External and Internal Voices

Sara Dayan - Pathways Teachers Fellow 2017-2018
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External and Internal Voices

Sara Dayan



A successful negotiator does not only negotiate with what a person says, rather with what a person actually thinks and feels. This speaking / oral exercise is designed to help students learn how to access this critical information.

Students will learn how to access this information by exploring the gap between a person’s external voice (what he/she says) and the internal voice (what he/she actually thinks or feels). By role-playing the internal and external voices of the characters, the students will gain insight into how the other side thinks and feels, which in turn will help them create a better approach to negotiating a resolution to the conflict.

This lesson integrates negotiation skills and speaking skills with the Israeli Module F Literature program. The teacher may choose any short story that the class has read and draw from it two characters who are in conflict.

Note: This is not limited to literary characters. Rather, the teacher can create/choose a scenario with any two individuals who are in conflict.  Possible role-plays include the following pairings with an endless variety of conflicts that the teacher can create:

  • Mother/teenager
  • Principal/teenage student
  • Teacher/teenage student
  • Two teenage friends
  • Two siblings



Teacher Reference Sheet (in download PDF)

The teacher should choose characters and prepare scenarios for the groups.  All groups can be given the same scenario or they can each be different.  The scenario must be one in which two individuals or literary characters are in conflict.  For example, in Amy Tan’s “Rules of the Game”, a good scenario would be the last scene in which Waverly returns home and her mother, Mrs. Jong, won’t talk to her.

Example role play cards for a) Literature Program; and b) a non-literature context:


a) For Literature lesson:


Short Story: “Rules of the Game” by Amy Tan

Characters: Waverly and her mother, Mrs. Jong

Conflict: The final scene after Waverly returns home from the market after she was embarrassed her mother and her mother stopped talking to her.


b) Non-literature scenario:


Characters: Father (or mother) / teenager daughter, Karen (or can be a teenage son)

Conflict: It’s Wednesday evening, a school night, and Karen wants to go to a friend’s birthday party.  Her father won’t let her go because she has a math test the next morning and she failed the last math test.  For Karen this is the end of the world because the parents of her friend have prepared a special party; they have arranged for the whole group to go to a popular club, sit in the VIP room (for very exclusive guests), and watch a show that is THE hit of the country.  Even if Karen wanted to go another night, she couldn’t because tickets are sold out for the next year.



Place students in groups of four.  Two students will role-play the characters’ external voices and two students will role-play the characters’ internal voices.

The conversation should focus on the conflict.  Each side should express his/her views and what they think of the conflict.

  • Outer Voice:  This is what the characters say to one another, without revealing the full extent of what they really think and feel.   The outer voice can carry on a polite conversation while the inner voice is raging with anger.


  • Inner Voice: This is what the character is thinking and feeling but doesn’t say.  As a conversation becomes more difficult and tenser, the inner voice grows stronger.


Round 1: (10 minutes)

Students create this dialogue as they go. The external voices begin the conversation. As the external voices speak, the internal voices interrupt and say what the character is really thinking/feeling. (See Teacher Reference Sheet for examples of Internal/External dialogues.)


Round 1 - Debriefing – (10 minutes)

Debrief in groups.  Use the following questions to debrief the learning experience: What insight did you gain from the exercise?

  • How did hearing the internal voice affect the way the external voice expressed itself?
  • Why is it important to hear the internal voice?
  • What problems did you discover?
  • What was helpful?


Round 2:  Switching Roles (10 minutes)

The students switch roles. Those who were the external voices will switch to the other side (the other external voice).  Those who were the internal voices will likewise switch to the other internal voice.  This way all the students will be role-playing the other side.


The same format is followed: Students create this dialogue as they go.  The external voices begin the conversation. As the external voices speak, the internal voices will interrupt and say what the character is really thinking/feeling.


Round 2 - Debriefing –Full class forum (10 minutes)

Debrief in full class forum.  Use the following questions to debrief the learning experience:

  • What did you learn by switching sides?
  • How would you apply this to your life?  Explain
  • Read the following to the students: “In life you must negotiate not what people say, but rather what they actually feel and think.”
  • Do you think this is true?
  • How does this exercise relate to that and what can you conclude from your experience doing this exercise?
  • What problems did you discover?
  • What was helpful?
  • How can you apply the idea of the external/internal voices to your life?



Additional Round - Optional:

Give students another role play.  (10 minutes)

This time, without stopping to debrief part 1, they will go straight to the second round – switching places.



40 minutes


* Download PDF for teacher reference pages.

Attached Files

External and Internal Voices.pdfDownload