The first-graders at Chicago City Day School recently delivered formal speeches to their classmates — part of the School's larger emphasis on public speaking.
Students chose their own topics and developed 3-minute speeches about them. One student spoke about her dog. Another spoke about the apartment building he lives in, explaining that it includes two distinct sections, one of which is home to multiple families with children. (He referred to this as the "awesome" section.) Other topics included model cars, favorite sea creatures, and numbers.
When speaking, each student worked on maintaining proper eye contact with the audience while speaking in a loud, clear voice. The speaker's classmates, meanwhile, worked on being attentive and respectful listeners.
First-graders give a total of four speeches during the school year, starting with a 1-minute speech in October. Teachers coach and provide feedback to the students on their presentation skills and the way they organize their ideas.
The difference between the first speech and the fourth is dramatic, said Mrs. Dow, one of City Day's grade 1 teachers.
"Even by the second speech, we usually see a big jump in confidence in the students," Mrs. Dow said. "By the final speech, they can't wait for their turn to speak. It's pretty incredible."
City Day emphasizes public speaking throughout its curriculum, giving students multiple opportunities to speak in front of an audience. Each year, for example, students present projects in front of peers and parents during the school Science Fair. They perform on stage in a series of dramatic productions. Our eighth-graders speak at the annual Friends of the Chicago River Student Congress.
By the time City Day students graduate, they are confident thinkers and speakers who know how to express themselves.