Last week, the Grade fives and sixes did something that can make many adults break out in a nervous sweat – public speaking. We shouldn’t underestimate how challenging this task can be for kids but at the same time, public speaking is a skill that, if learnt early, will serve you well for life.
Seeing and hearing our accomplished senior school students made me think about my own public speaking experience and how it very much shaped my teens and what I did at university. When I was 15, I went on school exchange to Germany. One of the conditions of the exchange program was that I complete a Toastmasters public speaking course. I loathed it (and only kept going because of the promise of lederhosen and strudel in my future).
On my return from Germany, my high school, knowing I’d done Toastmasters, had me speaking at all sorts of events – school information nights, assemblies and so on. I loathed it. But something must have stuck because by the time I got to university I discovered that some people not only loathe public speaking but were also petrified by the thought of it. And that they’ll do almost anything to get out of it. So began my time as the ‘person in the group who’ll do the presentation’ – I realised that doing the public speaking bit was far preferable to pulling all-nighters on the content of group assignments. Suddenly, I was loving public speaking.
Often with public speaking, the gap widens – people who are happy to give it a try get better and better every time they speak, and for those that avoid it, it can get harder and harder. In hindsight, the Toastmasters course was probably one of the best things I ever did for my education and I encourage my own kids to take every opportunity they can to speak in public, even though they might find it extremely difficult and challenging.
Now that I’ve bored you with my own story, I’ll pass to Sonia Hocking, who shares a bit about the fantastic Words Worth Listening To event that gave all of the senior students a chance to speak (and we heard stories, debates, haiku and more).
The evening was an opportunity for the students to present their creative writing and poetry skills written throughout the year as well as giving them a forum to practise their debating and presentation skills to an audience other than their peers.
Speaking and Listening
As part of the curriculum, the evening allowed the students to:
- Use interaction skills, varying conventions of spoken interactions such as voice volume, tone, pitch and pace, according to group size, formality of interaction and needs and expertise of the audience.
- Plan, rehearse and deliver presentations, selecting appropriate content for the audience and purpose, making appropriate choices and emphasis.
“The highlight of the evening was seeing all the parents there to watch students present their debating and poetry. I felt nervous then I was debating but was relieved when it was over. After my speech I hoped we might win and we did.” Henry 6JF
“Speaking in front of everyone helped me get over my fear of public speaking. I really liked watching the debating and seeing the year 5s and 6s putting strong arguments forward.” Holly 6AW
“My highlight was listening to everyone else and what they have written. I had no idea how good everyone was at writing because I hadn’t had a chance to listen to them before.” Isabella 6AW
“My highlight was the debate because I got up and spoke. I lost one of my cue cards but I was still was able to continue, I felt I could’ve done better. I enjoyed listening to the opposition debate and felt they were the better team on the night. Having a larger audience was very different. I really enjoyed the experience and have improved my speech writing skills from last year.” Joey 6JF