image Strategies for teaching public speaking skills

Speaking in public to an audience can be challenging, not only for students but adults alike. I remember giving my first lecture at university. As an invited speaker, I found myself standing at the front of the lecture theatre, the same lecture theatre which I attended as a university student for my very first lecture.

I had a microphone pinned to my shirt and my presentation was displayed behind me. When I started to speak I began to shake, not just a little but a lot! I felt that I had no control over my leg as it was shaking. I remember holding onto the lectern and pressing my foot as had as I could on the ground so that it would top shaking so much. Then my hand started, I recall speaking and at the same time wondering how am I going to click to the next slide with a shaking hand! I managed to calm myself down and after the first 5 minutes, I was back to my normal self.

After that experience it did get a lot easier. The following year when I gave a lecture I had to take my two children, one was 5 at the time and the other 10. When I had just started speaking my 5 year old accidentally knocked her pencil case off her desk and pencils went all over the floor. This time, instead of shaking, I continued to speak to the audience whilst picking up pencils off the floor, multi-tasking and much more relaxed!

So how do we teach our students to overcome their nerves and be relaxed when speaking in public? Well, I like to initially play games in order to build their confidence speaking in front of peers. Here are some speaking game ideas:

Tongue Twisters
Give students a copy of the word document below. Ask them to practice saying the tongue twisters, invite them to choose 1 tongue twister which they can repeat 3 times in a row in front of the class.
Tongue Twisters-2n5tkjp

Descriptive Drawing Activity
My students have their own device, if your students don’t you may need to modify this activity. Place students with a partner, each student finds an easy  image to draw from the internet but they don’t show each other. Students then take it in turns, one person is the illustrator and the other gives the students verbal instructions about what to draw. Then students compare their partners original image with their illustration and then swap.

Umms and Eers
This is one of my class’s favourite games. To play the game, a student stands out the the front of the class and a timer is set for 1 minute. When the timer is started, the teacher gives the student a topic. The student then needs to see if they can speak about the topic for 1 minutes without saying ‘umm’ or ‘err’, if they do, they are out. Possible topics might include sticky notes, the principal, pigeons, mud, friends, shoes, planes etc.

Secret Word
Students are given a random topic and a random word completely unrelated to the topic. The student must hide their word in their speech with put the other students in the class guessing their secret word. The other students in the class must listen in an attempt to discover the secret word.​
Secret Word-1r163c2

Two Truths One Lie
Each student writes 3 facts about themselves on a piece of paper. Two of the facts should be the truth, and one should be a lie. Students read aloud the facts and give the other students a chance to question them and decide which statement is a lie.​​

This is a great game to encourage students to use hand gestures for communication. Secretly give the student having a turn the name of an object or action. The student can then only use hand gestures to try and communicate their word to the class.

Once I’ve played some speaking games to ‘break the ice’, we then look at what makes a good talk and what doesn’t. There are two videos I use for this, a not so good presentation and a good presentation. I also like to use this video on hand gestures and this video on eye contact with students.

Then students love watching the TED video speech below which is about NOTHING!

I believe that your assessment should always be linked to another curriculum area. Why? Well students shouldn’t have to give a speech for the sake of giving a speech. Student’s  speeches should be meaningful and  have purpose. Forming connections with other subjects can achieve this.


  1. Hi Joanne,

    These are some really fun and helpful strategies. Thanks for sharing!

    I’m enjoying all the content on your blog. Just wondering if you are on Twitter? I’m @kathleen_morris


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