You want students to speak to the class. Maybe they are sharing What I Did This Summer or About Me presentations to start the new year. Later, students will be reciting poetry or participating in a mock trial or presenting their research reports or giving a book talk or making a podcast. Every teacher has speaking activities. I’ve written elsewhere that all students tend to dislike these presentations in large part because we have never given them specific, direct instruction about speaking skills. (See https://pvlegs.blog/2019/11/16/100-english-teachers-walk-into-a-bar/.) I want to talk here about the few students who have another problem with public speaking.
Introverted. Shy. Lacking self-confidence. You know these kids and you have several of them in your class. Even if you gave specific lessons about how to speak well, they would still be reluctant to get up in front of the class. We can’t give in to that fear, though, because oral communication is the number one way adults communicate, and we don’t want to rob any child of her or his chance of success. Some kids hate math, some hate writing, I hated art (It was supposed to be a cat!), but we want to help all students become complete and competent in all areas. Including speaking.
A solution? Give kids a digital voice first. Don’t have the students get up in front the entire class live. They aren’t ready. Use one of the many digital tools available. Students can record, delete, rerecord, delete, rerecord until they have something they are proud to share. Move from a high-stakes, live show to a low-stakes but-still-developing-speaking-skills show.
Many recording tools are available. Every smartphone has audio and video recording capability. Flipgrid (https://info.flipgrid.com/), VoiceThread (https://voicethread.com/), and Voki (https://www.voki.com/) are examples of sites where students can record presentations, discussion comments, and more. (Send me your favorites—I’d love to add to the list.)
Here’s a look at Voki. I use it to work on one of the skills of effective speaking, adding life to the voice. Students choose an avatar and add a fun voice: https://tinyurl.com/y9fns652
Voki can also be used for presentations (click on the avatar next to the book to start the presentation):
See https://pvlegs.com/ for more ideas.
The bottom line: Speaking skills are important. ALL students need help, and some need a way to dip a toe in the water before they dive in. Don’t shortchange the #1 language art, and don’t shortchange any student. Use digital tools to develop student voice.