Mark Twain famously said that “there are two types of speakers: Those who are nervous and those who are liars.” While it certainly takes guts to put yourself out there, I was reminded of just how exciting and engaging public speaking courses can be when I set foot into Ms. Cornelius’s classroom this morning. Through Finding Your Voice: Public Speaking, she utilizes new methods to create a sense of confidence and professionalism among her students.
Ms. Cornelius runs through the plan.
The session began with a warm-up game of Zip Zap Zop, an activity that emphasizes focus and energy. Participants must pass the energy around the circle (in the form of a "Zip," "Zap," or "Zop," of course) while making eye contact and keeping the rhythm steady. Any mistakes or lags in rhythm result in elimination, so maintaining a focus on pace and patterns is the real key to success.
After sweet victory had been claimed, Ms. Cornelius informed her students that they would spend the first half of class running through practice rounds of the extemporaneous debates they would be performing later on in our All-X meeting. Extemporaneous debates go a little something like this:
- The moderator selects a topic at random
- One student is designated the “pro” side and one the “con” side
- The students have one minute each to present their arguments without any prior preparation
Although it’s a high-risk, nerve-wracking task, the class was looking forward to presenting its skills to the rest of the Experimentory. A few practice rounds were enough to convince me that the debaters were ready to take the stage.
The class runs through sample debate scenarios.
Next, the students were given time to work on their big projects for the course, the persuasive speeches that will be presented at Saturday’s showcase. For the project, students were asked to identify and issue of personal importance to them and construct an in-depth argument from there. They are expanding upon their understandings of ethos, logos, and pathos, and how each can be strategically used in an argument. Makenzie B. found this skill especially helpful for her career prospects – as an aspiring lawyer, Makenzie thought a public speaking course would be a great way to learn how to make convincing arguments in front of large groups. Reflecting on her experience so far, Makenzie says that “I’ve learned a lot; new vocabulary, types of speeches, strategies, and how body language is important in communication.”
Makenzie B. gives her extemporaneous argument.
Preston H. had similar thoughts: “I have no experience with public speaking, but I’ve found this class to be very fun and helpful.” Preston chose the course because he’s always taken a stand for the things he’s passionate about, and there’s ample room for him to pursue that here. He’s currently writing his persuasive speech on animal abuse in the dairy industry, as he has “always worked closely with the livestock industry, and would hate to see them treated the same way as dairy cattle.”
Preston H. presents his pro-argument.
Aside from all of this, Ms. Cornelius’s biggest hope is that she has supplied her students with the tools to go forward and lead with confidence:
“Teaching public speaking at the Experinmentory has been as fun as it has been rewarding. I think a lot of students entered with a little bit of fear and trepidation, which is understandable, because speaking in front of a bunch of strangers is scary! However, they’ve blossomed so much in only a week and a half, gaining confidence, poise, and knowledge on the different forms of public speaking. From reciting poems to delivering a how-to speech to extemporaneous debating, these kids can do it all!”
I have to agree; you’ve got this, Experimentors! I look forward to hearing your speeches this weekend.