In Communications Class this summer, students have been working not only to develop skills to make them stronger speakers, but to practice telling stories that can lead to meaningful human relationships. Media Manager Kayla Corcoran, who teaches Communications with Mr. Schaffer, reflects on the process below.
“I’m from busy streets."
“From my hacker friend, Harry."
“From Spiderman, Batman, Superman, and all those other mans.”
“From Vietnamese food.”
“From the land of imagination.”
“From ‘doesn’t everyone ride horses there?’”
“From playing soccer in the house. (So what if I break something?)”
“From a concrete forest.”
“From a land of ash and sky.”
“From cuddles with my dog Minty.”
“From my genius father, who can solve every problem I throw at him.”
For the past few weeks in Communications class, students have been working on a project called Story of Self. Based on a poem by US Poet Laureate George Ella Lyon, students have been workshopping and reading aloud poems about themselves that they’ve written.
While the project started by reading aloud an example of student work inspired by Lyon’s poem, students moved forward by brainstorming lists of people, places, things, and feelings that they identified with their own selves. The challenge, for many of the students in my class, was to be specific and concrete, drawing in their audience with examples, rather than generalizations.
Justin and Tysean work on some early brainstorming in Communications class.
After drafting and editing their poems after our second class together, students returned to our third class ready to share. The first step? Reading to the wall. “What?!” a few of them laughed. The wall is a great listener, I told them. It can be helpful when familiarizing yourself with material to stand as if you’re presenting to an audience but without the high stakes of actually having one in front of you. Speaking to the wall was followed by partner sharing. In groups of two, students read their poems, giving and receiving feedback on how the other did.
We practiced eye contact, posture, pacing, and volume, four habits that can improve public speaking in multiple different contexts. And while last week students had the opportunity to share to half the class, this week provided the first opportunity to share in front of everyone in the concert hall.
As we finished our last Communications class today and students reflected on what they had learned, it was wonderful to see how far so many students had come in their public speaking skills over these few weeks. Perhaps there is still work to be done addressing those four habits mentioned above, but what was clear from all the readings was that each student had developed a greater sense of confidence. And what we had gained together as a class and as a community was a better understanding of each other.
At the beginning of our class a few weeks ago, I spoke to the students about the importance of communication as the basis for meaningful human relationships. There’s something to be said for experiencing that enduring understanding with my students this summer, whose poems were funny, lovely, smart, imaginative, moving, challenging. Watching them try and try again and then try once more to present their most confident selves was a privileged experience. I hope many of you are able to see your children shine tomorrow the same way I did this week.
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