themselves. To this end, they must at first become "voice conscious." They must observe the way cultivated people use the voice, and must learn to listen to their own and correct its faults. They must consider this, however, as only the first step toward improvement. They must practice correct usage till it becomes automatic, or second nature. Until they unconsciously use the voice correctly, their speech will not be pleasing and effective. Good speech does not call attention to itself.
As a first requisite, speech must be intelligible. Slovenly enunciation of words is quite as disagreeable as slovenly dress and behavior. One can tell the character of the work in a schoolroom in a few minutes by the speech of the pupils and the teacher. If it is distinct and intelligible, it is an indication that there is clear and definite thinking and orderly behavior.
Speech should not only be intelligible; it should also be expressive. If it is monotonous and lifeless, it shows lack of interest. The head may be there, but not the heart. If the pupils feel sincere interest and enjoyment in what they are doing or saying, they will indicate it in the emotion and emphasis with which they speak.
And as a final consideration, the speaking voice should be pleasant and musical. The harsh, nasal, shrill voice is too often heard. One attracts and the other repels. One is like the song of the birds and the other like the croaking of frogs. One secures a welcome and good will and the other excites unfavorable opinion. It is easily possible for almost everybody to acquire a pure, agreeable tone of voice, and there is probably no equal effort that will bring so rich a return.
The first and the last of these three qualities of speech · distinct enunciation and a pleasant tone of voice are to be acquired by voice drills. The second quality - expressiveness is to be acquired best by emotional interest and by appreciation of what is being read or spoken. Rules for emphasis, inflection, pauses, rhythm, pitch, acceleration, and the like, led so often to affectation and pedantry that with young pupils it is wiser to forget them and give the time to understanding and appreciating what is read or said. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh," and only thus will it speak effectively
While this emotional quality of reading and speaking is well worth the pains, it is to be learned, not by rule, but by entering into the spirit of the selection or undertaking. Children have no trouble in expressing themselves effectively in their play; neither will they have trouble when they are equally interested in their work, and when they have something which they desire to tell to some one else. This desire to give the thought forcefully helps materially in curing many faults.