Public Speaking, High School, eye of the tiger

:help: :help: :help: :help: :help: :help: :help: :help:

I was asked to teach a new public speaking/presentation skills sort of class to senior high kids. It’s a pretty cool gig, I get a vague suggestion as to what they want and have a totally free hand to make of it what I will.

Just one proviso: We need to get at least eight students, they said. But there was a parent’s day on Saturday, and they promosed to promote the class.

I’ve been around a bit, and have just one worry in this kind of situation. You end up with a few really good students who really want to be there, a few not very good students who want to be there, a few who are there because their parents want them to be there, a few who are there because they have to be somewhere, some who are just following their friends, and the inevitable few who have just come along because they think the teacher is fun or sexy or whatever.

And no, I can’t impose some minimum standard for people signing up. But I can recommend students to go to one of the other classes if they’re not up to it.

So I rock in yesterday and am informed that sixty-fucking-four students have signed up. Only one of them would prefer to do drama, and the rest fit the above demographic.

The first class was actually quite fun. Good atmosphere, etc.

But from an educational perspective it’s not going to be very productive. How do 64 shy teens get to practise speaking in a 90-minute slot? I guess I could try and get them ‘presenting’ to their workgroups, but they’re not going to get a lot of attention from me are they?

Inevitably you get some goofing off, some doing all the work while their friends coast, and waaay too many who don’t follow simple instructions like “write your name on this piece of paper”. Some of them are very motivated and smart, but I know three of these kids by name and the rest are new to me so sorting out who is who is going to be a big job.

Happily, the admin people are open to suggestions. I could run two classes, one after the other, but that still gives me twice as many students in a class as I would like. With another teacher we could split the classes in half again, giving a total of four in two time-slots. Anyone interested in teaching on a Monday evening?

And how to divide them up, assuming we do? I’m not going to do it according to their test results.

I’ll need to come up with some suggestions for how to manage this class very soon, probably today. :help:

… rising up to the challenge, probably

Are you interested in suggestions for content/material or technique mainly?

What is your content plan now?

They told me about this on Friday, sold it on Saturday and now here we are.

Plans come later, once I know who I’m dealing with and what they’re capable of. That was the idea anyway.

Half the battle with this stuff is that they’re not prepared mentally for much beyond ‘finding the answers’. Yesterday we focused just on listing the sort of information that they should include in a simple presentation.

ie here’s a photo, I want you to pretend that you took this picture and tell me the story behind it. Think of the questions that an audience wants you to answer - all the who’s what’s when’s where’s and why.

Far too many of them just wanted to describe the picture. One or two could actually begin with “this photo was taken last year during my vacation to Paris.”

All ideas and suggestions are welcome.


This reminds me of the mandatory high school speech class that I was enrolled in. Back then, our high school was heavily involved in forensics championships at both the state and national level – which was not about cutting up dead bodies, but rather involved all forms of dramatic, interpretive, and more oratorial public speaking.

Following forensics categories, our teacher gave us different genres we could choose from:

Dramatic/Interpretive (based on previously written work, students prepare excerpts that they wish to perform in the time limit):
** prose interpretation (5-8 minutes)
** poetry (5-8 minutes)
** duo (obviously, two people, 7-10 minutes)
** storytelling (usually more animated than prose, often based on children’s stories, can be loose retellings based on previously-written work)
** dramatic interpretation (a cut from a play, can get really schizophrenic when one person has to perform multiple parts)
** group (3-5 people, 10-15 minutes)

Non-Interpretive (need to prepare own material, can and probably should include visuals)
** sales (you pick a real product, and sell it for about 7-10 minutes)
** oratory (persuasive speech, pick a topic with an opinion and get others to think your way within an 8-10 minute timeframe)
** extemporaneous (you’re given 3 current events topics, you choose one, and you have 30 minutes to prepare a 5-8 speech, no visuals)
** impromptu (you’re given 3 current events topics, you choose one, and you have to deliver a 3-7 minute speech on the spot, no visuals)
** informative (you choose a research-like topic, and speak on it for 10-12 minutes)

Don’t pin me down on the details here, and there are probably more categories that I’m forgetting (hey, it’s been almost 10 years!). The time limits are merely what according to the rules, given the particularities of each category… but 8 minutes is probably impossibly long to non-native English speakers, but polished speech-givers will tell you that it can be difficult cramming everything you want into that time frame.

At any rate, for the purposes of the class, we were required to pick any THREE categories, at least one interpretive and one non-interpretive, and after the first month, there were basically presentations every day for the rest of the semester. In ‘real’ competition, everything had to be memorized if you wanted to stand any chance of winning. It leaves your hands free, no notecards means less distractions, etc. But realistically, when you’re doing this for a class, you can’t expect to have everything memorized. Brownie points if you do, but teaching kids to speak with notecards in hand can be half a lesson in itself.

I’m throwing these out as some ideas that you can work with. I’ve done a lot of speech coaching, and I can say that public speaking is VERY daunting. Even the most outgoing students will get their nerves rattled when delivering a speech to an audience of their peers, particularly under a formal performance setting (competition, or even a classroom). Half of the difficulty in speech training is getting the students to express themselves confidently. Peer criticism and lots and lots of feedback – and training the kids to critique others’ performances also improves their own.

Does this help? Too much information? I’m happy to brainstorm more ideas. :slight_smile:

First of all, if you don’t want to divide them up according to a test, I’m assuming that you would prefer a mixed class, meaning all levels of English. Then you could just number them off 1-4, over and over. Easy as pie. In a public speaking class, it’s not really essential anyways that everyone has the same level of English, it’s your fearlessness that counts - rather like playing chicken down a ski hill. Anyways, have fun teaching the classes :slight_smile:

By all means, split the class in 4!

Possible means to split the class:

  1. self-rating
  2. based on a 2 minute interview (like an audition). All the students are given a written assignment related to public speaking or a group activity while you interview students. Perhaps after every 5 students you can give a little more instruction or have groups switch up.
  3. offer two classes with a slightly different focus (maybe Speech Delivery vs. Dramatic Delivery, or something just as simple as Advanced/Basic speech) and let students group themselves.
  4. keep all the attractive members of the opposite sex in your group, and all the unnatractive ones for the teacher who will be taking the other two classes
  1. Use the first class to give an introduction to presentation systematics and techniques.
  2. Prepare one random topic for each student to prepare a 1 minute presentation for the next class (I remember I got the topic “Explain Einstein’s theory of relativity”, as a stand-up topic once - 5 min. to prepare - a lot of fun).
  3. Hand a scorecard to each student in next class, and ask them to score the presentations.
  4. Let each student hold their 1 min. presentation (be strickt on the time).
  5. Collect the scorecards.
  6. Present the score cards to the school administration, and ask for splitting the class into several clasess, based to the “Peer to Peer Review Results”

Good Luck!!!

I have never been teaching, so just forget about it if it is too far fetched.