Sunday, June 15, 2014

Plan for teaching public speaking

I have not taught public speaking in a decade, but I recently had an idea to improve the course. When I taught it, the course was a traditional public speaking course, with readings and in-class lectures on key concepts. The homework was to write speeches, and we did five speeches per students in the course in class. This means we averaged a speech about every month. Perhaps each student gave a total of 25 to 30 minutes of speeches in the whole course. If I were to teach the class again, I would want to make the class far more focused on giving speeches and evaluating speeches. My goal would be to double total speech time.

The first thing to cut would be the readings, and I would reduce in-class lectures to miniature versions of 10 minutes or fewer. The students would learn a key attribute of public speaking, such as audience analysis, in a very telegraphic form, and then we would immediately begin watching and analyzing a famous example. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking to a black audience and a white audience would be a fantastic lesson on audience analysis. At first, we could let the discussion be quite open-ended and without fixed form, but after a while, I would give them to a specific rubric about that key attribute, with specific categories and points broken down. The first night's homework would be analyzing some other famous speech with the rubric, which we would discuss in class the next day to compare scores.

At this point, the students would begin working on a speech of their own, specifically focused on the key attribute. The speeches would be scored cumulatively, meaning that the students are graded on all previously discussed attributes, although the new attribute would the focus. The students would write their speeches in class, in part, and various activities would be incorporated into the day to workshop parts of their speeches with a partner or to practice the speaking skill of focus in games. The students would do mini-evaluations with each other: "Based on that 30 second sample, your speech may get a 3/5 on this attribute." As the teacher, I could be present to oversee the speechwriting process; I hated leaving it to the students to do at home because invariably someone would crash and burn. What is it that you do with that? If the students do the critical work in class, I can make sure everyone is on the right track. For homework, students can continue to evaluate famous speeches and then practice their own speech. With only a week and a half turnaround, they need to begin practice soon.

On speech day, I would make everyone evaluate all the other students' speeches using the rubric. I would collect all of these and each student know my score as well as the median audience's score in each rubric category. "You get a 3/5 from me on this category and a 3.5/5 from the median audience member." Furthermore, I would video every speech, upload it, and require each student to watch his or her speech and evaluate it with the rubric for homework. In class the day after speech day, each student would be required to view his or her speech a second time and make qualitative notes to himself or herself. The students would then share these notes with the class. If I could manage to have bits of the student's speech cued up, it would be perfect. "OK, talk to us about 3:35 - 3:50. Let me play it first."

If everything else, other than evaluating, writing, and giving speeches and also doing a few warm-ups and games is cut, I think it is possible to do speeches every two weeks instead of once a month. That would make the class twice as effective. Furthermore, I would focus on structure, structure, structure.

Here are some basic rubrics for a six speech course.

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