Back in Time to 2023

play by Rebecca M Newman , illustrated by Cheryl Orsini

Learning intentions:

I am learning to consider factors that affect the way people speak so that I can understand the differences in vocal techniques such as pace, volume, tone and pitch.


Success criteria:

  • I can use my own experience to discuss and experiment with changes in voice based on emotions and situations
  • I can look for clues in a story that would influence the way someone speaks
  • I can use my understanding of pace, volume, tone and pitch to perform the role of a character


Prior to reading the text, begin with a warm-up activity to prompt students into thinking about the different ways we use speech to convey emotion, such as pace, volume, tone and pitch. Explain this to the students using the following examples:

  • Pace – When we are nervous, we often speak quicker than we normally would
  • Volume – When we are feeling panicked, we often raise our voice
  • Tone – When we are angry, we often speak with a harsher tone
  • Pitch – When we are embarrassed, we often use a higher pitch in our voice


Write the words ‘What is that?’ on the board. Choose a student and ask them to read the words in a way that shows they are angry. Choose another student and ask them to read it in a way that demonstrates excitement, then another to read it in a way that shows curiosity. Ask students to come up with other emotions or scenarios that they can demonstrate by reading the phrase in different ways.

Following this activity, students read through the play independently to familiarise themselves with the text. Once they have had a chance to do this, divide them into groups and assign roles to students in a way that suits your class (there are 12 roles overall).

Give them time to become familiar with the dialogue and practice their roles. Remind them that they should consider how they use their voice to convey the feelings and situations of their characters. Advise them to look for clues to this in the brackets – some will give direct instruction (e.g., cheerfully, firmly, sadly, startled) and others will be more indirect and open to interpretation (e.g., sees a bee landing on Scholar C).

When groups have had enough time to read through and rehearse their lines together, create a space for the final performance/s – ideally a playground as this is the setting of the play. You may wish to have the class sit in a circle as each group reads out their performance, or students may prefer to act out the play with the other group/s as the audience.