Teaching Public Speaking

Rhymes With Orange, by Hilary B. Price, July 16, 2017, via ArcaMax, fair use.

I taught public speaking for a couple years as a graduate student in Speech Communication at California State University, East Bay, in Hayward, California. I emphasized civic engagement and critical thinking.

After some inital lectures, the format of my class was to generally to do formal speeches first followed by impromptu speaking. Over the course of the term, each student was required to do three extemporaneous speeches: an epideictic, an informative, and a persuasive speech, so a few students would give speeches each day. After these were done for the day, I would fill the remaining time with impromptu speeches, which were supposed to be about current events.

I found that the impromptu speeches accomplished several goals. First, those students who chose to participate gained that much additional practice in public speaking. Second, that the topic had to be on current events so it required civic engagement. And third, the topic of each impromptu speech would be discussed, developing classroom participation skills and critical thinking skills. I offered extra credit for the impromptu speeches and participation in the discussions, attempting to weigh the credit such that there was a considerable incentive to participate while not excessively penalizing those who were truly uncomfortable speaking up.

In addition, I required a major essay about midway through the term, while we were still doing the informative speeches, that essentially enabled students to preview their persuasive speech topics and the arguments they intended to use with me and gain feedback to improve their performances on their final speeches.