Day 8: Public Speaking {10 Days of Language Arts}

by Jimmie Lanley on November 16, 2011

Public speaking is so practical. Maybe some adults don’t ever have to speak to groups, but in my life, I have had countless opportunities to teach and speak.

I remember when I was a teen, my mother joined a Toastmaster’s group where she gave and listened to speeches. She came home so excited that it rubbed off on me. I’ve never been terrified by public speaking.  Yes, I get nervous, but experience breeds confidence. That’s exactly why you need to find chances for your child to practice speaking in a group.

Speech Writing and Delivery

Speech writing follows along closely with essay writing. You need an introduction that hooks the audience, a body full of specific details, and a conclusion that wraps it all up. As long as your child can write an essay, he can easily write a speech. It is always easier to make language more informal, as we do when speaking, than to make it more formal, as we do in writing.

I have the Scholastic book Oral Presentations Made Easy. It’s extremely basic, so much so that I can’t honestly recommend it. Instead, I hunted up some freebies:

It seems that most public speaking materials focus inordinately on the speech preparation rather than the delivery. Since speech writing is so similar to essay writing, I don’t understand why the materials focus so much on the content of the speech.  The unique part of public speaking is the delivery: eye contact, appropriate gestures, intonation, speed, how to use notes, and so on. Maybe those things are mainly learned through practice. Or possibly giving a classroom of 25-35 students enough chances to practice is so difficult that curriculum writers focus on the more manageable task of speech writing than on delivery.

Whatever the reason, we need to give our children opportunities to practice public speaking and to watch public speakers so they can learn the keys to delivery. When you listen to speakers, take the time to analyze their delivery style. What exactlymade it interesting or boring? Identifying specific dos and don’ts seen in others can help your child with his own public speaking.

Between the writing and the publishing of this post, Sprite and I listened to a very distracting speaker. His style was so exaggerated that we stole looks of amazement at each other several times during his talk. Later we analyzed his delivery problems. He was too loud, moved around far too much, jutted his head in and out like a bird, emphasized words in strange ways, and exaggerated his facial expressions. She agreed that his message was good.

Unfortunately, his delivery kept both of us from focusing on what he was saying. Honestly I couldn’t wait for him to finish. I felt anxious simply watching his behavior. But what a fantastic learning opportunity for a lesson on public speaking!

?? speech

Speaking with Large Gestures

Essential Reminder: Let your child select a topic she is passionate about.

I am such a mean mom. I insisted that Sprite participate in both the speech and demonstration contests at our local 4H club even though she didn’t want to. She sulked and complained every time it came up, but I held fast. Public speaking is important, and the 4H contest is a perfect place to practice. I told her it was for school and not for fun and that she would be required to participate each and every year.

Once we started brainstorming topics, though, she suddenly lit on an idea that she is passionate about sharing — tools you need for advanced drawing. The words flowed out in quick succession as she talked about pencil types, smudgers, different kinds of paper and pads, and so on. She ran to her room to furiously type out a rough outline. She brought the paper to me, glowing with excitement. It was filled with details and humor. I know this will turn out to be an excellent speech and best of all, she knows it too.

Moral of the story is to choose something, anything, that your child truly cares about. Her passion makes the speech writing and speech delivery infinitely easier.

Authentic Situations

Public speaking can’t really be done alone, at home. To get the maximum benefit, you need to place your child in front of others — non-family others. Starting at home with relatives is a good way to ease into speaking, but eventually you need to push your child to deliver a speech in front of a crowd of people.

Two obvious options are

  1. 4H clubs and
  2. coop classes.
But think outside of the box. Check with your community center and consider church. Encourage your child to present something during a worship service or small group meeting. Keep your eyes open for opportunities and encourage your child to make small steps in public speaking.
If you can’t find any speaking opportunities, make them. Find some other homeschool families and begin a public speaking coop that meets monthly.

There are only two more days in this 10 Days series.

My 10 day series has been formatted into a convenient eBook. Click the graphic to learn more.

Looking for more series? Here are all the bloggers participating.

10 days of Character Studies | Confessions of a Homeschooler
10 days of Christmas Countdown Ideas | Milk & Cookies
10 days of Creative Writing | Chocolate on My Cranium
10 days of Crockpot Meals | The Happy Housewife
10 Days to a Godly Marriage | Women Living Well
10 Days of Growing Leaders | Mom’s Mustard Seeds
10 Days of Homeschooling High School | Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers
10 days of I Wish I Had Known | Fruit in Season
10 days of Keeping Your Marbles | The Tie That Binds Us
10 days of Kid-friendly Food | Planner Perfect
10 Days of Language Arts Lesson Planning | Jimmie’s Collage
10 Days of Learning Apps | Daze of Adventure
10 Days of a Mason Jar Christmas | Cajun Joie de Vivre
10 Days of More JESUS in Christmas | Preschoolers and Peace
10 Days to a Peaceful Home | Raising Arrows
10 Days of Raising a Life-Long-Learner | Bright Ideas Press
10 days of Science with Math | Blog, She Wrote
10 days of Teaching Values | Our Journey Westward
10 days of Winning your Child’s Heart | I Take Joy

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

e-Expeditions November 16, 2011 at 10:49 am

Great advice! I struggle with public speaking as well, even in front of small groups, so it’s definitely something I need to practice. I think the makers of the Grammar Girl podcast have a public speaking podcast as well–The Public Speaker, I believe. 🙂


Nadene November 16, 2011 at 11:58 am

My older children are painfully shy and balk when faced with recitations, and I’d love them to practice public speaking to gain more confidence. In contrast, my youngest climbs up on the table (literally!) to read her narrations to us! She needs public speaking because this is obviously an area of gifting.
If only we didn’t live on such a remote farm … opportunities are so few and far between. If there are opportunities near to your homeschool – go for it!


Kimberly November 16, 2011 at 10:03 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more! Another wonderful group is It is parent supervised, but led by the older kids–
I am enjoying this series– thanks!


Pam in Missouri November 20, 2011 at 10:30 am

A wonderful resource for observing great modern speakers is TED. Here is how they describe themselves: “Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.” I have found the talks on to be extremely well rehearsed and engagingly presented. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design but the topics touch on just about every conceivable idea for improving the world. There is definitely a liberal bent to the series, so be sure to screen the talks if that might offend you. Here is a great one by Sir Ken Robinson on how schools squash creativity:


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