Public Speaking is an important skill for middle schoolers and high schoolers to develop, and some of them embrace the opportunity. For others, though, public speaking can be so daunting as to actually cause fear and nausea.
How can we help our students develop public speaking and listening skills while still being respectful of their feelings?
Small group presentations.
Rethinking my presentation model helped alleviate my students’ fears, increase audience engagement, and save valuable classroom time.
How it Works
Instead of having students present in front of the whole class, put them into presentation groups of 5-6. Make sure someone is still timing each speaker (1-2 minute presentations are a great starting point!), and make sure that you can circulate to hear every group.
Students begin presenting a practiced speech, just as they would for the whole class. Presentations will happen simultaneously, so you will not be able to hear every second of every presentation. Instead, you can have students complete Peer Evaluation Slips. These slips will ask students to assess their peers on articulation, eye contact, and voice. This will help you assess the public speaking portion of the assignment, while still maintaining control (if that’s your style) of grading the content of the research assignment, etc.
Alleviate Student Fears
Students will be much more at ease with public speaking if only four other people are listening. You can also set up low-risk presentation groups ahead of time. You can use the same presentation groups all year or gradually grow your groups. For example, consider eventually leading your students to whole-class presentations:
1st quarter: weekly or bi-monthly presentations (6 groups of 5)
2nd quarter: weekly or bi-monthly presentations (4 groups of 7-8)
3rd quarter: bi-monthly presentations (3 groups of 10)
4th quarter: one presentation (2 groups of 15), two presentations whole-class
Increase Audience Engagement
It’s easy for audience members to drift off when they have the anonymity of being one of thirty listeners. It’s not so easy to get away with this if the audience is only made of four people! Small group presentations are the perfect way to keep other students engaged and active.
Students can support each other by giving feedback after all of the presentations are complete. If your school allows devices, enlist a student to film the speakers on their own phones. Then, each student will be able to privately review his/her presentation and look for things like posture, eye contact, articulation, etc.
Also, students won’t have to sit through as many presentations, so they are more likely to enjoy the whole experience.
Want more ideas?
Here’s how I use improv games to build student confidence!
Save Classroom Time
Simultaneous presentations save a LOT of classroom time, meaning that you can increase the overall number of presentations you do in a year.
If you’re like me, you’re used to blocking out at least two class periods for project presentations and even more for solo speeches. This might work once a quarter, at most, but is it really helping our students improve?
If you allow simultaneous presentations and give students three minutes (and two for peer comments, if you want), you’re looking at a max of 25 minutes with groups of five students.
Find 20-25 minutes for public speaking twice a month, and your students will improve very rapidly.
Have you already tried Small Group Presentations to improve your students’ public speaking? What worked for you? Let me know in comments.