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How To Explain Voice Over to Children

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

February 18, 2010

Comments (4)

School childrenWhen you're networking with other adults you tend to share a common lexicon, appreciate shared analogies, and are capable of maintaining focused attention.

What happens when you need to explain what you do as a voice over professional to a pint-sized audience?

In today's VOX Daily, I'm going to reveal how you can adapt your networking skills to suit younger listeners to educate and inspire.

Show and Tell

How does one teach a child what a voice over is, what it is meant to do or how it can affect them?

When an opportunity presented itself to visit an elementary school to share a bit about my career with children and talk about my job, I jumped at it!

Earlier today I spoke to a lively class of first-graders. As the children settled down on the floor, sitting cross-legged, I reclined in the teacher's rocking chair. With their expectant eyes looking up at me, I began my visit by asking the kids how they used their voices.

Almost immediately, their arms flew up in the air. "I use my voice to read," said one child. Another said, "To ask questions!" and yet another said "I use my voice to sing."

Their level of enthusiasm was wonderful. As they chattered animatedly in response to my questions, I quickly gauged their responses and adapted my presentation to their interests and needs.

How Did I Explain What a Voice Over Was?

I simply said that a voice over is when you can hear someone but you can't see them. Voice overs are heard on television, in cartoons, movies, on the radio, talking toys, telephone messaging, audiobooks... you name it!

Going a bit deeper, a voice over can be used to:

1. Entertain
2. Teach
3. Inform

I shared that we help voice talent to get work and that we also make sure that companies who need voice overs recorded are provided with work they can use and be proud of.

This explanation seemed to satisfy them but I could tell that they wanted to know more.

Speak Their Language

Kids respond well to examples they recognize in terms that they understand.

For instance, instead of calling something a promo voice over, I asked the children if they watched TV, which they confirmed, and then proceeded to ask if they could recall a voice that told them what was coming up next. To illustrate my point, I delivered a one-liner "Coming up next on Treehouse!"

The Treehouse channel is one of the more popular ones here in Canada and the children immediately identified with what a promo was even though they didn't have a name for it.

Sometimes we're so immersed in our own lingo and jargon that we need to take a step back and hear how other people see what we do. When trying to explain what an audiobook was, I used the term "audiobook" but was careful to say that the narrator is the person who tells you the story.

The kids seemed a bit confused by the term audiobook and their teacher kindly expanded upon what said in terms that they understood. In most cases, as the definition pertains to children, an audiobook is a book that they can listen to on a CD that helps them to follow along while reading a hard copy of a book.

It was agreed that reading a book while listening to a narrator was helpful and made reading easier and more enjoyable.

The most popular form of voice over the children identified with were character voices in cartoons. They enjoyed talking about their favourite cartoons, some of which included SpongeBob, Fairly Odd Parents, Ben 10, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and one child even mentioned Fraggle Rock... although the child quickly added that they only watch that show with their parents on Teletoon Retro (...retro!!!...)

As we spoke about cartoons and animated films, I was able to highlight neat facts about character voice acting and also refer to a few well known animation voice talent that they would be familiar with whom I happened to know. The kids were very impressed that I knew Yoda (Tom Kane) and Dora the Explorer (the original voice of Dora is Kathleen Herles) from the cartoons they watched!

Bring Physical Objects to Serve as Examples

When I arrived, I had a bag prepared containing a few items that could be passed around representative of our industry. They consisted of an audiobook from The Chronicles of Narnia, Sunday Muse's book "You Can Do Cartoon Voices, Too!" and my Samson USB microphone.

I thought about bringing a talking toy or a computer but decided against it after thinking it through. Imagine how a talking toy, and the passing around of a talking toy, could complicate matters when speaking over a group of fascinated children? After all is said and done, I'm glad I chose to leave well alone and focused only on the pieces I brought.

Of all the objects, the microphone was the biggest hit.

Encouraged to pass the microphone around gently, each child tried to talk into it and laughed as the mic made its rounds. While this was happening I was able to explain that people record from their homes using a microphone that can essentially plug into their computer. Pretty basic explanations, but for this age group, basic is ideal.

Incorporate Everyday Items With Purpose

Using another visual aid, I pointed to a chart on the wall that the children could read, sharing that voice talent read from scripts. When a voice talent reads, they must read what is on the page with feeling and in a way that interests other people.

I wanted to drive home just how important reading, writing, and reading aloud is. I told the children that when you read something aloud, you get to hear if what you wrote sounds good! This is particularly effective and of great value when children are learning how to read, write and build sentences.

We also talked about the kind of jobs out there that require people to use their voices. Teachers use their voices as do many other professionals. One way that some teachers are able to use their voices aside from speaking to their students in a classroom setting is to record podcasts. Some teachers podcast for students who live too far away to attend school and those children learn by listening to a recording.

On another note, part of my time focused on the human voice as a fragile instrument that needs to be taken care of. We spoke briefly about how the children could take care of their voices which included no yelling, whispering or screaming. I hope they take the advice to heart! We also talked about how important it is to remain hydrated and to drink plenty of fluids.

What You Need To Remember

When explaining what you do as a voice artist, be sure that you:

๏ Keep topics and language relevant to the children's age group
๏ Cite examples they'd understand
๏ Use visual aids
๏ Ask the kids questions
๏ Relate

Any Thoughts?

If you found this article useful or would like to share your own experiences, comment and join the conversation!

Best wishes,

Stephanie

©iStockphoto.com/Neustockimages

Related Topics: acting, animation, cartoons, child, children, Dora, how to, industry, kids, radio, SAG, speaking, Star Wars, toys, TV, voice overs, voice talent, voiceovers, whispering


Comments


    Good Morning Stephanie,

    Do you ever get the feeling that somedays the stars align and you just make a connection with someone else and what they are doing? Thanks for this wonderful (and timely, for me) post--I'm in the process of producing an "Artroom Newsletter Podcast" for both my school and my Voices.com website demo. I'm enlisting my students, grades Kindergarten-4 to voice the intros and outros, and having a great time teaching them the basics of reading and reciting, breathing and speaking, etc. They are fascinated with the process, from recording to editing, and can't wait for me to set-up the microphone each day. I'll send you a link to the finished podcast when complete!

    Thanks for continued inspiration,

    Dan

    Posted by:

      Hi Stephanie,

      What a great article. This really hits home with my two boys in how I discuss Voice Over with them. We just got back from Chucky Cheese on the weekend and with all of the tickets we won on the games, my youngest went home with a plastic microphone. so things may be rubbing off on them a little.

      Thanks

      Pat

      Posted by:
      • Pat Sweeney
      • February 19, 2010 1:09 PM

        Hey, Stephanie...
        As always, your articles are timely and relevant. While I'm getting more and more involved with various projects, my kids and grandkids are getting more and more interested in the craft.
        Thanks for helping with the discussion!

        Posted by:

          Happy you took time to write this article. I googled "Teach Voice Over to Kids" because I'm going to be talking to my daughters Kindergarten class for career day coming up! These are some great thoughts to add to some of my own. Thank you!

          Posted by:

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