MONROE CO., N.Y. — The Monroe County 4-H Program partnered with the Upward Bound Program at Monroe Community College to teach an eight-session public speaking course to local high school students this summer. Twenty-one youth gave final presentations at the end of the course. “The students enjoyed themselves and each one of them improved their public speaking skills and gained more confidence speaking in front of a class,” said Lindsay Lupiani, Upward Bound academic advisor in the course.
The course began with creating a working agreement between instructor and students. According to course instructor and 4-H Youth Development Educator, Lori Koenick, working agreements are a list of classroom behaviors suggested by students and agreed upon by everyone to follow for the duration of the course. “The working agreement can be a powerful tool in creating a supportive community in the class where everyone feels comfortable speaking and being themselves,” Koenick said. Behaviors included in the agreement were “No judging,” “Listen, don’t just hear,” and “Express yourself.”
Early classes included discussing how students felt about public speaking. One student reported in a class pre-survey they hoped to gain “more confidence when giving public presentations and talking to a group of people” from the class. Many students reported they thought it was important to learn how to present because they would need it for future success in college and their careers. Most students described feeling nervous when thinking about speaking in public and they are not alone. The fear of public speaking is common among youth and adults alike.
Throughout the course, different types of public presentations were shown and compared. The one thing in common with all presentation types, a need for an introduction, body, and conclusion. The do’s and don’ts of presenting were discussed by playing presenter charades. Do’s and don’ts focused on presentation behavior pertaining to body language, words, and speaking voice. Students drew a random presentation behavior from a hat, such as “fidgeting with your clothing,” “speaking too softly,” and “staring at the floor,” and had to act out the behavior while reading a sample speech. Other students guessed what the presentation behavior was.
Each student gave a final presentation to the class on a topic of their choice. Topics ranged from “Spotify vs. Pandora” to “My dream car” to “How to change a flat tire.” Students had up to four minutes to present and the only requirement was that they include a visual aid, such as a poster outline. “We wanted students to choose a topic that they are familiar and felt comfortable with. We did not want students to have to research their topic, but rather focus on how to present it,” Koenick explains.
The Monroe County 4-H Program is offered through Cornell Cooperative Extension to the youth of Monroe County. 4-H is a worldwide youth development program open to all youth aged 5 to 19, who want to have fun, learn new skills, and explore the world. In return, youth who participate in 4-H find a supportive environment and opportunities for hands-on or “experiential” learning about things that interest them.
Learn more at http://monroe.cce.cornell.edu/4-h-youth-development.
–Cornell Cooperative Extension Monroe County
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