Speech in Your Classroom

Integrating speech into your classroom can be rewarding and powerful for both you and your students.  Public speaking skills are in high demand in both the academic and professional worlds and our work with speaking in FS and beyond can give our students a substantial advantage over their peers at other institutions.

With this in mind, here are three key suggestions for designing your class to include speech.

  1. Devote some class time to basic speech instruction. Do not assume that students know even the basics of speech construction or delivery.  Some will not have spoken at all in primary or secondary school.
  2. In class speech viewing and speech practice is vital to the success of speaking instruction in your class.  Students need real audiences and occasions to speak if they are to improve.
  3. With a bit of instruction and opportunities to practice, students can make clear progress as speakers–often within a single semester.  Since students have less experience speaking than writing, they have less they may have to “unlearn” and they are often able to make big gains quite quickly.

Evaluating Speeches

Part of becoming a better speaker is being able to understand and apply the criteria that make a good speech.  One effective way to build such understanding is to work together as a class on crafting a rubric for an assignment or a set of criteria for effective speaking.  The class can watch a sample speech together and talk through those elements of the speech that work or do not work, why, and what improvements can be made.  Such discussion also allows for a conscious reflection on the relative importance of delivery skills and message content in particular speaking contexts.

In cases where such cooperative criteria creation would not fit with the class or assignment, an instructor crafted rubric or evaluation sheet can be used quite effectively.  The key is to be sure that the criteria that the rubric is based on are clear to the students and that you, as the instructor, know how you would like to apply them to the particular assignment.

Example of Basic Speech Grading Criteria (Letter Grade Scale)

No single evaluation form will work for all instructors or all assignments. Evaluation forms should be tailored to the speech assignment goals and the demands of your particular classroom.

The following forms are presented as examples of evaluation rubrics and can be edited or adapted as needed.

General Speech Rubric With Points and a Comment Column

General Speech Evaluation Form with Comment Boxes

General Speech Rubric using a 5 point scale

Persuasive Speech Rubric Using a Numeric Scale

General Speech Rubric Using Descriptive Terms (form used by the speech consultants)

General Peer Evaluation Form

Sample Speeches

There are a wide array of sample speeches available for use in your classroom.  VHS tapes of Allegheny student speeches are available in Pelletier Library for faculty checkout.  Many example student speeches are also available on YouTube (though most of these speeches are primarily examples of what not to do!) The University of North Carolina at Greensboro also has some example student speeches online–though primarily geared towards UNCG students, these speeches work well for classroom discussion.

Speech Archives

Many speeches are now also available in video, audio, and or text online. The following are some of the most useful links to online speech archives.

American Rhetoric offers a speech bank of video, audio, and/or text versions of over 5000 important speeches in American history.
Gifts of Speech provides access to the text versions of over 100 significant speeches by women from 1848 to the present.  Many of these manuscripts are not published elsewhere.
Malcolm X Speaks offers RealAudio of 24 complete addresses by Malcolm X.
Selected Speeches of Abraham Lincoln provides links to the text of 17 of Lincoln’s most important speeches.
The King Institute offers text and audio of over 20 speeches by Martin Luther King Jr.

The Learning Commons and Library also offer several important historical speeches available on DVD including volumes 1-5 and volume 16 of the “Great Speeches” collection, “The Greatest Speeches of All Time,” “The Speeches of Famous Women,” and “The Speeches Collection, Volume 1.” See ALLECAT for more information and current availability.

FS Faculty Development Workshop Materials (Speech-Related)

The FS program has sponsored a faculty development workshop series to assist faculty to integrate speech instruction into their FS classrooms.  The following documents are a selection of materials from these workshops.

Designing Speech Assignments

An Integrated View of Communication in FS

Converting a Paper to a Speech

Helping Students Become Critical Communicators

Tips and Techniques for Providing Effective Feedback

Guide to Generating More Effective Discussions

Improving Classroom Discussions

Short list of possible impromptu exercises

21 Ways to incorporate informal speaking and writing in your FS classroom