English: Year 6 Pupils Win Public Speaking Prize
I have to admit that one of the worst experiences of my childhood was connected with the preparing and presenting of a speech to fellow classmates at school.
To be honest, I didn’t find the act of speaking to my peers at all worrying but I remember being excruciatingly embarrassed for my best friend who sweated, stumbled and stuttered her way through an address to the class on the subject of Charity.
Her painful experience of public speaking at the age of 11 has, she believes, had a detrimental effect on her later life – she refused, for instance, to speak at her own wedding or to deliver the eulogy at her father’s funeral.
Every time the opening bars of ‘Feed the World’ begin, she cringes.
Giving a child the tools and skills to speak with confidence to different audiences is surely one of the most beneficial things an educator can do. I wholeheartedly agree with journalist Diane Hofkins who, in a recent Guardian newspaper article, stated that public speaking raises self-esteem and confidence in a child.
Peter Gibley from the English Speaking Board believes that giving children the confidence and the ability to present themselves and their ideas in the clearest and brightest light are attributes that will last a lifetime.
One of the main aims of the English Department at Bede's Prep is to develop all of our students’ abilities to communicate effectively in speech, and to listen with understanding.
To help, we are beginning to follow the ‘Discover Your Voice’ training programme, established by the English Speaking Union, which focuses on the four main skill groups of reasoning and evidence, listening and response, style and delivery, and organisation and prioritisation.
Together, these skills should help our children to express themselves more eloquently, to understand and appreciate different perspectives, to listen critically and respectfully to others, and to ultimately increase their curiosity in the world around them.
Happily, we are already starting to reap the benefits of this focus on Public Speaking; in late October, five of our Year 6 girls – Natalie Chalk, Katie Fenton, Milly Gibson, Sami MacRae and Kirstin Orr – took part in a challenging Public Speaking Competition at Eastbourne College against many other Prep Schools from East Sussex.
The girls' collaborative work in producing and then delivering a very intelligent and mature speech on Trophy Hunting was justly rewarded – they secured the title of Best Concluding Speech and Millie Gibson was given a special prize for her delivery of this section of their 5 minute presentation. Many congratulations to the girls for their efforts!
More generally however, it is our duty to encourage our children to find their voice and to speak up. As Ralph Waldo Emerson famously stated, ‘Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel’.
Who could hope to disagree?