This unit introduces students to strategies used in public speaking, such as debates, group discussions and extempore speech as a means of developing self-confidence, conviction and fluency in speaking. Speaking in public is not something that most people enjoy, and it can make them self-conscious and hesitant. At the JSS level, therefore, students need to be given practice in speaking in front of an audience. This can be done by organising speaking activities such as debates, extempore speech, group discussions, etc. This unit contains activities that should help your students develop public speaking skills. It should also help you make students aware of the conventions of non-verbal communication such as gestures and eye contact.
By the end of the unit, you should be able to:
Use of facial expressions, gestures, eye contact and other such means of signalling attention in an oral communication situation.
Teacher support information
Participating in debates helps students to improve their ability to express their point of view and to think critically. Ensure that the topics chosen are important to your students so that they will really want to express their point of view with enthusiasm. Also teach them to avoid the use of too many technical terms requiring boring explanations.
Before letting the students take part in debates and other situations that require speaking before an audience, have them brainstorm on ideas in groups — this increases their self-confidence.
Mr Maisamari’s 14-year-old students had diverse abilities and personalities. Some were very shy and were reluctant to speak in class; others were more confident and fluent in English. He realised right at the beginning of the year that he would have to provide different types of activities and challenges for the different ability groups.
Charo was typical of the first group of students. Her home language was Fulfulde and when she first arrived at Essence Junior Secondary School, she spoke very little English. There were only two other students whose parents were Fulfulde, but they spoke no Fulfulde. All spoke Hausa, the widespread local language. So, they were of no help to Charo. She was unhappy for the first three months, afraid to speak the little English she knew for fear of making mistakes. The other students made fun of her English, which sounded like Fulfulde. But Mr Maisamari changed all that. He began by identifying Charo’s difficulties. Then he took every opportunity to chat with her. He smiled, asked about her parents and siblings, what she did at home, and anything else that she could respond to comfortably. He asked her questions that were easy for her to answer. Soon, Charo developed enough confidence to participate in all the class activities. Her pronunciation improved, and she was no longer the focus of jokes. Towards the end of the year, Charo even improved her performance in other subjects because of her newfound confidence. For students with stronger English, Mr Maisamari organised class debates. These helped them generate ideas, and to organise them logically and present them in a convincing manner. The students were very highly motivated. In fact, some of them showed keen interest in participating in the inter-school debating competition, so Mr Maisamari decided to coach them. They met during breaks to go over their debating points and generally carried over their organisational skills and fluency into their writing composition. These efforts helped them win several prizes in the inter-school competitions.
Points to ponder
Activity 1: Practising the language of debate
Participating in a debate is good preparation for public speaking. Taking part in a debate not only develops students’ self-confidence, it teaches them to think logically, articulate clearly and respond effectively — all of which are effective oral communication skills. Module 1, Unit 3, Activity 2 teaches students to listen attentively to a debate in order to learn how to respond effectively. For this activity, you can refer to Module 1, and have your students go over Unit 3, Resource 3c: Preparing a Debate again.
To begin this activity, take your students through a few preparatory exercises to help them generate and organise their ideas, and also learn the appropriate expressions to use in a debate. You can follow these steps:
i) good knowledge of the subject,
ii) ability to explain difficult points,
iii) good communication skills,
iv) good classroom management skills and control,
v) ability to make students think clearly and to participate, as well as learn from each other, and
vi) kindness and helpfulness to students, etc.
Activity 2: Taking part in group discussions
At college level and beyond, when students apply for placements or jobs, one of the requirements for selection is a group discussion, popularly referred to as a GD. In a GD, several candidates are put in a group and asked to share opinions on a topic. Their responses are monitored by examiners, who may or may not take part in the discussion themselves. Candidates are judged by their ability to initiate and conclude a discussion, make their opinions heard, speak audibly with good pronunciation and grammar, and behave politely.
At the school level, students are rarely exposed to the norms of a GD. Although in the classroom teachers do place students in groups for discussion, it is difficult to monitor all the groups at the same time, and the focus is mostly on the topic being discussed rather than the norms of speaking.
In this activity, you will be able to have your students practise the skills they need to take part effectively in a GD. You may need several classes to complete this, depending on how many students you have, but each session will benefit the entire class.
Before the activity, have a class discussion on the qualities of a good speaker. (See Resource 2a.)
Have another brainstorming session on the norms of good behaviour when working in a group. Or you can have your students respond to the worksheet in Resource 2b and have a discussion after that.
Once the students have some background in the qualities expected of a good speaker, and the norms of group behaviour, divide them into groups of seven or eight, and have them sit in circles (rearrange the furniture if possible). In every group, appoint a secret observer. Without letting the group members know, the observer has to monitor the group members’ speech behaviour according to the norms discussed above, and record each member’s performance. Since the observers will also be students, do not expect too much objectivity or incisiveness from their observations; the purpose of using them is simply to make the students aware of their abilities and areas for improvement. Give the groups a popular topic to discuss, such as Respectable Professions, where students discuss which professions are considered honourable and why. You can initiate the discussion by mentioning different professions, such as farmer, pilot, teacher or university lecturer, nurse, scientist, medical doctor, banker, computer expert, astronaut, or even professional sportsperson like Serena Williams of the United States (tennis) or Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal (football).
At the end of the allotted time, the class should reassemble and the observers present their observations on each member of their group. You need not encourage a debate on whether the members agree or disagree with the observer; the focus should be on the qualities of a good presenter that emerged. In the next two or three classes, give students more practice in group discussions, with different observers in every group. The experience of participating effectively in group discussions and adhering to the norms of polite behaviour will develop students’ self-confidence and clarity of expression.
Activity 3: Speaking extempore
At the Secondary School level, one of the most popular co-curricular activities is extempore speech, where students are asked to speak spontaneously (extempore) on a topic of general interest for four or five minutes. Unless students know beforehand which topics they have to choose from, speaking extempore requires both language proficiency and presence of mind. Unlike normal conversation, there is no time to think of a response, no break and no clue from the listeners. In addition, the speaker has to stand before an audience and speak at length, formulating ideas and presenting them logically instantly. All this requires both confidence and familiarity with a wide range of vocabulary and structures.
In this activity, you will be able to take students through the preparations for delivering a speech extempore. To introduce the activity, play the video/audio file in Resource 3a in which two speakers deliver a short speech on a topic. Ask your students to rate the speakers out of ten, and then ask them to explain their rating (i.e., which speaker they consider better, and why). Follow this with a discussion of the things to keep in mind while delivering a short speech effectively. (See Resource 3b for a list of points to remember.)
Now ask the students, working in groups of five or six, to think of three topics that they feel confident about speaking on — for example, sport (cricket, football, athletics, etc.), a movie star, a local hero, eating junk food, a pet. Ask them to write down the topics on slips of paper, then fold the papers and put them on the teacher’s table.
Before asking students to come up and practise speaking extempore, it might be helpful if you gave a demonstration. Remember to follow the norms of effective speaking identified in the preceding discussion. Then ask your students to come up one by one and pick a topic to speak on. Encourage the shy and quieter ones to speak. Make sure all the students come up to speak, and appreciate their efforts even if they speak in halting English or cannot say more than a sentence. If you repeat this activity several times during the year, your students’ speaking abilities are bound to improve.
In this unit, you learned how to give your students practice and tips on speaking effectively in public situations. This practice and the strategies suggested will develop students’ confidence and language skills. The focus of the unit was on giving every student an opportunity to stand in front of an audience and be able to express themselves clearly. The unit tried to help you prepare your students to speak for longer turns without hesitation. The activities address three important areas of public speaking relevant to students at the JSS level.
Resource 1a: Structure of a debate
A debate, as you are aware, is a discussion in which speakers form two groups, and argue in favour of or against a topic. The topic is called a motion, and the speakers from each group not only give reasons to support their argument, they also counter the arguments made by the members from the opposite group.
A. (From the pros) Those who support the motion (proponents/ proposers or pros, for short)
- My first reason for supporting this motion is that today’s youths are tomorrow’s leaders.
- Secondly, they are the…
- Thirdly,…, etc.
B. Opposing the motion
- My first reason for opposing this motion is that not all youths need the kind of education one sees in schools today. Some are better as roadside mechanics, vulcanisers, house helps, etc.
- Secondly, some have lost interest and confidence in schooling.
- Thirdly,…, etc.
There are two teams, each consisting of two or three speakers. One team (the affirmative) supports the motion, and the other (the negative) opposes the motion. A chairperson controls the proceedings.
The speeches and speaking time are divided equally between the two teams.
Each speaker makes a prepared speech to argue his or her case. The teams prepare collaboratively, building up their case. The sides speak in turn, starting with the proposer of the motion followed by his or her opponent and then the others in like order. Each speaker has a specified amount of time to speak (e.g., three minutes or five minutes).
Then the debate can be opened to the floor, with the speakers standing up to offer points supporting or opposing the motion. Each speaker from the floor is allowed a specified (usually shorter) amount of time (e.g., one minute or two minutes).
Resource 1b: A sample class debate
Motion: A teacher contributes more to the nation than a medical doctor
Pro: Mr Chairperson, distinguished panel of judges, ladies and gentlemen:
I rise to support the motion that teachers contribute much more to the development of the nation than medical doctors do.
First and foremost, without teachers there will be no doctors, to start with. Teachers produce doctors, engineers, governors, bankers, the army officers and police as well as all of the civil servants, to mention a few. They mould character. Many national leaders were teachers at one time or another. Teachers never lose any lives while teaching, but many poor doctors lose their patients.
Con: Mr. Chairperson, distinguished panel of judges, ladies and gentlemen:
They say “health is wealth.” Without doctors who provide good health services, we would not all be here today. My worthy opponent forgot to tell this august audience that when teachers fail ill, they must rush to the doctor. Otherwise, they may never be able to teach anymore; they may be dead or disabled! It is because doctors are more valuable to the nation that they spend a longer time training to make sure that the nation remains very healthy. That is why doctors are better paid than teachers who are clearly less educated. Medical doctors are also always on duty. While teachers are engaged in chalk and talk, doctors are busy saving lives in emergencies all the time. Doctors are smartly dressed in clean white gowns and definitely look more respectable and attractive than teachers who only have a piece of chalk in their hand.
Resource 2a: Qualities necessary for an effective presentation
Making a presentation effectively involves not only knowledge of the grammar of the language; it also includes features of good communication. Here are some features that should be elicited in the class discussion:
Resource 2b: Taking part in group discussions
Group discussions involve the participation of several group members, each of whom has an opinion to share. Since group discussions are social events, involving human communication, members are expected to follow the norms of social conduct. Below is a list of things we do when we have group discussions. With a partner, decide which ones you think are examples of acceptable behaviour, and which ones are not.
Resource 3a: Extempore speech: My favourite sport
Good morning. Today I’m going to speak on the topic My Favourite Sport, which is soccer. Soccer is a game played by two teams of 11 players each, in which each team has to score goals by kicking a football into a goal. The team which scores the most number of goals is the winner. I love soccer because it is a fast game which requires great stamina, foot skills and the ability to control the movement of a ball. My favourite players are Didier Drogba of Ivory Coast, Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Wayne Rooney of England. My friends and I spend our weekends playing soccer, and we all dream of playing for our country one day. In short, soccer is the sport I love most, and I would like to be a professional soccer player when I grow up.
Uhh… goo... good morning. I uhh… I am speaking on soccer. My favourite sport is soccer. Soccer is played 11 players. Soccer is my favourite game. Soccer is played with football. I love soccer because it is fast game. To win we need goals. Goals kicked into goalpost. My most favourite players Didier Drogba, Ivory Coast, Cristiano Ronaldo, Argentina, no, …. Portugal, I think. Wayne Rooney is also my favourite from England. I play soccer with friends on every afternoon. Oh, I forgot, soccer is national game.
See in the enclosed DVD an audio recording of the activity:
Resource 3b: Speaking extempore: Effective strategies
a) Define the topic.
b) Give examples.
c) Mention one or more characteristic of the topic.
d) Say why it is good/bad/important.
a) introduce the topic: My topic today is…/I’d like to begin by….
b) keep people interested: What is interesting about this is…/I think the audience would be interested to know that…
c) give illustrations: For example…/For instance…/A good example of this is…
d) emphasise: An important thing about this is…/Let me emphasise that…
e) conclude: In the end…/I’d like to end by…/In conclusion…
Teacher question and answer
Question: Some students are more eager and rush to be the first to speak, and unconsciously make others feel inadequate. How do I handle this situation?
Answer: Take the more enthusiastic students aside and tell them you need their help. Students love to be given responsibility that makes them feel important. Put one student in charge of one or two quieter students and tell him or her to think of ways to encourage these shy students to speak more in class. Ask the brighter students to tutor the less articulate ones in a “study-buddy” style — buddies are friends, and are meant to help one another. However, be careful that the better students do not become overconfident and do not bully the buddies in their charge.