Public Speaking Lessons for Classroom Community

Public speaking lessons can build a classroom community with trust & engaging speech activities. A speaking lesson plan can be simple with no prep for the language arts teacher. Speech lesson plans should provide an opportunity for reflection & growth. Make speech class lessons meaningful with these public speaking ideas.

Include public speaking lessons in your English lesson plans to help build classroom community. 

Ah, public speaking. I believe speech has a firm place in ELA classes. I absolutely see speech class lessons as an opportunity to build my classroom community. Sometimes I feel like speech class lessons are pushed to the side, often like grammar lessons. It’s unfortunate because some students thrive with public speaking lessons. When students thrive, they contribute positively to building a classroom community.

Plus, 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. Not only do these activities help public speaking students individually, but these speech class lessons also build a classroom community. Hopefully, these ideas will benefit your students too.

Outline Community Ideals

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 any will build comradeship.

Be honest with older students. No one wants to feel “less than” or uncomfortable. Develop guidelines for providing feedback; you might even brainstorm a list of potential constructive feedback pieces. Discuss what being a positive audience member means. Finally, enforce the guidelines. Students should see that you seriously expect kind interactions.

Model Partnership

To start speech class lessons, I often complete a quick partnership activity. 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.

Create Goals

In any of my public speaking lessons, students set goals for themselves. For students to be invested in improving themselves, they should decide their own goals for improvement. Often to build classroom community, I set aside time with any speaking lesson plan for students to brainstorm with each other for improvements. Doing so then allows for those students to work together on their goals.

Goal sheets, btw, also make grading speeches easier. Students ask me where to focus my feedback!

Public speaking lessons can build a classroom community with trust & engaging speech activities. A speaking lesson plan can be simple with no prep for the language arts teacher. Speech lesson plans should provide an opportunity for reflection & growth. Make speech class lessons meaningful with these public speaking ideas.

Where to start with speech lesson plans? Start with small, fun activities. Work on what students need practice with: tone, hand gestures, and confidence. Build community by working together. I know many teachers need some public speaking lessons, right now.

I’ve detailed six public speaking lessons and have them for free in my library.  Sign-up below, and they will be yours!

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11 comments

  • Melissa Kruse

    Great ideas! I love the concept of having students work with the same partner for a week and then share observations about that particular person’s speaking skills and quirks. This seems like a friendly, unintimidating way to help students get comfortable with the various aspects of public speaking. Thanks for sharing, and I love all your products!

  • Nouvelle ELA

    My students definitely struggle with public speaking, so it’s great to have these extra tips on hand. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Kim@OCBeachTeacher

    Many of my students struggle with speaking in front of the class. They need opportunities to rehearse their speaking skills, and the partner practice activity is something new that I can try. Thanks for sharing!

  • Clair Dickson

    Good ideas. I like the ability to work with a partner– for introverts that can be a much safer place to share and improve than whole group!

  • Jackie

    I’ve been trying to do a lot more speaking activities these days and you’ve offered some great advice. I love the partnership activity!

  • Stephanie Icenogle @The Creative Classroom

    I love the tips you have shared on helping make students more comfortable with public speaking. I’ve always paired my students up with the same writing partner for an extended period of time, but I never thought of doing the same for public speaking. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  • Melissa

    Public speaking is such a fear for many students. These ideas are great, and I love your partner ideas, which is so much less threatening for them. Thanks for sharing!

  • Addie Williams

    Love these ideas… so many of my students totally panic at the thought of public speaking. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  • Abby Gross

    I love the gestures/fillers activity…what a perfect, low-risk way for students to work on some of the worst public-speaking habits. I will definitely be trying that out! Thanks for the great ideas.

  • Lisa at Mrs. Spangler in the Middle

    Public speaking is definitely one of the last things I work on in my class because I find it difficult to teach. So I very much appreciate this post and your work!

  • Secondary Sara

    Awesome ideas – thank you for the Partnership Activity idea! It’s great that you got them invested in helping each other.

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