Spanish Public Speaking Unit

Spanish 5 begins with a conversation. On day one, we sit down and discuss the skills that we look to improve upon throughout the year.  I explain to the students that I have a few goals for our class this year. My goals are the following:

1) Push yourself to develop your skills and interests… just try it in Spanish.

2) Push yourself to not need your teacher… work towards being a self-learner of a foreign language.

3) Push yourself to ask how each unit we study can improve your character.

This year, of the many ideas that my students came up with, the first skill they wished to improve upon was public speaking. We built the following unit to improve their public speaking.

Phase 1:

The first phase of the unit was to study what makes a good public speaker. We watched several famous public addresses. After watching the addresses, we reflected on what we noticed as effective ways to communicate ideas.  In addition to watching speeches, we also read articles with tips for how to give effective speeches.  We then discussed the techniques that we wished to focus on to improve our own speech delivery.  The areas that we decided to address were the following:

1) Eye contact
2) Tone/Energy
3) Posture
4) Projection
5) Articulation/Pronunciation

Phase 2:

After establishing what we viewed as areas that we could practice, I then met with our school’s drama teacher to discuss ways to practice these skills.  After bouncing ideas of of him, I then adapted many tongue twisters to Spanish to practice articulation. I adapted several improvisation games to get the students comfortable speaking in front of people.  I also adapted self-evaluation forms that our theater teacher uses in order to get my students to start reflecting on their skills.

Phase 3:

Next we had to begin practicing speeches. We decided to select three types of speeches to practice our essential skills.

1) Presenting a pre-written speech (3 minutes)
2) Presenting a speech for which you only have an outline on a note card (2-3 minutes)
3) Improvising a Speech from themes selected at random from a hat (1minute)

Through speech writing and practice of the various speeches, we were able to review various grammar topics and learn new vocabulary while also practicing our public speaking skills.  When presentation days came about, students would evaluate their peers work. We also video taped the speeches so that students could watch themselves perform.  After reading their classmates critiques and viewing their own speeches, students wrote reflection essays. What did you do well? What did you improve from your previous speech? What can you do better next time?  These reflection pieces posed another opportunity to practice written Spanish skills, while also allowing the students time to reflect on their public speaking skills.

Overall, I think the unit opened my students eyes to a very important skill that they will use throughout their life.  They developed their abilities in public speaking while also practicing their own fluency in Spanish, their Spanish grammar and their Spanish written skills.  Next time, I would like to focus more specifically on one grammar topic. We reviewed the present tense, as well as the preterit versus the imperfect, but I think it would have been more effective to just highlight one topic. I also think this unit would have moved along more quickly.  The unit took about a month.  After running through the unit once, I think that I could probably do the unit in 3 weeks. I felt like it dragged on a bit towards the end.  That said, we ran into many holidays and days that our class cycled out of the school schedule and this also extended the length of the unit.

Do you teach a public speaking unit? Do you have suggestions for how to improve my unit? For those of you who don’t have a specific unit for public speaking, do you give students feedback on their presentation skills when they give a presentation? If so, how?

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