Say What You Need to Say

As an English teacher, I want to make sure this cringe-worthy moment never happens to one of my students:

This poor soul not only ruined a golden opportunity, but also embarrassed himself in front of millions of viewers. When one of our kids flubs a speech in class, it’s not going to haunt him forever via YouTube, but it may still cause lasting damage by reinforcing his fear of public speaking.

One solution is to give students many opportunities to present to the class, both in small groups and as solo presenters. Additionally, I’ve found success in having an authority, a professional in the business world, lay out the elements of a successful speech. Chris Anderson, curator of the T.E.D. Talk speaker series, gives sage advice to business professionals who want to avoid their own Tower Paddleboard moment of awful, and most of his tips work for our teens, too.

Using his article as inspiration, I built a multimedia lesson for my freshmen that includes:

cover1• Step-by-step directions/suggestions to lead students through a 50-minute lesson
• A link to Anderson’s well-written, high-interest article about powerful public speaking techniques and how they do things over at T.E.D.
• An attractively designed student handout to help students dig back through Anderson’s article and analyze elements that apply to speeches in both the classroom and the business world
• A detailed answer key to the student handout to help guide a full-class discussion and ease my fellow teachers’ grading
• Two illustrative examples of the presentation techniques discussed in the article using the Shark Tank moment above and an example of excellence from a teen-led T.E.D. Talk (video links included)

I use this lesson before my students’ first speech assignment of the year and refer back to the discussion points throughout the term as I give feedback on their presentations. Students appreciate that the lesson shows the real-world application of the work they’re assigned and brings a fresh energy to the necessary-but-sometimes-tedious discussion of speech prep.

Click here to check out my print-and-teach lesson materials.

6 thoughts on “Say What You Need to Say

  1. Hi Laura, do you teach your students to use speech techniques (e.g. anecdotes, metaphors, repetition, statistics, etc.) for their speeches? If so, how?

    Thanks! 🙂

  2. Hi Kelsi,
    Thanks for checking in with me! For speeches, I always model what I expect students to be able to do by presenting a sample speech assignment to my classes. We talk in detail about the qualities of good public speaking and I use this lesson to expand on that discussion:

    As for the specific techniques you mentioned, those are included in our argument and narrative writing work, so I don’t teach those again as we head into a speech. Hmm…maybe I should?

    Hope this is helpful! 🙂

  3. Hi! Are you talking about the 20time speech you present your students when you assign the assignment? If you’re talking about a different speech, do you have a transcript of the sample speech you were talking about?

    Thanks so much! 🙂

  4. Yup, I’m talking about the 20Time speech and all of the other speeches I assign, such as The Hero’s Journey, Life in Elizabethan England, etc. Sorry, I don’t have any transcripts available. Just not that organized, I’m afraid.

  5. Do you also teach students other speech writing techniques such as anaphora, epistrophe, parallelism, the rule of three, rhetorical questions (considering they’re not done only to fill space/time), call to action, etc.? Thanks! 🙂

  6. Hey Kelsi,
    If I can get my freshmen to stay on topic for three minutes and speak clearly enough to be heard by the back row, I’m pretty psyched. 😉 Those techniques would definitely fit into a speech/debate or college-bound senior English class, neither of which I’m currently teaching so I don’t have any materials for those. Still, I think it’s a great idea for the right group of kids. Did you see Oprah’s speech at the Golden Globes? ( She could lead a class!

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