Giving Voice

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Love to Laugh? Voice Box is Back!

After the success of Voice Box last year, I’m excited it is happening again this autumn term. Whether you are a parent, a teacher or a Speech and Language Therapist I’d like to help you inspire your local school to get involved in Voice Box.

Communication is a fundamental part of our daily lives and these skills begin to develop from birth. Humour is something that connects us and allows us to share in experiences with others, building friendships and providing joy. I love that Voice Box brings together the importance of communication and how fun language can be. Humour is used a lot throughout our lives and I think it’s a great way to explore language.

Last year I inspired a number of Leeds schools to get involved in Voice Box (2 of which went on to represent their schools at the final in London with one becoming the overall winner!) Read about the school competition, Leeds final or National Final at Westminster.

We were excited to get involved in Voice Box but it really did exceed our expectations, even before we knew who had been shortlisted. Everyone loved taking part right from the beginning and it was lovely to see how enthusiastic the children were throughout. It was lovely to see the children grow in confidence and they enjoyed sharing their jokes with their friends and on stage. Some of the children required additional support from a Speech and Language Therapist (me) and then delivered their jokes with confidence.
Tilly and Tom enjoying Voice Box

If you work in primary schools I’d encourage you to get involved in Voice Box as it was so much fun! I’ve devised a list of things I did last year to inspire you as a starting point but I’d love to hear any of your own ideas as I’m hoping to get schools involved again this year, and what works for one school may not work for another. This is not an exhaustive list but hopefully will inspire you to help get schools involved.

1.       Inspire Schools and gain a key contact

It will be useful to mention Voice Box as early as possible to begin to plant the seeds. I’ve just started a new job and have already begun to mention it ready to remind them again in the Autumn term. It can be a busy time and it is worth planning it in as soon as possible. If you work in a number of schools, have a discussion with a key person in each who will be enthusiastic about taking it forward. Last year I was really lucky that both the SENCO and Head Teacher thought it was a brilliant idea and we joined together to make a brilliant team to make it work.

2.       Help Staff identify which children may need support
Voice Box is open to all children on primary school age. Some children may have Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) and need additional support to be able to understand and deliver their joke. Last year I did a number of additional rehearsal sessions with some children with SLCN to ensure they were able to learn and deliver their joke confidently.

3.      Set a date and share with whole school

With the competition dates in mind, think about when your school will hold your competition and how you plan to do it. Are you going to have a whole school event on stage? Per class etc?

Once you’ve decided on a plan, share with staff and students. I shared this with the children during an assembly and it also went out in the school newsletter so parents knew it was happening.

4.       Invite MP and other judges

Once you’ve decided on a date decide if you want to have a judging panel. This can be a really good way to link with MPs or others. We wrote to the local MP and then I followed this up with a visit to his surgery and invited him in person. We chose to have the event on a Friday so that the MP would be in constituency and more likely to be able to attend. Even if you don’t need the MP to be a judge it can be a good idea to write to them and tell them it is happening as the final will be taking place in Westminster.

5.       Lunch Time Joke Clubs

We had a number of lunch time joke clubs in the weeks leading up to the event. These proved hugely popular and were so oversubscribed that each class could only attend a lunch time joke club once in order to allow everyone who wanted to be involved to have the opportunity to do so.

The joke clubs consisted of looking at joke books and thinking of our favourite jokes. I also prepared some jokes for the younger children with the answers separate to the question to encourage the children to match them according to what made them funny. These were popular activities which inspired the children to think of jokes.

6.      Joke Workshops (No Pens Day)

On No Pens Day I led some joke workshops in each class which wanted them. For the younger children this was reading jokes from children’s joke books and talking about which ones they liked best. With the older children (year 3 and above) we looked at what makes a joke funny (creates a funny picture in your head, uses double meaning (pun) etc.) I then showed them jokes and the children had to decide why it was funny based on what we had discussed. These were popular sessions and encouraged the children to think about jokes. They were really nice sessions to have on No Pens Day as it was a good speaking and listening topic and the children were already enthusiastic at not having to write for the day.

These sessions could be led by the class teacher and wouldn’t need to be done on No Pens Day.

7.       Other:

a.       Goody Bags – we gave each of the judges a goody bag with a range of nice Giving Voice treats (as well as some chocolates!) This is a good way of reminding the judges about Speech and Language Therapy after the event. My dad created some small calendars for 2016 (as the events were in December) with a range of nice photos and facts about Speech and Language Therapy.

b.      Posters – The Voice Box toolkit has a poster you can print and use but school decided to have a poster design competition over the holidays which was also very popular. This allowed children who prefer to be artistic to be involved in the whole school event even if they didn’t want to enter a joke.

c.       Prizes – if you have a whole school event on stage you could get medals etc. We got a trophy for the winning joke (which read ‘I made people laugh’) and all the children who told a joke got a medal. There are certificates to print from the toolkit too which we also gave the children.

8.       Size of event 
Our event was quite large and the whole school was involved, those who didn’t enter a joke watching the show. I know of other school events that took place that were much smaller and just as successful. Even if you don’t have much time you can still get your school involved. My niece wrote to her Head Teacher and was then asked to present the idea in an assembly. The children then had over night to think of a joke for the competition the next day. A winner was chosen from each class and then an overall winner was chosen to enter the competition.

Why should I get involved in Voice Box?

-          Language is fun!

-          Develops speaking and listening skills

-          Opportunity to link with local MPs

-          Spread awareness of Speech and Language Therapy

-          Develops confidence and self-esteem in children

-          Appeals to a wide range of children (and staff alike)

-          Chance of being shortlisted to the National Final in Westminster!

-          Create healthy competition between children and between schools by organising a wider event

I hope you found this interesting and feel inspired to get your schools involved. If you have any questions about how I got involved last year or want to share ideas I’d love to hear from you @pinkjules_16
Voice Box is a joint initiative between RCSLT and The Communication Trust. For further details please see the official website

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