Exercises for Public Speaking in Class

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A smiling student holding a paper. (Image: Nick White/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

The more you practice your public speaking skills, the easier it will be to speak in front of a group. Exercises for public speaking in class can help you continue to advance your public-speaking abilities. Classroom exercises help if you're teaching a course on public speaking, wish to incorporate public speaking into your general curriculum or want to brush up in advance of your class.

Imaginary Animal

Give students 10 minutes to create an imaginary animal and prepare information about the animal. List five questions on the board to ensure students have a uniform set of information to present, such as its habitat, size, color, sound, number of legs and predatory abilities. Have students then present their animal in front of the class using their notes and answering each of the questions. This type of exercise helps students gain confidence, a critical component when speaking in front of a group. Since the animal is known only to the student, she can share information with an air of authority and expertise.

Neighbor Game

If you are teaching younger students, or a group of older students who have little public-speaking experience, start with a group game. Have each student sit in a chair, creating a circle. Start by standing in the middle of the circle and completing the statement, "I like a neighbor who..." with something that is relevant to the group, such as, "...is wearing a collared shirt" or, "...had Mrs. Smith for third grade." Everyone to whom the statement applies then stands and moves to another seat, you included, so that there's one more person than there are seats. The person left without a seat then takes his turn completing the neighbor statement. This type of cooperative game gives students a chance to speak very briefly in front of peers while also having fun.

The Nonsense Speech

Intonation helps students understand how emphasis aids their public-speaking skills by engaging the audience and minimizing the steady drone into which some speakers fall. For this exercise, students don't need a formalized speech. In fact, nonsense speech makes the exercise more powerful. If your students can't create a nonsense speech—one in which words are made up—have them recite "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll, which includes many nonsensical words. Have them read the poem or give their speech and call out what intonation they should express—query or emphatic statement, for example—switching every 15 seconds.

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