The boys’ school has a real emphasis on public speaking. From the last term of Kindergarten up, they have to do a two minute speech each term (on a defined topic). The top two from each class get chosen to go to the speak offs with their fellow winners from the classes, and there are three winners for the whole school, who get to make the speech again at the term’s awards day or night.
At the beginning, we weren’t sure how much help to provide. Now, partly through parental peer pressure, but also partly through watching Chatterboy, in particular, through the process, we provide a fair bit. We brainstorm the topic a bit over the dinner table, and then I sent down with them, and type at their direction, providing a fair bit of guidance on flow and structure as we go. Then together, we print it out, and cut out sections to put on index cards, and they practice once a day for the two weeks before the actual speech.
There is a bit of parental debate about how much help to provide – we are at the helpful end, although some parents do write the whole speech without much child input. But in this case, I think the main learning is giving the speech itself – the content (about 20% of the overall mark) is almost incidental. So I’m happy that they are learning an enormous amount from having to give the speech.
So far neither of them has made it into the speak-offs (let alone the award). But Chatterboy, in particular, is desparately keen to get there, so I can see that every term, he carefully watches the winners, and he is starting to pick up things like gesture, eye contact, and voice modulation, just from watching the good speakers and what they do.
If certain newspaper columnists were to watch our school, they would probably accuse many of our parents (including us) of helicopter parenting. But I’m confident our boys are learning a huge amount by having to present the speech – having reasonable content helps free them up to get the delivery under control.