Teaching Public Speaking to Literacy or ESL Students

I have the privilege of being both a teacher and a professional speaker. That means that I earn a portion of my living by facilitating workshops and giving keynotes on topics related to my field of expertise.

I have not found many materials that specifically target the topic of how to teach public speaking to literacy or ESL learners, so here are some resources for you:

The first place for adult learners to turn is to Toastmasters. This is an international, non-profit organization dedicated to teaching people the skill of public speaking. They also have a link to free resources on their website.

Other places to find information on public speaking:

Members of organizations such as CAPS and NSA are fully trained, and earn a significant portion of their livelihood through speaking. Most pro speakers have spent thousands of hours in non-formal settings such as professional development workshops offered through organizations such as Toastmasters before they ever stepped into the professional realm.

There’s a fellow by the name of Tom Sticht who does workshops on Oracy in Canada and the United States. He does not have a website, but his papers are archived on the National Adult Literacy Database. Many of his programs are suitable for school age children.

Here are some ideas on how to teach public speaking to literacy learners or ESL students:

Workshop with a professional speaker

Invite a professional speaker from your community in to do an interactive workshop. Many pro speakers will offer this type of workshop, even if they don’t advertise it. If you Google “professional speaker” + <your community or city>, you should get a list of the pros in your area. Be aware that a pro speaker may not give a workshop completely pro bono. (It is, after all, how they make their living.) Having said that, you are very likely to get excellent quality for the fee that you pay.

Workshop with an Aspiring Speaker

Invite in an aspiring speaker to do a workshop with your staff or students. By “aspiring” I mean someone who is likely in Toastmasters now or has gone through the program. He or she may be trying to become a professional speaker, but lacks the experience. When you extend the invitation, offer them a thank you letter for their professional portfolio. (He or she will need this when applying for membership in a pro organization later on). How do you find these people? A call to your local Toastmasters club explaining what
you’re looking for should do it.

Guest judges for student speeches

If you teach your own lessons on public speaking, challenge the students to prepare a brief speech of their own. Invite professional or aspiring speakers from your community to be “guest judges” for the student presentations or a small speech competition. The judges can offer feedback, advice and suggestions to help students improve further.

There are likely a great deal of resources available in your local community to teach your learners about public speaking!
Related post: Rubrics for Grading Student Presentations

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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


4 Responses to Teaching Public Speaking to Literacy or ESL Students

  1. How about LeBeau & Harrington’s “Get Ready for Speech” (Language Solutions, 9781929274499) instead? http://englishcentral.bookware3000.ca/eSolution/search.php?cat=0001&entry=40&line=1&data=9781929274499

    • Thanks for sharing the resource, Tyson. I had not heard of it before. Have you used the book in your own classes? If so, how did you find it as a teaching tool?

      • Although its appearance can be a little juvenile (though many familiar coursebooks do tend to lean in that direction), the language for low levels, strategies for discourse and confidence building exercises are valuable and laid out in an easy-to-follow manner.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by BELTfree, Sarah Elaine Eaton. Sarah Elaine Eaton said: Teaching Public Speaking to Literacy or ESL Students: http://wp.me/pNAh3-mZ […]

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