Public Speaking and Debate

This Public Speaking and Debate class will offer the opportunity to speak and listen to others talk only as much as possible. We will alternate between learning the structure of different types of speeches and making presentations by one student to the rest of the class. After each speech by students, we will have a critique from the peers, and the teacher. They will also be required and coached on how to participate in the discussion and to critique their peers.
Designed for

Students who want to improve on their public speaking and debate skills, and/or are planning to attend a debate competition

Level

High school students

Class format

One-on-one and small group (Max. 7 students/class)

Class introduction

The best way to learn to speak is to speak. There is much we can learn from listening to the speeches of others, so putting these lessons into action is the essential step. This class, with only 4-8 students, is appropriately balanced so that students will be offered the opportunity to speak often and to listen to others speak only as much as is optimal. In the 10 classes we will rotate between learning how different types of speeches should be structured, and classes where the students will present to the rest of the class and then receive critique from their peer audience, and the teacher. In a large class, one must listen to many speeches before it is time to speak again. With our small class size, students will each write and give a speech at least once every two weeks. They will also be required and coached on how to participate in the discussion by critiquing their peers.

What follows is a description of each class. The teacher reserves the right to adjust in response to the needs and abilities of the students in the class. Since this is a very participatory class and since the number of students is low, the teacher will give each student a great deal of time and specific attention. Feedback will be frequent and direct.

Outcome

This class is designed to enrich students who currently study or plan to study in U.S. secondary schools or colleges. Class discussion and oral presentations are emphasized in American classrooms. Most school grading systems include “class participation” as a significant calculation in final grades. The ability to join the discussion by stating an opinion about the topic is essential. The student must then provide evidence to support this opinion. American students have been trained in this technique since the early grades. Chinese students often find this skill the most challenging part of transitioning to the U.S.

TOEFL and SSAT or SAT testing often rely on the students’ ability to hear and speak English in conversational modes. A secondary benefit of studying Public Speaking and Debate is that standardized test scores will improve as students become comfortable with listening, analyzing, critiquing peers, and organizing their individual response to the arguments of others.

Speeches are given for one of three primary purposes: To entertain, to inform, and to persuade. The syllabus below incorporates all three of these types of speeches. We will also spend the last portion of the class applying speech formats to the special case of debate. Class room discussion will be required, practiced, and coached throughout. Beyond High School and University training there is no more essential skill that predicts success in the workplace than the ability to make a compelling oral presentation, whether this is in a board room before a small group of colleagues, or at a podium in front of a large audience. Therefore, the sooner we learn to write an oral argument, effectively organize thoughts for extemporaneous responses, and learn to overcome stage-fright while presenting an idea with confidence and poise, the better.

Feedback

Students and their parents will receive brief feedback after each class, via Teachworks, regarding the student’s general participation in class. Students will also receive feedback on graded assignments via email. At the end of the course, the student will receive a final report card, which thoroughly speaks to their overall participation in the course, including major assignments.

Schedule

12 hours of classes, 120 minutes/class

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