Complacency, especially as an adult, can slowly destroy any sense of drive in one's life. This is why developing skills and interests at any age is so important. Fun fades but interest can last a lifetime. What we are often missing is a route to follow and a reason to push toward mastering something. This article will explore an example of how someone can be helped in this pursuit.
Popular belief says that rocket science is the hardest thing to learn but I propose a challenger - giving a speech in front of an auditorium full of people. This doesn’t sound that hard you say, but did I forget to mention you will not be speaking your own language and you're not even in high school yet.
We will approach this subject from two angles: a coach and a speech participant. A position as an Assistant Language Teacher is a great example of how a coach can be helpful.
This is a process so it takes time. Allow plenty to meet with the student. Too much at once will overwhelm the student. Therefore, a time management strategy will have to be put in place to avoid fatigue and diminishing returns in their progress.
Step 1 - Opening Up
The student you are coaching will naturally be nervous so instead of diving into a traditional listen and repeat until it sounds good cycle, try to take their mind off it. Sometimes we have to go away from something to feel closer to it.
Take some time to talk about some things that students like such as their favourite movies or music. Disney is always releasing popular movies which students of all ages enjoy. Pick a current film and if possible watch a few minutes with the student and ask him or her about it. The aim is to help them relax and prepare them to express themself.
Step 2 – Getting Comfortable With The Topic
The first step and the second are very similar but differ slightly. The second step has the student talk about themself, their experience related to the speech content or about the speech itself. The closer you feel to a topic the more comfortable you will feel describing it. When a language barrier has been added into the mix it provides an extra set of hurdles.
For example, if the speech topic was “what is your dream?”, we could begin talking about previous experiences they have had which may be related such as places they have travelled to, study they have done in the area, or people they have met.
Step 3 – Draft Creation
If you haven’t already seen a draft of their speech, now is the time to begin constructing it with the student or begin to polish what they have done. Creating a speech with the student will be covered in another article so let’s assume (which is usually the case) the student has something prepared.
Remember, this is their speech, not yours. Try to maintain their ideas, write it as close as is grammatically possible to what they want to say, and maintain the overall theme of their speech. This may include adding lines here and there to maintain a smooth flow but try to keep their core thoughts intact. The speech contest has a time restriction. Keep that in mind as you are proofreading the speech.
Step 4 – Beginning the delivery
The speech is now ready to be committed to memory (the speech format does not allow for notes during the actual presentation).
- Have the student read the speech to you. As the speech is being read make notes of the trouble areas they are having in their pronunciation. This will come in handy later but this should not be highlighted now because they are still in the initial phase of preparation. Don't forget to time the speech.
- Read the speech and have them listen. This will give them a few minutes to reflect on the level they are trying to achieve. Time yourself for a real comparison of how long it should take.
- Adjust the speech as necessary to respect the time restriction. Cut unnecessary words and shorten any sentences.
- Rewrite a final, polished version of the speech.
- Give the student 5 or 10 minutes to look over the speech and make some notes. It may be best to leave them alone because they can will be able to reflect more freely without you sitting across from them. Grab a drink and come back.
- Ask them what they came up with or any points they want to discuss.
Step 5 - Self Evaluation
The student will now act as an observer of their own performance. This will require a dictaphone. I absolutely despise the sound of my voice on tape but it really does provide a fresh perspective of my performance.
There will be 4 main recordings you will make and these can be used by the student up until the time of the speech.
- Have the student record their speech, hopefully in a quiet room to avoid noise distortion. There are software tools such as Audacity which can be used to remove background noise easily so they hear their voice clearly. This is a great time to get a good feel for how long it actually will take them.
- Have the student listen as you record your voice. Again, paying attention to timing because strict penalties are given for time violations. These audio files can be easily put on a USB for the student to take home and review as many times as they want. You may choose to practice a few more times at this point.
- There will be vocabulary they will have trouble with. Isolate those words and create an audio file.
- In addition to vocabulary, there will be phrases they are having trouble with. Create a separate file.
For motivation, make a final copy of them reading their speech just before the actual speech to show them how much progress they have made
Step 6 – Understanding What They Are Saying
One of the difficulties of teaching and coaching is that students will often not tell you when they don’t understand. Adults have the same trouble too! Prepare a comprehension test. This test could have 3 sections: 5 question and answer, 5 multiple choice, and 5 fill in the blanks based on sentences from their speech. This is to confirm that they actually know what it is they are talking about. Review the answers with them.
If time is available find a chart of the most commonly mispronounced sounds in English and go over it with them. Basic phonics charts are great for this. For example, “th”, “r” and “l” are some of the hardest consonants sounds to pronounce. This will be a proficiency challenge and will expand their pronunciation threshold. There are many charts available on the internet outlining these sounds.
Step 7– Polishing the Delivery
They should have a good grasp of the contents and have most of it memorized by now. They will now present the speech with no notes. Record how long it took and slowly increase the audience. Bring in another person or persons to listen and vary the locations you use.For example, a small room and then a large room. Find a gymnasium and have a practice run in an auditorium style setting. Try to recreate the actual speech setting as closely as possible. At this point it should just be a matter of monitoring how well they can deliver the speech.
Step 8 - Write it down
As a final step have the student go home and write out the speech by hand. This further step will allow them to slow down and really think about what it is they will be saying. They will focus more on the words, how they are written and they will be subtly reminded of their trouble areas rather than having a computer gloss over their weak points.
Giving a speech can be extremely nerve racking, especially in a competitive atmosphere . Harnessing the strength to persist through the preparation phase, sustaining confidence in yourself and maintaining your composure through this uncomfortable ordeal will be the three most difficult challenges. The experience will leave you either wanting no part of such an endeavour ever again or desiring more from an experience which has taught you so much. Complacency will be a thing of the past.