How do Viva Voice online classes work?

Towards the end of term one we made the decision to move all classes online. Within a week, the government announced strict social distancing measures that meant we had to go online immediately, so we’re proud that our studio community had already prepared for this change.

The response to online classes has been overwhelmingly positive, with students quickly adapting to their new learning environment.

As we prepare to launch into term two, we wanted to put a spotlight on what online classes look like at Viva Voice, and give new families an idea what to expect.

“Lucy said of all of her online experiences today (choir, a music lesson and school) her Viva Voice one was her favourite.”

Are classes the same as face-to-face classes?

We quickly worked out, from a series of trial online classes, that students need clear structure and slightly different learning games than what we’d ordinarily use in the studio. Other than that, the structure of classes and the learning outcomes are the same.

We still begin all lessons with tongue twisters and Word of the Week, but these now appear as slides on the screen rather than up on a blackboard. To stimulate discussion, we like to throw in some quirky images to match the Word of the Week. This is an example of an addition to classes that the online format easily allows.

News of the Week is still a crowd favourite in every class, and students are making the most of being at home and on camera in sharing their weekly news. They share items and objects they may not be able to bring to class (we’ve met a lot of gorgeous pets!) and they’ve been learning how to show something for news without blocking their face and bodies on the camera.

Warm up activities in Drama class focus more on solo work than group games, but it’s proving an excellent chance to remind students of the role of their body, movement and physicality in acting.

Drama classes are interactive – how does that work online? 

Whilst drama warm ups are focusing on the individual, there are several drama activities that lend themselves to online classes – in fact, our list is growing by the day as we keep coming up with more!

The students are loving Character Charades (the chat function in Zoom makes this easy as we can send a note to a specific student without the others seeing), as well as One Line Stories, Pass the Object and Can I Come on the Spaceship? These activities are interactive, but play out beautifully online.

How do teachers control the class without being in the room?

We’ll be honest – the first week online was a learning curve! Although the teachers were prepared, most students hadn’t ever used Zoom before. By the end of term, they were all Zoom experts! As the students became more familiar with how Zoom works, they became more responsive to how the teacher was managing the class.

Teachers make use of the ‘mute’ function to control the amount of background noise and help the students focus on their instructions. This alleviates the pressure on our young learners asking their whole household to be quiet – something that’s impossible at the moment while whole families are together at home!

We also use lots of visual cues – students raise their hands if they want to speak, and if the teacher needs to bring everyone’s attention back after an activity, they raise their hand until everyone is focused.

A number of parents have commented on the teacher’s successful management of online classes.

Do the children lose focus when another child or children are working on their piece?

We’ve noticed that listening skills have improved dramatically since going online!

Students are learning how to listen and, as one parent commented, ‘how to conduct themselves online’.

There are moments in every class when different students have the chance to work – whether it’s their turn to share a poem, a monologue or news, they take the spotlight and the other students become the audience.

We’ve always stressed the role of the audience at Viva Voice. Being a good speaker, communicator or performer requires you to be a good listener and audience member. The role of the audience is to be engaged and respond to the speech or performance. This is particularly important in an online environment, when there’s a barrier between the performer and the audience by not being in the same room.

Students understand the value of this when it comes to their turn to perform, and they experience what it’s like to have to connect to an audience who aren’t in the same room as them. This makes them even more attentive the next time they’re back in the role of the audience!

“Jasmin did a fantastic job controlling the group and setting expectations – she made it clear whose turn it was and what to work on for the following week.”

What will the students be working on this term?

In the term two Voice and Acting™ curriculum, students will be working on facial expression, gesture, controlling nerves and preparing for performance. These skills will be taught using a mix of poetry, prose, monologues and scripts.

Senior Voice and Acting™ students are going to be developing their self-test skills (we’re taking advantage of working in front of a camera!) and some will also do some voice over work.

For Drama students, this term is all about character and animation – and we mean animation in the voice, face and body, and senior students will be creating an *actual* animation!

Our youngest Drama students will be using picture books and nursery rhymes to develop their dramatic skills. Upper primary students will be doing an in-depth exploration of character – everything from costume to set design, all relating to their monologues. Senior students will be looking at character voices and voice over for animation.

All this term’s curriculum will lead to a special Viva Voice Online Eisteddfod – we’re in the midst of our planning and can’t wait to share the details with you once we’ve got it all sorted!

“Thank you for making this work. Anna even asked if she could have her swimming lesson tomorrow like her drama class.”

Is there a discount for online classes?

We recognise that the format is different but we’re confident the curriculum is being delivered to the same quality as face-to-face learning and there’s no change in class value. Staff training, adaptation of curriculum and careful delivery are ensuring we maintain high quality teaching and strong learning outcomes for students.

Can new students join?

Our (virtual) doors remain open and, because we’re online, children anywhere can join us! New students from any location can be a part of our studio and we’d love to welcome your child!

Whenever a new student joins a class at Viva Voice, existing students have a chance to practise their skills at meeting someone and making them feel welcome. This usually includes eye contact and a handshake – but that’s tricky when it comes to Zoom!

Your child’s teacher will welcome them to the class, invite the existing students to introduce themselves and say an interesting fact or a piece of news. Welcoming new students is a great chance to pull out a favourite game “Two Truths and a Lie” which everyone participates in – it’s a good laugh and everyone gets to know each other quickly!

Classes are fairly normal, just online! Your child would be given pieces to work on and various materials as classes progress through the term. New students will be welcome to participate in our online eisteddfod if they feel ready.

Is there an enrolment fee?

We have waived the enrolment fee for new students while we’re operating a virtual studio.

It will be our pleasure to run our internal Viva Voice Online Eisteddfod at no additional cost to families.

Community, continuity and connection are essential for young people right now. We’re pleased to be able to help our students keep their routines and maintain a sense of normality by continuing speech and drama classes online. Thank you to our students and their families for working with us through this transition.

We can’t wait to see everyone back in the virtual studio for term two!

Please get in touch if you’d like to join our studio.