Who hasn’t felt a few cold chills at the prospect of public speaking? Teaching year in and year out definitely helps though. As you stand up in front of groups of kids over and over, it starts to feel normal.
Not for our students though. Public speaking is so intimidating for them. But we know from our own experience that practice helps, so today I want to share some ideas for building public speaking into your curriculum in creative ways, so it can be something you and your students really look forward to.
You can listen in to episode 164 below, click here to tune in on any podcast player, or read on for the full post.
Public Speaking Project #1: Podcasting
NCTE’s position statement on Media Education in English Language Arts gives a big nod to podcasting as an important new part of the curriculum, and I couldn’t agree more. Podcasts are an ideal way to practice public speaking in a real-world way, without the overwhelm of standing up in front of the class.
Start by listening to podcast models – you can see some shows I recommend in this post, “How to Get Started with Podcast Clubs.” Have students listen and think like a podcaster, noticing how the show is put together with intro, music, sections, outro, music, etc.
Next, introduce your project. You can let students podcast about anything they want, give it a theme like a research podcast or interview podcast to practice certain additional skills, or focus your podcast project around a topic you’d actually like to have students help teach, like vocabulary or grammar.
Students can use the free and easy online tool, Vocaroo, to record their shows, and then embed them on a Google Slide (here’s a walkthrough).
With student podcasts, you give your classes a chance to work on their public speaking skills with a little more control and a little less anxiety. Which is nice!
If you’re interested in mastering this type of project, but feeling a bit hesitant about the tech and details, you can sign up for my free PD, Camp Creative: The Easy Roadmap to Student Podcasting. Over three days, you’ll receive a helpful walkthrough of each step along with the free resources you need to put student podcasting into action. On day three, expect the full curriculum for my popular Tiny Podcasting Project (featured below). You can sign up right here.
Public Speaking Project #2: Debate
Debate is another engaging way to bring public speaking to the forefront in class, this time combining it with teamwork, argument, and analysis. Setting up a class debate isn’t as hard as it might seem.
Debates, of course, can be about anything. You can make them research based if there’s an issue you want to dive into, but they also work well with a lot of texts. I’ve had students debate the role of the judges in The Crucible (did they do their job) and whether Frankenstein owed his monster a mate. Both topics were highly engaging, and made for a week of frenzied preparation by the two teams.
I like to set up debates in a fairly simple manner, with a for, against, and judging team. The for and against teams research and prep their opening statements, key arguments, and planned defenses. The judging team lays out all the arguments they anticipate, along with possible defenses, so they are as knowledgable on the possibilities as possible.
On the day of the debate, each team gives an opening statement, takes turns asking questions and hearing answers, takes a recess to prep their closing statements, and then delivers their closing statements. The judging team takes careful notes, meets during the recess and at the end to discuss the evidence presented, and finally makes a decision.
Public Speaking Project #3: Mock Trial
While there are many ways to do a mock trial, one fun twist – especially if you have larger classes – is to put many folks on trial at once. Let’s say you are reading Julius Caesar, and you choose the question: Who is responsible for the chaos in Rome? Now you can choose four or five characters who might be most to blame, and put each on trial in turn.
This way, you can break up your class into groups that each have a lot of researching, writing, and speaking to do. Each group will start by considering all the characters and ranking their guilt. Then the group can sign up to either prosecute or defend one character. They’ll need to gather evidence from the text, write a statement to share with the class, and prepare to deliver their argument.
On the day of the mock trial, you’ll run through the characters one by one, letting the prosecution and defense each deliver their statements, then giving each group time to discuss what they’ve heard and write down their responses individually before a class vote on the guilt of the character.
Public Speaking Project #4: The Ed Talks
If you’re ready to dive full force into public speaking, genius hour can be a good springboard (no idea what I’m talking about? Learn more here!). As your students dive into topics of interest for their genius hour, let them know that the final project will be an Ed Talk, modeled on the popular Ted Talk series. As they work on their projects, you can show them some inspiring Ted Talk models and share your requirements for their final speech.
I’d also consider breaking them up into committees to help put on the final Ed Talks Event. I like to create program, tech, ambiance and public relations committees for special events like this, though of course you could make it whatever works for you! These committees should meet now and then throughout the genius hour unit, prepping for your final event.
Public Speaking Project #5: Mini Speeches
OK, the projects we’ve dealt with so far have been a pretty all-consuming! If you just want to spend a couple of days on a public speaking project, you can always give students a chance to give a two minute mini-speech. These could be introductory at the start of the year, cover a quick research topic to give context before a unit, practice making an argument, share a project recently completed, give a Shark-Tank style pitch, or whatever else would fit well with your curriculum.
A quick speech like this is a nice chance to share some foundational principles for strong public speaking, including some basic rhetorical techniques. You can click here to make a copy of the two helpful handouts below.
OK, my friend, I hope you’re feeling excited about all the creative possibilities public speaking holds. And I hope you’re excited to start Camp Podcasting with me! You’ll soon be a master of student podcasting, and it all starts for you tomorrow!