Sai Weng loses a Horse

play by James Bean and Gillian Flaherty , illustrated by Queenie Chan

Learning intention:

I am learning to analyse characters and situations to draw conclusions so that I can make informed choices about vocal effects when portraying them.


Success criteria:

  • I can analyse a character and create my own idea of how this influences the way they speak
  • I can use appropriate tone and pitch for a character and scene
  • I can explain reasons for my interpretation of a character’s speech.


Essential knowledge:

Information to assist students in analysing characters can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Character.


Before reading the play, begin with a warm-up exercise to practice tone of voice. Choose a few students to say the following line out loud any way they like:

  • “What’s going on in here?”

Now choose a student to say the line as though they are a teacher walking in on a group of students who have snuck into a classroom at lunch time and are having a food fight.


Next choose a student to say the line as though they are a small child who is very shy and has walked into a haunted house with their parents and the lights have started flickering.

Discuss the different tones and pitches that students used depending on the character and situation.

Distribute the magazines and assign roles to the class so that each student has a part to read aloud. There are ten roles in total. If needed, Sai Weng, Chen and the narrator may be split among students as needed to ensure everybody has a part to read. This may mean the play has to be read through a couple of times to achieve that. Give students time to read their part to themselves several times so that they are familiar with the lines and feel confident before they need to read it out loud.

Inform them that they should also use their reading time to consider who their character is and how they interact with the other characters. This should help them imagine how their character would speak. They should use their understanding and interpretation of their character to decide what their emotions and attitude may be and how they can convey that in their speech, using tone of voice, pitch and clarity.

Have them consider the following examples of how to convey feelings through voice and discuss how they would complete the remaining boxes. Reiterate that these are just examples, and all emotions and voices are open to the students’ own interpretation:

Tone Pitch Clarity
Nervous Rushed and uncertain High Mumbling and stuttering speech
Angry Aggressive and direct Low Clear and slow speech

Have students read the play aloud as a class. Following this, discuss students’ choices in the way they portrayed their character. Ask students to explain their interpretation and how that informed the way they voiced them. If you needed to read the play more than once to ensure everybody had a turn, compare the ways that different students voiced the same role.