Fifth Graders Discover the Power of Public Speaking

Michaela Boller’s fifth grade students have mastered the art of public speaking.

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To Boller’s delight, the 14 students “poured their hearts into these speeches, and I was really proud of them for remembering to use SPATE (stance, pace, articulation, tone, eye contact),” she said. The students presented their speeches in Doc Wilson Hall on March 26 with confidence and grace.

The class addressed topics ranging from endangered giant pandas and saving bees to the dangers of smoking and vaping. “When they're given the opportunity to speak freely and to share their opinion and I'm not telling them what to say, it gets them more excited about it,” Boller explained.

Shiv Padmanabhan ’31 interviewed a top neurologist at Harvard when researching ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a disease that affects the nervous system. “I did my speech on possible solutions for ALS, my experience with ALS and how my grandpa was diagnosed with it several years ago.”

Classmate Isabella Roberts ’31 also turned to family when researching her topic on appreciating the elderly. “Studies show that if you're appreciating your elders, it changes their life perspective a lot,” she explained. “I asked a bunch of questions to my grandma about how she feels when she’s appreciated and how she feels when she’s not appreciated or disrespected.” 

Inspired by his mother’s work in marine biology, Charlie McNamee ’31 dove into a speech about the importance of addressing ocean pollution. “I hope that people learn to throw their trash away, not use plastic water bottles, and maybe just help,” he said.

As he showed his hearing aid to the audience, Andrew Whaley ’31 spoke about his personal story of hearing loss. “I had just read the newest Percy Jackson book, and in it there was a really offensive stereotype about hearing loss, saying that all people who have hearing disabilities are old and that really hurt, so I wanted to correct all those misconceptions.”

Sparked by discrimination against the queer community, Elise Vargas ’31 gave a speech about LGBTQIA+ awareness and was proud of herself and her classmates: “I think everyone did very well with their SPATE, and I believe that a lot of practicing can go a long way. I practiced quite a bit.”

Boller knows her students will continue to benefit from this unit. “We are about to write an essay on ‘The Phantom Tollbooth,’ and I know the skills they used to write their speeches will help them for this next five paragraph essay.”

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