BEMS language arts class lets students ‘speak’ their minds

If you’re like many people, you’re petrified of public speaking. Stephanie Nelson’s sixth-grade language arts students at Böblingen Elementary/Middle School are not.
The students recently completed a unit on public speaking, and thanks to Nelson’s extensive preparation, are now armed with the power to persuade, motivate and inspire.

Over the course of five weeks, students listened to several famous speeches, from Franklin Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor address in 1941 to Ronald Reagan’s 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger address, read two of President Barrack Obama’s speeches, and studied the art of persuasion.

Next, Nelson allowed the students to choose a speech type that best fit their own style and purpose. Students chose persuasive, informational, motivational, funny, tribute, special occasion, and farewell speeches.

“Giving students choices helps them take ownership of their learning,” Nelson said. “They invest more because they have some control over the final product.”
 Then, students wrote their own speeches and delivered them to the class throughout the month of February.

Persuasive speeches were the most popular, Nelson said. Topics included the adverse side effects of smoking, preserving the environment, the benefits of a “no homework” policy  and democratic values. 

In her speech, “Why All People Deserve a Democracy,” Taylor Dominique, 11, appealed to patriotism. “Thanks to democracy, we have a voice in our country,” she said.

Finn Hunsaker, 12, crafted an informative speech called “The American Civil Rights Movement and The Current Egyptian Political Crisis — A Comparison” to show how knowledge of the past can help people understand the present.
Other speeches were motivational, such as that of Lance Peltier, 11, a wrestling speech that urged others to “never quit.”

Humorous speeches were designed to amuse.
Savannah Songy,12, made classmates laugh with her speech on “Ten Ways to Annoy Your Brother,” while Ceara Hunsaker,12, followed with “Why I Don’t Want To Give This Speech.”

Several other students recognized loved ones in a tribute speech.
In “What I’m Proud of,” Ashley Rivette,12, heralded her brother, Bradley, who will go to college in the fall of 2012. “It will be quiet without his music blasting through his bedroom door,” she said. “Without him, the house will be a boring and dull place; it just won’t be the same without him. “

In a special occasion speech, Mackenzie Sellers,13, gave birthday wishes to his long-distance best friend. “Even though we are separated by thousands of miles, I want you to know that we you are still with me, close at heart,” Sellers concluded.
Finally, students presented farewell speeches. Janey Greenberg, 12, wrote a goodbye speech called “I’m Really Going to Miss You,” to all her friends at BEMS whose families will be changing duty stations this summer.

Nelson is enthusiastic about her students’ abilities and efforts.
“I am happy to be working with such a talented group of students,” she said. “These sixth-graders are great writers and they have even better ideas.”

Editors’ Note: Stephanie Nelson, BEMS Language Arts teacher, contributed to this article.