6th Grade - Speaker's Word Choice, Pitch, Tone And Gesture

Speaking and Listening
Speaker's word choice, pitch, tone and gesture
Relate the speaker's verbal communication (e.g., word choice, pitch, feeling, tone) to the nonverbal message (e.g., posture, gesture).
Be able to connect common elements of verbal and non-verbal communication.

Sample Problems


What is verbal communication? (communicating with words)


What is nonverbal communication? (communicating without words)


What is pitch? (the quality of sound, e.g. high, low, loud, soft)


What is tone? (the emotional quality, e.g. sad, funny, angry)


What is posture? (the way someone carries himself or herself – how she or he sits or stands)


What is a gesture? (the motion of the hands or body to express or emphasize a thought or feeling, e.g. pounding the fists)

Learning Tips


For the question “Why haven’t you told me this before now?”, speak it in the following ways:

-as if someone just told you they loved you

-as if someone just told you they had been lying to you

-as if someone just told you you were about to walk into a surprise party

Do you see how the pitch, feeling, and tone of your voice can change depending on the context?


Read this speech (John F. Kennedy’s announcement of his candidacy for president) to yourself, looking up any unfamiliar words.



I am announcing today my candidacy for the Presidency of the United States.

The Presidency is the most powerful office in the Free World.  Through its leadership can come a more vital life for our people. In it are centered the hopes of the globe around us for freedom and a more secure life.  For it is in the Executive Branch that the most crucial decisions of this century must be made in the next four years -- how to end or alter the burdensome arms race, where Soviet gains already threaten our very existence -- how to maintain freedom and order in the newly emerging nations -- how to rebuild the stature of American science and education --how to prevent the collapse of our farm economy and the decay of our cities -- how to achieve, without further inflation or unemployment, expanded economic growth benefiting all Americans -- and how to give direction to our traditional moral purpose, awakening every American to the dangers and opportunities that confront us.

These are among the real issues of 1960.  And it is on the-basis of these issues that the American people must make their fateful choice for their future.

In the past 40 months, I have toured every state in the Union and I have talked to Democrats in all walks of life. My candidacy is therefore based on the conviction that I can win both the nomination and the election.

I believe that any Democratic aspirant to this important nomination should be willing to submit to the voters his views, record and competence in a series of primary contests. I am therefore now announcing my intention of filing in the New Hampshire primary and I shall announce my plans with respect to the other primaries as their filing dates approach.

I believe that the Democratic Party has a historic function to perform in the winning of the 1960 election, comparable to its role in 1932.  I intend to do my utmost to see that that victory is won.

For 18 years, I have been in the service of the United States, first as a naval officer in the Pacific during World War II and for the past 14 years as a member of the Congress.  In the last 20 years, I have traveled in nearly every continent and country -- from Leningrad to Saigon, from Bucharest to Lima.  From all of this, I have developed an image of America as fulfilling a noble and historic role as the defender of freedom in a time of maximum peril -- and of the American people as confident, courageous and persevering.

It is with this image that I begin this campaign.



Read it out loud with what you believe to be the appropriate pitch, feeling, and tone. What words do you emphasize? When do you pause? When does your voice get louder? Softer?


Now stand read the speech again, using the posture and gestures you think would be appropriate for a presidential candidate. Would you stand behind a podium, sit on a chair, walk around a stage? Would you make eye contact with your audience? Would you look around the crowd? How would you use your hands?


Listen to another speech by Kennedy from later that year (accepting the Democratic nomination) at http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/jfk1960dnc.htm. How close were you to JFK’s speaking style?

Extra Help Problems


Watch the Ronald Reagan Address from the Brandenburg Gate (Berlin Wall) (June 12, 1987) at http://millercenter.org/scripps/archive/speeches/detail/3415 and read the transcript.


Analyze how President Reagan used verbal and non-verbal communication to make this speech effective.


Why do you think this is considered one of Reagan’s most important speeches?


Read some of the comments about this speech at http://millercenter.org/academic/oralhistory/news/2007_0612


Listen to some of the student speeches at http://teacher.scholastic.com/writewit/speech/library.htm. How do you think the students did with pitch, feeling, and tone?


Find the video//audio of the Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream” speech on the Internet. Analyze Dr. King’s speaking style.


Find other Oscar acceptance speeches on YouTube or another site. How do the actors do with their verbal and nonverbal communication skills?


In what everyday situations do people have to speak to an audience? Do they also need to be aware of tone, pitch, and nonverbal gestures?


Have you ever given a speech? Are you a good public speaker?


Write a speech on a topic of your choice to deliver for your family or class. Practice your verbal and nonverbal cues.



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