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Speaking Up, Speaking Out: A Kids' Guide to Making Speeches, Oral Reports...

Share It's your turn to give a speech or an oral report -- and you're a bundle of nerves! Speaking Up, Speaking Out offer tips to help students face their fears!

"...I don't like people getting bored from listening to me."
---John Mendez, 6th grade

"...I don't like talking to a lot of people."
Matthew Gelb, 6th grade

"...I don't like public speaking sometimes because you can get really nervous."
Joanna Galvin, 6th grade

Speaking Up Book Cover Heart pounding? Forehead sweating? Stomach feel queasy? Mouth dry? Mind a blur? Legs wobbly? Few people savor the idea of making a presentation to a large group of people! In a recent survey of adults, "speaking before a group" was ranked the Number One fear. It was ranked above "death"!

For most of us, speaking is as natural as breathing -- but we find public speaking to be exciting and scary. We'd rather do almost anything else!

Kids are no different from adults in that respect, and that's why Speaking Up, Speaking Out: A Kids' Guide to Making Speeches, Oral Reports, and Conversation (by Steven Otfinoski, The Millbrook Press) ought to be on your school's library shelves! The book offers calming reassurance -- and tips! -- for students fearful of an upcoming presentation. Speaking Up, Speaking Out is also an excellent resource for teachers responsible for "teaching" presentation skills or for any teacher who recognizes that

  • good speakers make strong leaders.
  • being able to prepare a good speech or report and to deliver it convincingly is an important skill, and
  • being able to organize ideas and communicate them to others is a lifetime skill that will be useful in whatever career a student might choose.

Written with 5th to 8th graders in mind, Speaking Up, Speaking Out includes chapters on

  • Speaking out in social situations -- This chapter offers tips for talking at parties, meeting new people, talking on the phone, and introducing friends who don't know one another.
  • Reading Aloud -- Reading aloud is good preparation for other forms of public speaking. This chapter offers tips for reading aloud from textbooks, stories, poems, and plays.
  • Stage fright and how to overcome it -- Everyone experiences stage fright, even the best actors in the world! A certain amount of nervousness is good and can keep a speaker on his toes. But paralysis before a group isn't good. This chapter challenges students to prepare well and to practice often; those two tips are the best preparation for overcoming the fear of public speaking. Otfinoski also offers six techniques (breathing, relaxation, visualization, etc.) to help students overcome stage fright, as well as tips for handling mistakes and unexpected interruptions.
  • Oral reports -- In this chapter, Otfinoski takes students through the process of preparing an "oral report." He emphasizes the importance of choosing the right topic; preparing an outline; including in your presentation a good "grabber" of an introduction and a solid, thoughtful conclusion; and including visual and/or audio aids where appropriate. (He offers a handful of ideas for visual or audio aids, and his thoughts about where in a presentation each would be most effective.) The author also provides tips for developing simple notes that will lead students through a presentation while allowing them to sound more natural and conversational, move around freely, and make eye contact with their audience.
  • Speeches for every occasion -- Every speech isn't expected to be Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" or Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech -- but if a speaker is well-prepared and knows his or her audience, the speech should go over just fine! The author provides tips for making campaign speeches, acceptance speeches, town meeting presentations, and more -- even a special section on chairing a meeting. He also provides a list of resources (including an almanac, a quotation dictionary, and a joke book) that every speaker should have, with tips for using them. A glossary of "public speaking" terms concludes the book.

A couple more nice features: Throughout Speaking Up, Speaking Out, Otfinoski includes many checklists and techniques that students are sure to find helpful when preparing a presentation. In addition, he includes pages of comments from kids. Young readers are sure to relate to the fears and the tips offered by their peers. Those thoughts, along with a wealth of solid tips from the author will help students to be comfortable, enthusiastic, and confident speakers!

Editor's note: Usually the Education World BOOKS IN EDUCATION page focuses on "a new book that every teacher should know about or that every school library should have." This week's book is a slight exception to our usual rule. It is definitely a book every teacher and librarian should know about, but it isn't exactly new; it was published in 1996. I thought, however, that the book would be a nice complement to this week's "current events" themed issue of Education World, since discussion and "speaking out" is a central idea behind any "current events" curriculum.

Speaking Up, Speaking Out: A Kids' Guide to Making Speeches,Oral Reports, and Conversation is written by Steven Otfinoski and illustrated by Carol Nicklaus. The book was published by The Millbrook Press in 1996. For additional information, contact The Millbrook Press at 2 Old Milford Road, Brookfield, CT 06804.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1998 Education World

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