The English Teacher

The Introductory Speech

Speaking and Listening


An introductory speech is useful at the beginning of the class to set the tone for the class. When that first activity is run with fairness, sensitivity, and discipline, the rest of the units can occur with the same expectations from the class and the teacher.

The following speech outline has undergone some changes as society has changed the lives of students. One of the questions that I used to ask was how many brothers and sisters do you have?' The students enjoyed telling about big brother and sisters and little sisters and brothers. With separations in the family occurring, step: mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, etc. entered the speech. Sometimes step brothers and sisters were the same age, in the same grade and they didn't relate well. So that question was dropped.

Many speeches include a student's most embarrassing moment.' I found that relating these events didn't uplift the class. To set a tone I first asked for a quality that students most admired, such as courage, humor, friendliness, honesty, etc. They were asked to give examples of these qualities since, for instance, courage to me might be standing on a high place and to another it might be going to the dentist or giving a speech.

Eventually I ask them to relate 'Who is the most encouraging person that you have met or what is the most encouraging thing that has happened to you?' This question encourages all to think positively and appreciatively.

All of the questions help the class to get to know each other and to be less afraid to participate because they know what each other is thinking. They have a common bonding experience together.

Also, I keep the written part of the speech. I tell the class that I want a sample of their writing to see how they improve over the semester. This statement is true, but I also use it to remind myself of the students' individual qualities and needs, as well as help me diagnose their academic skills.

From my outline:

2. Introductory speech outline: (Speech1.En1)
*Students use the following questions as notes for their introductory speech and hand the answers to the questions [written in complete sentences] to the instructor as they are going to begin their speech: *They may write the answers in paragraph form and omit something that they feel they do not want to share.

   1. Name
   2. What is a quality that you most admire?
   3. What is your favorite food?
   4. What is your most exciting or memorable experience, that can be shared?
   5. What hobbies do you have?
   6. What do you wish to get out of this class?
   7. What is your favorite movie (video) and/or book?
   8. Who is the most encouraging person that you have met or what is the most encouraging thing that has happened to you?
   9. What is a valuable insight learned during work?
   10. What is your favorite color? Why?


I also include a listening unit' with the introductory speech that continues with other speeches. I have found that some students' interest in the speeches ends with the presentation of their own, and so do their manners.

This material is in response to that problem. The students are to do all they can to help the speaker to have a positive experience. During a speech, this help includes, not opening and closing notebooks, getting out or putting away material, coming into class from the bathroom during the speech OR during the question and answer period.

It also means that the questioner is NOT to take over the speech from the speaker. Some students thrive on attention and shy, quiet, students, can find themselves turn invisible' after they have shown the courage to get in front of class because a talker/questioner takes the attention away from them.

Sometimes I limit the questions to one per student. Also, personal, embarrassing questions, and ones the questioner already knows the answer to are to be avoided. The questions are not to start a class discussion, or scattered discussions around the classroom.

Most students appreciate these class standards because it means that they too will be treated with respect and consideration when it is their turn to speak. For those who need further motivation, the class is told that their listening grade is tied to their speaking grade. In other words, if they earn an "A" speaking grade and an "A" writing grade, they will keep those grades as they are good listeners. The listening grade is automatic, unless they are not good listeners. Then it is deducted from their speaking/written grade. If that is not sufficient motivation, and they persist in disrupting this first, classroom tone setting' unit, they are sent to the office.

Note: Most vice-principals will support this action. When a student disrupts another student's speech they can not claim a personality conflict' with the teacher or some other similar excuse. And no one likes other students to be picked on and most adults can empathize with being in front of class and not wanting to be hassled. Sending someone to the office in this situation deters others, helps the class to feel comfortable, and gives the teacher a chance to have perhaps a positive first encounter with the administrator in charge of discipline. [See Dealing with Classroom Bullies and Strategies for Classroom Discipline

From my outline:

B. Listening (w/Intro. speech)

   1. Students are given grades for the spoken and the written parts of the speech, both of which are affected by the students' listening skills since one grade may be deducted for each time they do not listen appropriately to the others giving speeches.
   2. Call on students to ask speaker questions at conclusion of speech to encourage and develop listening skills. The questioner is not to take the focus away from the speaker.
   3. Remind the class there are to be only 2 speakers at a time during question and answer times.

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