English lesson plans include public speaking lessons, too!
Ah, public speaking. I believe speech has a firm place in ELA classes. I definitely have encountered ELA teachers who believe otherwise. Naturally, I carry on!
I’m passionate about helping teenagers with public speaking because I struggled so much with it when I was in school.
Even in college (taking speech classes to become a speech teacher!), I faced sweaty hands, a sick stomach, and complete uncertainty. I teach public speaking with those experiences in mind; I know my students probably face the same obstacles.
Through teaching experiences, I’ve tweaked tricks for speech classes. Hopefully, these ideas will benefit your students too.
Build a Community
Building a community in every classroom is important; in a speech class, doing so is paramount to success. Students who fear their classmates will not want to speak and will not get valuable feedback. The nature of a speech class is that students learn about their audience and engage it.
To do so, build the community with small activities. I’ve written about public speaking activities before, but this one will specifically build comradeship.
Divide the class in half, or allow students to pick a partner. Take half the class in the hall – leaving partners behind. Explain that to the first group that you are charging them with noticing their partners’ hand gestures. Ask them to notice these gestures as the partner works in class, casually speaking. They should keep this information from the partner but be ready to share it in a week.
Tell the other half (the other half of the partners) that you are charging them with noticing their partners’ use of ‘fillers’ – those pesky words – like, um, uh, soooooo. (I have also asked both sets to monitor hand gestures. Both ways work equally well). A few students will spoil what they are doing, but they still complete the activity. Overwhelmingly, students are invested in helping a classmate and do not spoil the activity.
In a week, ask students to share what they learned about their partners. Where does the partner keep his hands? By hips? Held down at sides? In front?
What word could the partner focus on eliminating? (Spoiler: normally, ‘like’).
This information can comfort the student because every hand gesture seems unnatural while speaking! The speaker has a ‘go-to’ hand gesture though! My partner says I typically keep my hands at my sides. It might feel funny, but I believe I look ok.
Could the first partner help the speaker eliminate the filler?
Sometimes, public speakers need a pep talk, a realization that every public speaker has similar concerns. The partner helps with that.
The best part? You are teaching both sets of students lessons, and you are helping them invest in another student’s speech growth. The personal connection helps with empathy and provides an ally for each student.
Public Speaking Lessons
Small public speaking activities build the class where students will benefit from peers. This free activity gives students the opportunity to work with a peer and to practice tone. Print it out today!
If you are looking for more detailed, very specific activities to address common problems in a speech class, my public speaking bundle contains speech activities for older students.
I developed these “Speech Solutions” to address common questions high school students have: How do I incorporate sources? When does my speech begin? How should I use my visual aid?
As always, these are classroom-tested and ready to use.
Teaching public speaking will benefit your students for years. I hope these ideas inspired you and gave you some ways to spice up your public speaking lessons.