Public Speaking From the Age of 7

When I was first asked to teach a  ‘Sharing’ class to a roomful of 8 year olds, I wondered, “How on earth? How many ways are there to teach kids to… share their toys?” I soon realized that ‘Sharing’ class was in fact equivalent to Public Speaking. As I researched and prepared to teach this course I began appreciating the brilliance of introducing this skill to children as young as 7 and 8. 

Student presentations include both solitary and group exercises of various genres, from an informational speech to a personal reflection to a drama written and delivered by the students. 

Even more, I became quite pleased with the title of the class, which offered a consistent time for students to ‘Share’ with their friends. To frame this skill with a title like ‘Public Speaking’ can carry intimidating connotations of speaking to strangers or the public at large. Furthermore, in a class titled ‘Public Speaking’, the emphasis seems to sit on the act of delivery, rather than focusing on the skill of communicating a message which the presenter believes in and hopes to inspire their audience with. ‘Sharing’ focuses on the content which is worth sharing, and captures the positive side of sharing with others something valuable—giving the gift of a worthwhile message. 

While presentations and speeches may be assignments in elementary or middle school school, for many people it is not until college that a full ‘Public Speaking’ course is required. By that time in life many students likely fall into the 75% of adults who suffer from speech anxiety when asked to speak in front of others. In fact, fear of public speaking tops the list of greatest fears all around! How tragic that many adults who have meaningful things to share are so crippled by the medium of public speaking. 

Of all the classes I have taught at G.O.D. Academy, ‘Sharing’ class remains an all-time favorite. My number one goal as a teacher: foster excitement in the students about the chance to stand up and share something meaningful with their friends. I am happy to say it was a great success! Every Thursday morning we came together to play games, observe and critique videos, and learn songs about Body Language: “Eyes up, Shoulders Back, Feet Strong, Hands In, Voice Out!” After being given some basic tools to practice, students were given as much floor time as possible, preparing material on everything from personal giftedness to inspirational speeches.

Adelaide, a shy and reserved student, gained poise and confidence through practical lessons given in her "Sharing" class. 

On the last day of the semester I watched an 8-year-old student (normally a shy, reserved girl) stand up and confidently share an inspirational speech about a subject close to her heart: global literacy. Adelaide stood with her feet planted and clearly projected her voice, instructing the class to raise their hands if they knew how to read. All 17 students raised their hands. She then directed the front row of students to put their hands down. “If you lived in Africa, all those in the front row would not be able to read.” 

Caught up in the moment, the front row immediately reacted, “Nooooo!” Adelaide went on to explain about the importance of knowing how to read. Not only does it enable people to learn God’s Word, but also is necessary for personal study to gain important skills. I watched as Adelaide engaged her classmates with questions, wrote examples on the white board, and ended by ‘casting a vision’ of what the world would be like if all kids could learn how to read. 

‘Sharing’ class fits within our goal as a school that emphasizes the power of words to paint pictures, identify issues and compel people to good deeds. Words frame reality. Words challenge the status quo and breathe life into people. If students from a young age can grow comfortable standing up and sharing informed messages that they believe in, they will become adults capable of inspiring change. Like Adelaide, I am wondering what the world would look like if all kids could learn how to read, and all adults weren't afraid to speak about the things they know, believe, and hold dear.