My Mom, the Speech Coach
Our sixth grade has a big speech contest, but the teachers don't have time to
teach the kids much about how to prepare. The kids whose parents do it for them
always win. How can we change this?
With parental involvement! Public
speaking is one of the most important life skills, but it is another one of the
features of public schooling that is getting short shrift because of the
standardization of American education and overemphasis on test scores.
Get together with other parents and
propose a short-term Speech Club to the sixth-grade teachers and principal.
Parents will provide the curriculum and give the kids tips and practice as they
embark on their research and speech preparation. Schedule it to meet at school
three or four times about 45 minutes before the school day begins. Use the time
to give the kids a short-course in speech techniques:
n Choose a topic that fascinates you
and narrow the focus just as tight as you can make it, so it's interesting and
n Set a goal or purpose for your
speech. What ideas are your top priorities for getting across? What are you
trying to prove?
n Research the topic thoroughly, but
tell only the best 10 percent or so of what you know. It should be new to your
n Write a "skeleton" outline with just
a few words representing each key concept. Put these key words on note cards.
Memorize the order of the outline; don't write your speech out. Give your
speech based on your outline, not by memorizing words you've written. That's not
speaking; that's reading aloud.
n Start with a bang! Get right to the
point, then prove it.
n Visuals are key. Use charts,
pictures, models, comparisons, demonstrations, drama, expert testimony . . .
n Rehearse a lot, 'til you can give
your speech in your sleep.
n End with a bang! Make them laugh,
feel touched or energized.
Homework: The two-audiotape guide, "Speak For
Yourself" from Learn, Inc., is meant for adults but applicable for school