Magazine article Techniques

Speak So Your Students Can Speak

Magazine article Techniques

Speak So Your Students Can Speak

Article excerpt

ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILLS A PERSON CAN DEVELOP FOR SUCCESS in a career is the ability to speak well publicly. As an .educator, you have a variety of ways of teaching this life skill, no matter what your subject matter or expertise. Of primary importance is for you to be a good role model as a speaker in class. Show excitement in your delivery style, avoid distracting mannerisms, be well organized with your content, and develop interesting and related stories and case studies. If you use visuals, make sure they add to your lecture or class discussion. Simply watching a good speaker deliver a presentation can help a person improve his or her own skills.

When possible, mention the value of public speaking when a related current event occurs or when public speaking is connected with the content of your course. For example, presidential debates are a natural segue into discussing the value of public speaking. Any national crisis usually has a spokesperson who does a good or bad job of speaking; this provides a good topic for discussion. In the aftermath of 9/11 the public speaking skills of Rudy Giuliani catapulted him into the national limelight.

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When you invite guest speakers to talk to your class, choose those who speak well. This allows you to highlight speaking skills as well as content in the class discussion following the presentation. Include assignments in your class which involve speaking in front of the class. When returning essays, students who fulfilled the assignment well can read aloud excerpts from their papers. Over the course of a semester, you can probably include each student at least once in reading a portion of his or her essay.

Have at least one assignment that is oral, and include in the assignment basic traits of good public speaking that you will consider when the person gives the report. When you give written feedback on the report, include comments about the student's speaking skills. Calling the assignment a "speech" might intimidate students, but you can still evaluate from the standpoint of effective speaking. In your evaluation rubric, you can include criteria such as an attention device in the opening, a clear thesis statement, gestures that describe and reinforce, eye contact, and vocal emphasis on key points. The report should also include a summary of the material.

When conducting class discussions over content, encourage students to use deductive reasoning when answering questions. That involves giving your reason first and then offering evidence for your point. This encourages students to develop habits and skills in informal class interaction that can translate into good public speaking habits. When a student does a good job of practicing a public speaking skill, call attention to it and reinforce how well the student did. For example, if a student begins his or her response to a question with a startling statement, make note that this technique is also a good way to begin a speech.

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In fact, you can model these kinds of skills in a variety of ways. Begin your class with an attention-getting device each day. That might be a startling statement, or statistic, or a recent current event that relates to your discussion that day. I remember one semester where I made a goal to start each 8:00 a.m. class with a joke. Although the students did not always laugh, they seemed to look forward to the joke. I even received comments on student evaluations at the end of the semester that they appreciated the efforts at humor. …

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