Seventh Grade Students Command the Room With Compelling Speeches

Four seventh grade students stood before their peers and delivered original, persuasive speeches in Doc Wilson Hall on Thursday, May 9.

Keira Burgos, Arjun Ratan, Austen Smith and Violet Weber were selected to represent their grade during this culminating event for the public speaking portion of the grade’s curriculum. The topics they researched and presented were, respectively, the dangers of social media for teenagers, poverty in America, healthcare costs in the United States and the long-term effects on children in border detention centers at the United States/Mexico border. Each speaker took questions from the audience after delivering his or her speech.
Seventh graders’ study of public speaking begins in the fall when students choose a famous speech and deliver it to the class. Humanities teachers Mary Chappell and Paul Friedman work with all the students on their research and speeches. “Understanding the content, and reading with fluency, inflection and projection are some of the skills taught,” said Chappell. “Adding eye contact and connecting with the audience is an important feature of the delivery. Peer critiques are based on a system of praise, question and polish and students help each other improve their delivery.” Friedman said that public speaking is an important tool for students to learn because it allows them to “communicate their ideas and thoughts in an effective and compelling manner.”
In the spring, seventh graders select a global or national issue of importance to them. They then learn to analyze information from a variety of sources, create a bibliography, write a persuasive speech, and deliver their final draft to their classmates. Each year, the speeches cover a broad range of topics and students look in-depth into their subject matter.

In addition to the important and thoughtful work of research a topic and preparing a forceful defense, there is another benefit to the study of public speaking, said Friedman: “Hopefully they learned that public speaking may be difficult, but that it is something that anyone can do with a bit of practice!”

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