Learn to be a Good Speaker

This page includes three sections:

1. Asking Questions in Class
2. Answering Questions or Speaking up in Class Discussions
3. Making an Oral Report in Class

Many students seem to do this naturally. They don’t worry about saying something wrong. This skill comes easy to them. They probably grew up participating in discussions with their parents and other adults.

Asking Questions in Class

Other students get nervous, just thinking about raising their hand. They are afraid to ask a question because they think people will think they are stupid. They are afraid to answer the teacher’s question, even if they know the answer. What if they forget just when they start to talk? What if they pronounce the words wrong?  What if the other students laugh at them?

Let’s start with the laughing. Students enjoy laughing. If they laugh at you, there is no need to be embarrassed. Laugh along with them. If you feel the need to say something, try “Someday I’ll get that right.

If you want to ask a question, go over the question in your mind several times. Then take a couple slow, deep breaths, raise your hand and ask. Then, instead of worrying how you did, concentrate on listening to the answer. You would really feel foolish if you were too nervous to hear what the teacher said.

If this is hard, practice question-asking by asking other students. They might know the answer.  You might also practice asking the teacher after class. But don’t stop there. These are simply steps to being able to ask questions in class,.

Answering Questions or Participating in a Class Discussion

Practice by participating in discussions with other students. You might ask a friend to ask you questions like those your teachers ask, so you can practice answering the questions.

You might decide to answer at least one question in each class, or make at least one comment in a discussion. Slowly, you will feel comfortable participating fully.

Making an Oral Report

Perhaps you need to do a book report. You probably need to write the report first. Many students stand in front of the class and read their paper. That might be all right if it is your very first oral report. But you can do better than that. Here’s how.

1. Be very well prepared but do NOT read your report and do NOT memorize it.

2. Giving a report should sound like talking to a friend except you do all the talking. Do NOT try to make the report seem like a big speech.

3. You will feel more comfortable if you have a few notes. Take a 3×5 card and write the Title of the book, the author’s name, the main characters name, and short phrases for the  three or four things you plan to say… You probably won’t need to use your notes at all, but having them there helps you relax. If you forget what comes next, look at the card.

There is one exception. If there is something in the book you want to quote, you can either write this on the back of the card or use the book with a paper clip on the page you want. Bookmarks usually fall out.

4. When you get to the front of the class, smile and look around. Do NOT hurry. Speak just a little louder than usual and a little more slowly. This helps people understand. Try to look at one person for a few sentences, then at someone else, and so on. Do NOT look at the floor or the back corner of the room. Talk to your friends, not to the teacher.

5. Watch other people do their oral reports. Think about what you like about how they spoke and what you’d like to do differently.

6. After you finish your report, think about the things you did well and make a list of things you’d like to do differently next time. Put this list in your notebook where your can look at it when you need to do another oral report. Students who don’t think about how to improve, generally don’t improve very much.
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