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Friday, May 5, 2023

Introduction to Public Speaking Review

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) has recently released a new course: Introduction to Public Speaking (IPS). This was a course I was interested in from the first day it was announced.

Why was I so interested in a public speaking course? I have many reasons, but my biggest reason is that we are nervous presenters! I don't like public speaking, even if I'm just saying a few sentences. Assign me a talk or speech and my brain shuts down. I can write a wonderful essay, thanks to IEW. But have me present it and my heart rate soars, I shake nervously, my words wander, and I repeat myself unless I can read what I've prepared. My family members also demonstrate various similarities. We attend a church where the members are asked to speak during the meeting. Youth may be asked once a year, and adults are less often. It's nice to be comfortable and prepared and not present a boring reading when it's our turn!

My 9th grade daughter and I are both using this 12 week public speaking course. IEW says the course is intended for middle and high school students, but I suggest that adults can use this course to improve their skills as well.

Introduction to Public Speaking consists of:

  • A student binder
  • A packet of handouts including critique forms, source texts for memorization, class notes, outlines of the course and the weekly work, and templates that outline types of speeches
  • A folder ("Portable Walls" for those familiar with IEW) that is a quick-reference guide for the course
  • 12 weeks of video instruction (lifetime streaming available now and DVDs soon)
  • Downloads of example speeches, speech templates, audio of memorization, and critique forms

If you have more than one student doing the course, you can purchase a second binder and packet for them, as well as their own "Portable Walls" folder.

If your student is familiar with the IEW method of writing, they will understand the methods taught for writing speeches. If your student is not familiar with IEW for writing, the course gives enough instruction that they will not feel lost. This is taught in the weekly videos, during which students participate in the process of turning compositions into speeches. If you are an adult and are not familiar with good writing methods, don't hesitate to try this. I feel it covers enough information that anyone can achieve good results from working through this course.

There are dividers in the binder and instructions in the each video to help your student know what to do with the handout packet. They will end up with a binder that is organized and easy to refer back to. If your student is familiar with the Structure and Style for Students videos and binders, this will be familiar to them.

Each week is outlined on an overview page in the packet so the student knows what to complete each day. The suggested outline assumes a 4 day school week. It's easy to adjust that to 5 days, if you choose. 

Students will learn methods of memorization and recitation beginning the first week. They will memorize poetry, famous speeches, book passages, and their own work. The memorization techniques taught in this course have been helpful to my daughter and I. We do memorization in our home as a family, and the older kids have done a little memorization on their own. It's been nice to learn more memorization techniques and to have a little more practice. (If you have used Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization (LDP), don't hesitate to use this. There are multiple passages in IPS that are in LDP. Your student could memorize something else from LDP or they could pick something else if they have all of LDP memorized. I promise they will be that much ahead for this course if they can already memorize easily!)

Students will learn to critique speeches, and therefore adjust their own speeches and the way they present them. They are taught to observe four areas: poise, locution, contact, and content. The week 2 video explains these four areas and the students learn what to watch for in each area. My daughter and I learned a lot from this video and have been practicing many new presentation techniques. She's not as far into the course as I am, but I found it was very beneficial to have someone else know what was taught in week 2 to be able to critique me. If you are having a student do this course, I highly recommend that the parent or teacher watch the week 2 video to learn how to critique a speech and give feedback to the student.

I feel that the amount of work required each week for this course is very reasonable. The daily practice for the course could be done in a short period over a couple of days, especially if a student is diligent in writing. But don't let the student rush through the course! The beauty of this course is the daily practice of delivering the speech and memorizing the passages. Follow the weekly overview checklists to see skills improve. I am finding that I get better at memorizing and reciting when I take time every day and don't rush it. 

Some students may still feel nervous practicing a speech where the rest of the family can hear, especially if they know they will be critiqued. I suggest that no one offers critique until the student asks for it, and then only in the way taught in week 2. Encourage the student to practice speaking out loud. He or she can practice presenting to their stuffed animals, or the family pet, or in the backyard. Make it fun and take the pressure off when you have a shy or nervous speaker. Soon they will feel confident in their new abilities and will want to let the family hear their presentations.

We have not completed Introduction to Public Speaking yet, but we are far enough that we have learned many new skills and look forward to finishing. I can personally see how I have improved and know that if I keep practicing, public speaking won't be such a scary thing to me anymore. My daughter is naturally more comfortable in front of people, and I see this course is already giving her more skills to engage with an audience and present a thoughtful speech.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this course besides teaching me how to get past reading from the paper. It's definitely taught me that and so much more!

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