Students will gain confidence in public speaking through this fun group lesson that allows them to recite well-known songs/poems using a voice accent.
- Selections to read as a “speech” (suggestions: “Old Town Road,” “Mary Had a Little Lamb”)
- Voice accent options printed out on small cards (Valley girl, Jersey, baby/child, British, Italian, Irish, Southern/country, old man/old woman, super nice person, super angry person, shy person, arrogant person)
- “Old Town Road” Doritos commercial clip from Super Bowl ad (featuring Sam Elliot): www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGCV2O-n9V8
Begin the activity by asking the group “Who really loves public speaking—getting up in front of a group to speak, whether formal or informal?”
If you are lucky enough to have some “yes” responders, take a few minutes to have them share why they love it. Elaborate on how they approach public speaking and what makes it “easy” for them. Then, ask for the others to share why they dislike public speaking and elaborate on those reasons.
Watch the video clip (Doritos commercial from 2020 Super Bowl ads featuring actor Sam Elliot reciting the hit song “Old Town Road”). Discuss how the delivery of the song in spoken form changes the song. Divide the group into smaller groups of four or five students and give each group the reading selections and the voice accent options. Explain that they are to look over their selections and practice reading them aloud in their voice accent. (Students can spread out to work on this for about five minutes.) Then, bring the group back together. Have each student present their selection in the chosen voice accent. Everyone in the group takes their turn. If time permits, they can discuss the different presentations.
- What are some reasons students (or people in general) dread public speaking?
- Did this activity alleviate some of the dread? If so, how? If not, why do you think you still felt anxious about speaking?
- Did anyone decide not to participate in the speaking activity? If so, could you share why?
- What do you think is the point of this exercise?
- How does having something familiar to speak about help or hinder the speaker?
- What role does practice play in public speaking?
- How did using the voice accent affect your speaking efforts?
- Having completed this activity, what advice would you give someone who dreads public speaking?
- How could you add to this activity? What selections would you suggest using for the reading?
Nora Cooper is a visual arts teacher and student council adviser at Gray’s Creek Middle School in Hope Mills, NC.