Middle School Kids Giving Speeches: A Youtube Sampler

I’m in the middle of my first speech project– yes, in year four of ELA. Sad, but true.

Speaking skills is one of our state’s four ELA standards, and arguably– I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb here– the most important thing our kids can learn how to do in ELA.  The phrase “oral communication” garners nearly 200 million hits on Google; of people suffering from fear of public speaking, I have seen (unsourced) estimates ranging from 75% to 95% of the general population. If this 2003 survey of students at the University of Leicester is any indication, such fears persist and deeply impact schooling, if not anything else. And if none of this convinces you, check out this fascinating bit on how short-term stresses like public speaking may actually make you healthier.

So why have I been so slow in getting on the speaking train? And why, when I survey my kids, was their last significant oral communication project somewhere in the I-can’t-really-remember-Ms.S misty depths of elementary school?

Because it’s not tested in New York State.


So here we are, with Ms. S recognizing the massive need for an effective oral language/public speaking unit, but still working out the glitches. I thought I might save readers the hour it took me to find decent speeches for my kids to pick apart with the rubric I am using, so here’s the sampler.

This one is super. http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/adora_svitak.html

 Adora is a 12 year old author and quite precocious, so kids are hooked right away. The speech has its weaknesses and is geared towards adults, which has created some fascinating conversation in class about audience.

Also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aaRMFlOTsU&feature=channel

 Same kid, talking to sixth graders. Nice to put this up against the TED talk– the audience and the tone is entirely different.

Other kids making speeches:


 (11 year old for Obama– lots of pros and cons to talk about, including the timeworn and hairpulling conclusion “well, that concludes my speech”). 


(Dalton Sherman, 10 year old, keynotes Dallas Central School District kickoff a couple of years ago)


( A nice 8th grade president campaign speech. Funny. Strong, with some fluctuations in volume and mumbling that will be fun for kids to pick apart.)

I’d love to hear from readers about public speaking stuff they do, effective resources, whether the skill is valued in your curriculum or state– you name it. Maybe this is the book I need to write.

4 thoughts on “Middle School Kids Giving Speeches: A Youtube Sampler

  1. You are so right- speaking in front of people, particularly your peers is HARD!

    If you have not seen the movie “The Kings Speech” check it out!

  2. You are right that what is not tested is unfortunately not valued. i applaud your efforts to bring public speaking to your students, and i recommend that you look into joining the NYS Theatre Education Association, an advocacy group, to support your program. NYSTEA is currently working with NYSED on creating assessments for theatre. I tell my kids – Unless your career path is to be a hermit, you are going to have to express yourself in front of a group of people at some point!

  3. Thank you, Kate! Nice to hear from you and thanks for the tip– I will definitely look into it. I have a theatre degree in addition to English, so I am a total believer in the efficacy and need for public speaking and theatre training for our students.

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