Honing Students’ Speaking Skills
It has been a long time since schools simply concentrated on the three Rs—reading, writing, and arithmetic—as a means of educating students. While on our journey, we discovered that there is much more to being a good student and citizen than just academic achievement and that schools play a critical role in preparing children to improve on a wide range of skills and abilities.
As defined in the Common Core State Standards, for example, we are now responsible for teaching a set of communication skills to students. A growing number of firms are recognizing the ability to communicate effectively and concisely as an essential ability for hiring and achieving professional success. K–12 teachers will benefit from more tailored lessons that are centered on oral presentation and verbal evaluation.
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Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, affects about 80 percent of the general population in the United States. Take into consideration that English-language learners (ELLs) account for between 10 and 25 percent of our K–12 population (depending on the state), and you have a problem that necessitates precise scaffolding to ensure that our pupils meet grade-level speaking requirements in our society. So, what can we do to encourage students to develop their oral presentation capabilities?
STRIVING FOR EQUITY
I used to use TED talks as a blueprint for my oral presentations, as do many other teachers. As an English language arts teacher and the recently retired coach of one of the nation’s largest middle school speech and debate teams (Go Bulldogs! ), I’ve relied on TED presentations for both inspiration and research, and I continue to do so. However, I discovered that, despite my scaffolding, there was still a significant disparity in final presentation quality between those who could and those who couldn’t present effectively. This is where Ignite Talks comes in.
Although TED and Ignite Talks share some similarities, it is their significant distinctions that have proven to be more effective for my high- and low-ability learners, native speakers, and English language learners (ELLs), as well as for both extroverted and introverted students.
What these various speech platforms have in common is the following: They both follow the same framework for advocacy: a hook, background information, evidence, and a call to action (or a combination of these). In addition, they both combine writing genres—memoir/anecdote, argument/persuasive, and informational/expository—rather than categorizing or specializing in any of them.
Here’s how they differ from one another: There are certain scheduling and pacing criteria for Ignite Speeches, which are not included in TED talks. In my opinion, these rules are effective in bringing out the best in all learners, thereby leveling the playing field for all pupils. I discovered that by following the Ignite Talks rules, students who enjoyed talking were compelled to be more concise. And those who were afraid simply had to collect their bravery for a brief length of time before they were able to relax.
The following is a breakdown of Ignite Talks: With 20 slides and 15 seconds per presentation, the total time is 5 minutes.
The slides are programmed to progress automatically, and as a result, they must be extremely visually appealing. As a result, there is an opportunity to educate symbolism, as well as how to locate and cite free photos online. The rapidity of the presentation means that a speaker cannot rely on the slides to serve as their script; there is no room for bullet points or paragraphs. Students are encouraged to make eye contact and speak with their backs to the screen rather than to the audience as a result of this.
The time limit reminds me of the controversy over arithmetic homework: why give pupils 50 problems if they can’t do five in a given amount of time? Moreover, if they can master five, then fifty will not add to their knowledge. When students present at the same time with a strong pacing structure, it is easier to avoid repetition or babble from students who love to talk—or from students who are underprepared. Students that suffer from presentation paralysis will benefit from following a rigid pace plan as well.
ORGANIZING THE SPEECH
Students may choose to present on their occasion. Other times, students work in small groups to distribute the verbal workload associated with Ignite Talks. I provide them a choice in terms of organizational structure to aid them in breaking down the outline of a collaborative speech.
When it comes to the first choice, I recommend using the five steps outlined by Elon Musk when making a pitch:
Identify the adversary.
What is the reason behind this now?
Create a mental image of the promised land.
Explain away any difficulties.
Demonstrate your point of view to them.
As an alternative, I provide an executive summary framework (background information, evidence, and suggestions) to help them condense a possible outline even further while also bringing more real writing to their presentation.
Essentially, both speech structures (Musk’s and mine) ask students to conduct research and take a firm stance on a topic, but they have the option of choosing the structure that makes the most sense to them. Both benefit from the structure of the other in terms of chunking their presentations and photos.
To ensure that there are no surprises, I always go over the oral presentation criteria with them before they begin their planning. The students who participated in my most recent project-based lesson presented Ignite Talks as superhero leagues, concentrating on global concerns that they thought passionately needed to be resolved. I used a speech rubric to guide them through their presentations. In addition, the groups were diverse: English language learners (ELLs) presented alongside native English speakers, and the event was a resounding success.
You will determine which format is most effective for your group of learners based on their preferences. What counts most, though, is that you are taking on the responsibility of teaching your pupils to communicate honestly and confidently in the real world.