Fear of public speaking is a phobia that has afflicted many students. The anxiety and nervousness you feel when required to stand in front of a large group of peers and speak can be summarized as terrifying at best. Because of the uncomfortableness associated with giving speeches, it is important that teachers incorporate activities that allow students to feel relaxed and at ease when faced with speaking in front of their peers.
Getting your high school students involved in performing arts activities is one way to get them comfortable speaking in front of their peers. Practice reading the lines to a short play together as a class so they get used to hearing how the words are supposed to be read, then give a performance. Have your students first perform in front of just their classmates, but then expand the performance to include other audience members as well. The students will be practicing verbal expression, reading non-verbal cues and audience interaction -- all key to public speaking -- during the course of their performance. You can then encourage your students to join a drama club at your school if they have that option.
Have your high school students study famous speeches from history, such as Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream..." speech, then mimic those speeches for their peers. By studying the text of the speech, as well as the oral presentation of the speech - if there is recorded audio -- your students will learn about the importance of word choice and voice inflection. Having your students memorize the text of the speech will take the pressure off having to create their own original dialogue as they practice their speaking skills.
Performing mock trials, similar to play performances, is another way to increase your high school students' comfort level with speaking in front of their peers. In mock trials, teams of students work together to create a plan for prosecuting or defending a famous trial, such as the O.J. Simpson trial. Although mock trials can include dialogue for court transcripts, your students can also be encouraged to go "off script," and ad-lib to make it more personalized. The advantage of mock trials is that students work together, so students do not feel as much pressure as they do on an individual assignment. Mock trials also allow students practice in persuasive speaking practices, as they attempt to persuade their peers of the guilt or innocence in the case.
How To Presentations
Have your students give a "How to...," speech on a topic they are intimately familiar with, such as stringing a guitar or throwing a football. "How to...," speeches are a great way to begin a speech class because they allow your students to speak naturally about a topic on which they are comfortable. Not only will the speech give your students an opportunity to ease into public speaking, but it will also give you, the teacher, an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of each of your students.
- "The Complete Book of Speech Communication: A Workbook of Ideas and Activities for Students of Speech and Theater"; Carol Marrs and Lafe Locke; 1992
- Web English Teacher: Speech and Debate
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