My mouth went dry, my heart pounded. I slunk down in my seat, praying I would not be seen by my freshman English teacher. I was a horrible speaker in high school and I dreaded every time I had to get up in front of my peers and speak. Oh, the torture.
Flash forward. High school English time for my own children. How will I help them do those high school speeches: demonstration, persuasive, or extemporaneous speeches. I didn't want them to experience speech in high school like I did.
There are different things I did before high school to help them overcome fear of speaking in front of people. We did some family "oral book reports" in elementary and middle school. In other words we just talked about a book we had read, but when we shared, we stood up in front of the family. That wasn't scary. My children also took some speech classes with 4H at our local country extension office. I made sure they did that before puberty hit. Why before puberty? Well, all those hormones can make children more self-conscious in front of their peers.
Finally, I put together a speech and essay class for our homeschool co-op. In that class of about ten to fifteen teens each time, we eased into speeches slowly. First they just stood in front of the group and introduced themselves. Then we moved on to the easier speeches like demonstration.
We also read essays aloud to one another in small groups of four to five. This helped to give them confidence to share with their peers.
Since we were focused on essays and speeches, which tend to reinforce skills in one another, we made sure to read good essays and listen to good speeches.
YouTube was a gold mine of great speeches. We listened to Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan, and Maggie Thatcher. We had so much fun watching speeches and talking about them.
In the beginning of the year, we didn't focus much on evaluating one another except to point out good things. As time went on, we made helpful suggestions so that we all could grow as speakers.
That brings me to another point. For most teens, speeches need to be given in a safe environment. Ground rules need to be laid in the beginning that we only build up and never tear down. Helpful and constructive criticism should be just that: helpful and constructive.
It was helpful to go over expectations with the students before they gave speeches. That way everyone knew what I was expecting. This year two different ladies are teaching the speech class and though they are using my curriculum, they have different expectations which they communicate clearly.
Learning to speak in front of others is a life skill and teens definitely benefit from learning to give speeches. With that said, no teenager should ever feel the way I did in high school. When you teach your teens about speeches, make it as positive as possible.
When creating your own speech course, watch good speakers speak in person or on videos. Notice body language, eye contact, and hand gestures, as well as the content of the speeches.
Give clear guidelines of your expectations for each speech. Grade the speech according to those expectations.
Give hearty praise and let your suggestions be helpful, not destructive.
Your are welcome to use the course I created. You can learn more about it here. You will find all the speeches we listened to there, too. Communication 101: Essays & Speeches is available at Amazon. You can purchase the E-book at PayHIp or Currclick.
Until next time, Happy Homeschooling.