Martha Leishman's acting tips

6th October 2000 at 01:00
USE a script. It is difficult enough to act the part of a writer, unravelling the process of composition, without making up the text as you go along. Write the text beforehand, or use an example from the National Literacy Strategy book, Grammar for Writing.

Use eye contact. This encourages inclusiveness, attention, understanding and energy. Energy begets energy - so while you demonstrate or scribe, make general eye contact with the whole class, and stop for an instant every now and then to make real eye contact with an individual.

Use body language. In shared writing you can express some thoughts and words physically - through whole body movement - for particular emphasis. Inclusive, open gestures with the arms invite the whole class to participate.

Use facial expressions. This is a powerful device for keeping your audience with you, and the secret is to exaggerate without going over the top. Try it in a mirror at home to get the balance. As you enunciate the words of your text, use slightly exaggerated lip and jaw movements. Raise your eyebrows, tilt your head, nod for iclusion, question with your eyes. A frown can express your doubt over word choices, and a smile shows how much you enjoy hitting the right note.

Match the pitch and volume of your voice to the mood. You can define pronunciation by facial gestures. Physicalise your voice by using your face - rounding the lips to encourage the sound forward (without pushing). If you find yourself short of breath, stop for a moment and relax.

Pace your style of delivery to match the mood of the writing. Speed up or slow down for effect. Lean on particular words and phrases for emphasis.

Relax. You set the pace. If you feel things are running away with you, use a relaxation technique such as this:

* Stop and if possible close your eyes.

* Be aware of your feet making soft but firm contact with the floor.

* Imagine an invisible thread attached to the crown of your head at one end, and the ceiling at the other. It is pulling you up very gently, unlocking your spine, vertebra by vertebra.

* Tune in to the sound of your own breathing. Slowly breathe in, breathe out.


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