I operate a flipped classroom where my content lectures are delivered online, this allows my World History students to spend class time reading Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser. Four days per week, we have 30 minutes of sustained silent reading (SSR) where students maintain an unfamiliar word log, then one day per week, we have small group discussions where they practice using the words in their logs. To master Common Core speaking and listening standards, my students will need to give a three minute speech on (1) Marie Antoinette’s childhood, (2) her marriage to Louis XVI, (3) her role as a mother, (4) her performance as Queen of France, or (5) her overall historical legacy. Students will be divided into groups at random and assigned one of these general topics. Speeches will be given over the next month as we complete the book and study the French Revolution.
This post covers how students will brainstorm in small groups to choose a topic, a purpose, and create a roadmap for their speeches. The advice comes from a combination of our school’s Academic Decathlon coach, the awesome Ms. Kerry Sego and the inspiring work of Erik Palmer and his excellent book Well Spoken: Teaching Speaking To All Students.
Topic: This is the subject of your speech. In this case, it is about Marie Antoinette. Will it focus on her relationship with her father, mother, siblings, husband, children, her subjects, or other royals? Will the speech be about growing up a Habsburg, Marie Antoinette’s schooling, or the role of music in her life?
Purpose: This is the point your speech will be making. Was Marie Antoinette was a victim of her mother’s ambitions? Do you want to call attention to her philanthropic gifts? Should she be remembered as the greatest Queen of France? Or for never maturing beyond her selfish, teenage indulgences?
Provide a Road Map: Give your listeners an overview of your topic and purpose. Make sure your main points are clearly stated. Use transitions such as first, another example, next, and finally. Refer back to your main point so the examples seem connected to it. This is where you demonstrate that you can move beyond merely possessing knowledge to creating something meaningful that can inspire an authentic audience.
Introduction: Does it state your topic? Does it clearly state your purpose? Do you begin with an attention-grabber?
Body Paragraphs: Do you have interesting examples? Quotes? Statistics? People? Does your speech progress from point to point clearly? How can you move evenly from one idea to another?
Conclusion: Does the ending of the speech summarize what you have said rather than merely restate or repeat it? Does the speech end with a strong or interesting point? What should the audience do with the information you have given them?
Tone: Your speech is not a formal expository essay. Spice it up with stories, imagery, humor, and background knowledge that your audience will appreciate. There are sensitive and fascinating insights in this book that offer a thoroughly nuanced picture of the queen. How do you want them presented?
After you have written your speech:
- Read it aloud, slowly, pausing for emphasis (remember your audience is listening, without being able to read what you have written), so you must present your information slowly.
- Time your speech. It must be between 2:30 – 3:00 minutes.
- Type it (if you can) double-spaced.
- Save it on your computer. This way you can make changes easily.
- Memorize your entire speech. This is a must.
- Present your speech, do not read it, or act it out. Use a senator’s voice.
- Look your audience in the eyes, glancing now and then to your written copy.
- Stand still. Do not play with your papers, sway back and forth, or twirl your hair.
- Revise your speech. Make necessary changes for an easier delivery.