Time for Persuasive Speeches

With my Sophomore Honors students, the final unit remaining is the persuasive speech unit. Generally, the students do quite well with these 3-5 minute speeches, and I require the following:

  • three types of sources (i.e. periodical, internet source, survey, scientific study, interview, etc.),
  • a minimum of eight solid facts,
  • an anecdote on the chosen topic,
  • a visual aid used throughout the speech,
  • emotional and logical appeals,
  • a typed outline, and
  • a maximum of three index cards with notes.

I always look forward to this unit, especially when finishing the school year, and I like to help the students prepare for the formal speech with impromptu ones. I have a hat filled with crazy, insanely nonsensical positions students must defend in 30 seconds. For example, one says that “people should never recycle,” and another states that “the seven days of the week should be renamed for the Seven Dwarfs.” It’s fun and the students get to laugh while doing this.

Sometimes I add another day where I just have the students speak for 30 seconds on a random topic like bowling balls, pencil shavings, or plastic bags. Whatever helps them speak in front of a group is what I’ll do.

Of course, this unit works much more effectively if the classroom holds an air of trust, an atmosphere of respect. Since I work on this all year long, I enjoy concluding the year with the speeches because we all know each other and respect one another, so this unit almost always goes off without a hitch (even though many students fear public speaking).

Do you have a speech unit? What do you require? What do you do to help the students become comfortable in front of a group?

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