How Important are Public Speaking Skills for Kids?

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Curious about the benefits of signing your child up for public speaking lessons? Learn all about them in this guest post by Perth Amboy, NJ teacher Jeff S...

 

As the fun times of summer segue into the stark reality of a new school year, the academic season brings with it a new set of challenges, responsibilities, and skills for every student to respond to. Compelling, confident public speaking is a crucial skill that is often overlooked and under-developed in a child’s formative years, yet it can strongly impact how your child views themselves and how they develop and succeed in school. A self-assured child who can effectively address their classmates or an audience is likely to be seen in a more positive light by their peers and develop a stronger sense of self. And this acquired poise and increased command of public speaking will not only help them in school, but also empower them in any situation they encounter in life.

There’s No Avoiding Public Speaking Situations in Public Or Private School

Whether your child is in public or private school, one thing is certain: it’s inevitable that they will be called upon to do oral presentations in front of their classmates and teachers. And while some kids love the spotlight and relish being called up to the front of the class to read or present a report, others will get absolutely panic-stricken and overwhelmed. As a parent, you can play an active role in assisting your child to survive and even thrive in these pressure-packed situations. The sad reality is that public speaking skills are seldom taught in public school, and sometimes not at private schools either. The encouraging news is that even the shyest, most introverted kids can overcome their inhibitions and evolve into confident, credible public speakers. And once they learn the key elements of compelling public speaking, many previously sqeamish public speakers learn to love it and actively seek out opportunities to utilize their newfound abilities.

How Can My Son or Daughter Benefit From One-on-One Public Speaking Lessons?

Even if you have a close bond with your son or daughter, the advantages of hiring a private tutor are many. In most cases, your child’s behavior around you is markedly different from how it is in a classroom, a social setting, or in the presence of people they don’t truly know. A public speaking specialist will be able to immediately and accurately assess a child’s skills. With that unbiased perspective, they can then customize their instructional approach and content accordingly. By simply having a student read a poem or a few paragraphs from an action-oriented fiction book, for example, I can get an accurate glimpse into his or her personality, confidence level, and communication strengths and weaknesses. And I’ve found the Skype (online) lesson format to be every bit as effective as in-person lessons. No matter the lesson setting, there are strategies and techniques that public speaking teachers like myself use to improve clarity, conviction, projection, animation, eye contact, and verbal effectiveness.

What Exactly Will My Child Learn and How Quickly Can We Expect Improvement?

Not long ago I was hired by a mother to work with her daughter, who had chosen to run for student council treasurer. She was a very timid girl who avoided eye contact and spoke in hushed tones. Yet like all candidates, she was faced with the requirement of making a campaign speech, so naturally, the focal point of our sessions was on the preparation and practice sessions leading up to the speech. Along the way I taught several strategies and techniques that she could use and apply in everyday school and out-of-school situations. Those core areas include articulation, expression, breathing, pacing, dynamics, eye contact, audience rapport, and overcoming nervousness. After two or three sessions, I got her to loosen up, and she started to sound and look like an assured and viable candidate for school treasurer.

Can Public Speaking Lessons Benefit Every Child?

While not every student will have aspirations to hold a student council office, there are many other school and social situations where public speaking skills are essential. These include oral reports, in-class reading, joint projects, assemblies, sports, school plays, school clubs, and fundraisers requiring door-to-door solicitations.  In particular, students who are home-schooled don’t encounter most of these interpersonal situations and can greatly benefit from private lessons.

How to Assess Your Child’s Need for Public Speaking Lessons

Below are some of the key areas that I focus on during one-on-one public speaking lessons. As a parent you can look through these lists and get a sense if your child is a good candidate for private instruction. Ask your child to read a poem or a passage from an action-oriented fiction book and use their reading as a gauge.

Effective Public Speakers Use the 5 C’s and the 5 E’s

The 5 C’s:
Clarity (clearly enunciate and project everything you say)
Conviction (say what you mean and mean what you say)
Confidence (feel and act like you belong in front of any audience and make your presentation in an assured manner) Control (assume control of the stage and the situation, and seek out ways to establish that you belong there) Customization (alter the content and personality of your presentation for the situation and for your audience as needed)

The 5 E’s:
Eye contact (don’t just read off a paper or card; make eye contact with at least one person, but preferably many people) Engage your audience (entertain, educate, or enlighten the audience; don’t make it just about you and the content you prepare; make it interactive at least some of the time) Enjoy the experience (nobody likes to listen to a flat, detached voice coming from a sad or disinterested face, so remember to enjoy the moment and smile!)
Explore the options (while it’s great to be fully prepared for your verbal presentation, don’t be glued to notecards, especially when spontaneous, improvisational moments present themselves… be flexible and in-the-moment)
Expression (your success as a speaker hinges on how well you bring the words and ideas to life… use a variety of pitches and accents in order to avoid a boring, monotone-laden speech)

If your child is shy or has a voice that could use some additional projection and/or authority, then public speaking instruction could improve those things and more. But even an outgoing child with good projection can gain a lot from learning the subtle art of dynamics to become a more engaging speaker. Learning to be an authoritative and comfortable public speaker can pay daily dividends. We all have the capacity to make a positive verbal impression on people every single day, so why not make the most of those opportunities?

JeffSJeff S. teaches guitar, ukulele, speaking voice, songwriting, and more in Perth Amboy, NJ, as well as online. Jeff has created and taught songwriting and music business classes at colleges, universities, and music schools throughout the country for many years. Learn more about Jeff here! 

 

 

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