Do you find that you are so tired at the end of semester that the thought of grading another paper makes you just want to curl into a ball and hide away? Me too. So I save my sanity with end-of-the-year speaking assignments.
That way, when I am most tired, I can sit back and grade my students on the spot – no more piles of paper heading home in my school bag.
However, there is another really good reason to do major speaking assignments at the end of the year: students are feeling more comfortable with each other and have had practice with small and large group discussions, so they find standing in front of the class far easier than if you ask them to do it early in the year.
This doesn’t mean that we aren’t working on speaking and listening skills throughout the term. In fact, it’s something we work on from the beginning of the class. You can about the steps we follow on this post.
Spend time on the speaking process
At the end of the year, instead of putting my energy into grading papers, I channel it into teaching my students how to be confident and persuasive when they deliver a speech or presentation.
When it is time for their first one, we spend a few days actually practicing their delivery to partners in class. I’ve always been a process person – I model how to do things and provide kids with lots of opportunity to take things step-by-step. We’d work on close reading, analysis, prewriting, drafting, and revising – all important components of reading and writing. But for most of my career, we ignored the speaking strand when it came to the process.
Once I changed that, the quality of speeches and presentations in my room skyrocketed.
Teach students HOW to deliver their speaking assignments
Let me share what we did last week: students were going to deliver a speech about an injustice they would like to change, complete with lots of rhetorical devices. Once they had their first drafts complete, we spent time on revising based on feedback – not only the content but also their delivery.
First, I read my draft to them and I did a terrible job of it. They were quick, of course, to point out all that I did wrong: reading too fast, not looking up, playing with my hair, etc. Then, I tried again with more powerful delivery to show them what a better version looked like.
Next, students paired up and read their drafts to their partners. I gave them the rubric and instructed them to give them feedback on the content first (did they meet the requirements?) and then their delivery. If they felt their partner was too fast, or didn’t look up enough, they could do it again.
Then, a few days later, after the final draft of the speech was ready, we did the process again. But this time, we watched a few speeches from gifted orators first, noting how they used their voice and body language as a persuasive tool. Off the went again to practice (they spread throughout the room or went into the hallway and stairwells).
This was the first time I did the second round of practice and, let me tell you, it paid off. We just had the best round of speeches ever! I was so proud of not only their passion, but also their powerful delivery. They all agreed that the practice sessions made a huge difference for them.
Next week, these students are doing a final presentation for me, and the day before, each group is going to practice their delivery. I want them to work through their transitions as well as their delivery, so everything will run smoothly for them.
So, I would encourage you to try both of these strategies if you want to save your sanity at the end of the semester: finish the year with speaking assignments that can be graded in class, and spend time teaching and practicing a strong delivery.