Tools for Public Speaking in the Classroom

The ability to communicate ideas is a fundamental component of global education. However, this is one activity, particularly when it comes to communicating ideas publicly which causes the majority of people anxiety. In fact, 73% of the population have a phobia of public speaking. The implications of being unable to speak in public have ramifications which may very well impact a person’s ability to convey ideas clearly and impact their professional and wage prospects. More importantly, when students are given the tools to speak publicly, they gain a sense of empowered self-confidence. I’ve seen the life altering impacts debate has on students. This is why in addition to my commitment to global education, encouraging students to overcome their fear of public speaking and debate is a priority for me as an educator.

Image from the article: “How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking”

Below you’ll find four resources I have used in the classroom and throughout debate club to help students overcome their fear of public speaking, and helps instill a sense of confidence that extends well beyond the classroom. The following links will take you either to a Google Document or Google Slides.

  1. The umm, like, game – This game is a fun way to help students improve verbal fluency.
  2. Debate sparring – This presentation gives students a brief overview of why and how public speaking matters, and includes light debate topics which allows students to “spar”.
  3. I couldn’t disagree more! – These slides help students get acquainted with the A-R-E-S method (assertion, reasoning, evidence and significance) in developing a coherent argument.
  4. Sample Middle Ground topics – This activity was inspired by my students who wanted to recreate the Jubilee Middle Ground, a YouTube series which moderates discussions between individuals who have different views on the world. I typically have students submit the topics they would like to discuss via a Google form and choose from their topics. Students become invested when they are driving the topics for discussion and are interested in hearing what their peers have to say about these issues as well. This activity has proven to be a transformative means of fostering communication skills and also tremendously increases empathy. You can find out more on this process via a presentation my colleagues and I created in helping implement this process in the classroom.

Online Resources – Debate in the Classroom

  1. Academy for Social Change
  2. The Noisy Classroom
  3. idebate
  4. US News Debate Club
  5. ProCon.org
  6. The Better Arguments Project
  7. Talk the Talk – Oracy Resources in the Classroom
  8. Constructive Academic Controversy
  9. 401 Prompts for Argumentative Writing – I usually adjust the topics and create debate resolutions (which are typically statements and not formulated as questions)
  10. National Speech & Debate Association

Books

  1. Resolved: Debate Can Revolutionize Education and Help Save Our Democracy, Robert Litan
  2. Speak Up! Debate and Public Speaking in High School, Sushter & Meany
  3. The Debating Book: Everything You Need to Know about Debating, Julian Bell

The thought of encouraging public speaking or debate in the classroom can be overwhelming for students but also for educators. However, I’ve found facilitating discussion amongst youth is actually easier than trying to facilitate a discussion amongst adults! Typically, once grounds rules are set, students are eager to speak, AND listen to their peers. The process of critical discussion and debate is vital for our global community. Gen Z is growing up in a time when it seems like the difficulties seem to increase by the day. Equipping them with with the vital tools of confidence, public speaking skills and critical thinking is crucial.

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