Public Speaking

Earlier this week, my friend Hollie told me that she’d attended a meeting of Toastmasters this past week.  Although I’m paraphrasing, this is roughly what she said:

It was awesome, Andrew. There were people who gave prepared talks, and those were singularly great; but they also had these things called Table Topics. They had a basket with a range of subjects in it, and you drew a topic from the basket, and you had to speak on that topic for two minutes straight, say “thank you,” and sit down. I agreed to try it out, even though I’m a guest, and I got “pepper” . There were apparently a whole bunch of spices in this week’s basket, so we heard talks about oregano and thyme and saffron… And they said I was a great speaker! I’ve never done anything so exciting and interesting, or at least not in a long while.  I’m going back.

So, with that in mind, of course I had to try it with my Debate Club.  I made up about a dozen cards, and we had three Table Topics this week speak.  We’ll do it again in a week or two, with more cards.

I’m not sure this counts as a Maker’s Grimoire item, but it turns out that randomly assigning kids to random topics of conversation is a great way to get kids prepped to talk about a broad range of subjects.  I got notes from a couple of different families reporting that the subjects that had come up at the first round of Table Topics had become discussion items by dinner that evening.

My initial collection of Table Topics cards were as follows:

  • Germany
  • Hawaii
  • China
  • Japan
  • Coffee
  • Physics
  • Biology
  • Geometry
  • Algebra
  • School
  • England
  • South Carolina
  • Montana
  • Mountain Climbing
  • Manufacturing
  • Painting
  • Fashion

We spend a lot of time in Debate Club preparing for Mock Trial in January, but I think that all of our students need more prep time at just plain-ol’ public speaking, and I hope to figure out how to introduce this into our regular curriculum in the classroom.


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One comment

  1. I used to hate speaking up in class or giving talks so much that I’ve dropped classes (in college) and taken failing grades even when I had a talk prepared (in high school).
    Now, what do I do?
    And I love having a group’s attention. I think your idea of table talk would have been a great way to learn how to speak comfortably in front of an audience when I was younger. Maybe I’ll come up with something like it for my students.

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