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I remember one day in sixth grade, sitting at the lunch table with a group of kids, all of them pounding on the table chanting, “Red, red, red.” I was an insecure, gangly kid with a bad perm and I blushed at the merest bit of attention. I stared at the table willing my face not to do what they were commanding, but it didn’t obey me. I’m not sure how the other kids discovered my weak spot to begin with, but once they knew, they didn’t forget. Middle school was brutal.
Between my introverted nature and my tendency to blush bright red, I learned to hate public speaking. I spent a few years doing high school theater, but only managed it because I was pretending to be someone else. In college I was horrified when my advisor told me that I would have to take a speech class to graduate. I changed my major seven times and somehow that speech credit, or lack thereof, was lost in the shuffle, and I was spared.
So it’s kind of funny that the class I teach at our homeschooling co-op focuses on discussion and public speaking. I have the usual mix of kids, those who can’t wait to get up and give a presentation, and those that always pretend they didn’t prepare one (when I know they have because their moms told me so), those that blush, and those that don’t (the lucky ones). Most of them need a little help though, whether it’s with managing to utter a sound at all, or with slowing down and making better eye contact. So, I started looking around for fun ideas. When I didn’t come up with a resource that fit my class perfectly, I came up with my own plan. A bag of tricks. This week I brought my bag to class for the first time. We all had loads of fun, even the shyest of the shy!
Here’s what we did:
We started with a tongue twister, saying, “Fresh French Fries,” over and over again together (from this book). We may chant a different tongue twister every week just to help everyone relax. Next, I pulled out story cubes. (I bought the original set and the Enchanted add-on cubes.) We took turns rolling and telling the next bit of the story based on the picture on the cube. While the process was fun for everyone, the “stories” were more long chains of unrelated sentences rather than stories. I think that next time I am going to write out the parts of a story on the board, and help each child as we go around the circle, relate their addition to the next logical part of the story. So for instance, the first child might include the setting in their portion, the next might introduce characters, then move to plot development and conflict, etc. My girls pulled out the story dice last night and told stories for about an hour. I can’t believe I didn’t buy these sooner.
Finally, we played charades. That was pretty hilarious, and even the shyest child in the class participated willingly and seemed to enjoy herself. Again, why haven’t we been playing charades?
I also sent everyone home with a joke from this book (the same one with the tongue twisters) to memorize for next week’s class. The jokes are really silly, many of them ridiculous. I can’t wait to see how everyone reacts to them. I tend to laugh hard at dumb jokes, so I am really looking forward to hearing the kids tell theirs.
My hope is that even the shyest kids will look forward to my class, and that eventually, standing up in front of the others to give a presentation won’t feel like walking the plank.
p.s. I got a few rows beyond dividing for the sleeves on Bea’s sweater, tried it on her, and realized I needed to rip back and cast on more stitches under the arms. How will I ever finish this thing in time?
p.p.s. I’ve got a post up at Blessed is She today, in case you want to read it…