Tuesday, April 26, 2011

James and the Giant Speech

When I was in fifth grade, my class had to orally present book projects to our classmates – and worse – the sixth grade class as well. This was really our first foray into delivering oral presentations, and it was nerve-wracking. We sat on the gym floor and nervously waited and watched as one by one we fidgeted and mumbled our way through our presentations, trying to ignore the smirks and stares from the sixth graders. I especially remember one boy, who was so nervous about presenting his favorite book, James and the Giant Peach, that he talked way too fast and repeatedly referred to it as “James and the Giant Speech.” While it was funny at the time, I think it aptly illustrates how stressful oral presentations can be.

Every few years, a well-publicized list of the top fears cited by the public is touted on various media outlets. Public speaking nearly always tops the list, followed by lesser fears such as the fear of heights, illness, flying, and even death. An old episode of Seinfeld once had Jerry point out that, since the fear of public speaking outweighs the fear of death for most people, the people delivering eulogies at funerals would apparently prefer to be in the casket, dead, rather than be speaking about the deceased.

Things on the public speaking front have vastly improved since I was in elementary school. Starting in preschool and kindergarten, students are prompted to publicly share weekend news and items of interest through show and tell or sharing times. Students at many schools also regularly take turns in reading the morning announcements, and many K-12 class projects now include a public presentation component. The goal is clear: If students can become comfortable with public speaking at a young age, they are less likely to experience anxiety when presenting or speaking up in class in the future. The benefits of being at ease when speaking in public are many. Teachers cite increased student self-esteem and confidence, as well as the ability to demonstrate leadership, critical thinking, and preparation skills.

There are many ways to incorporate public speaking into the curriculum through the use of plays, classroom skits, role-playing, reviews, debates, the sharing of current events, science experiment debriefings, and other ideas. For homeschooled students, opportunities for public speaking can present more of a challenge. In such cases, local or regional homeschool groups can meet for student debates and presentations. If homeschool groups aren’t available, many students find opportunities for public speaking through their local churches or other places of worship (weekly readings, etc.), community theater, leading book discussions at the local library, and other ideas.

My picks this week offer resources on incorporating public speaking into the curriculum and honing student public speaking skills. As always, I’ll be featuring many additional lessons, activities, and other resources on public speaking throughout the week on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Peggy and I are also interested to hear from you regarding what types of lessons you’d like to see featured in our columns here on The Gateway. Don’t be shy – drop us a note on our Facebook, Twitter, or blog pages and let us know.

Daily Book Boosts
Subjects: English Language Arts, Public Speaking
Grade: 3-5
Each day at the end of their independent reading time, students give Book Boosts, which are one-minute raves about books they've read. These Book Boosts are easy ways to suggest a multitude of titles to students, and they act as a way for students to have something to think about as they read. It’s also a great way to get students used to getting up and speaking in front of their peers. This activity is a product of ReadWriteThink, which offers free reading and language arts lesson plans. Each lesson is peer-reviewed by teachers and members of the International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). This lesson is aligned to NCTE/IRA Content Standards.

Impromptu Speeches
Subjects: English, Public Speaking
Grade: 9-12
An impromptu speech is delivered without preparation or thought ahead of time. In this lesson, students will hone their quick-thinking skills as they formulate an impromptu speech about a given topic. This lesson was produced by Scholastic, publishers of trade books and educational titles, as well as lessons, teaching resources, and other products.

How to Teach Students to Present an Oral Report
Subjects: English Language Arts, Public Speaking, Research Skills
Grade: 6
In this lesson, students will recognize how to research and present an oral report. Students learn about ways to capture their audience’s attention, report organization, and ways to support their main points. This lesson is offered by Hot Chalk, a free online learning management system designed specifically for K-12 educators. Hot Chalk also offers free lesson plans and educational activities for teachers and students.

~Joann's Picks - 4/22/2011~

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