How to teach public speaking to children

Written by kathryn walsh
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How to teach public speaking to children
Have young children do show-and-tell in preschool. (little girl making a speech image by Olga Sapegina from

If children can become comfortable with public speaking at a young age, they will have less anxiety when they're required to speak in classes or at work later on. Young children, like those in preschool or kindergarten, tend not to be too self-conscious, so this age group may become comfortable with public speaking more easily than older children. When teaching public speaking, start small by asking children to speak with a partner or small group before moving up to speaking in front of large groups.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Recordings of speeches
  • Scripts of speeches or plays

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  1. 1

    To start to get children comfortable with public speaking, partner children up into groups of two and give them a topic to discuss. Set a timer of five or 10 minutes for each pair to talk with one another. Choose an easy topic for children to discuss, like what their favourite television show is or what they like to do on weekends. Children will be less self-conscious in a one-on-one conversation than speaking in front of a large group.

  2. 2

    Ask children to talk to larger groups about something they know well. For example, preschoolers or kindergartners can do a weekly show-and-tell where a child brings in a favourite toy and talks about it to his class for a minute or two. With older children, ask each one to speak to the class for a minute or two about what he did over the weekend or what his favourite sports team is and why. Older children who are self-conscious can do this step in smaller groups of four to six children rather than in front of the whole class.

  3. 3

    Give examples of speeches or public performances. For middle school- or high school-aged children, play recordings of election or presidential speeches. Lead a conversation. Ask, "What did this speaker do well? What did he not do well?" Try to get them thinking about what makes an effective speaker. Show younger children videos of performers who sing songs and talk directly to children. These performers tend to be very dramatic and animated. Ask them afterward if they like the performer and why.

  4. 4

    Have the children memorise speeches or put on a play. Ask them in advance to try to make eye contact while speaking and to talk at a medium pace, not too fast or too slow. Giving children a written speech that they have to perform will help them get practice at speaking in front of others without having to worry about writing their own speeches. Younger children can put on a short play for their class or their families. Older children who are too embarrassed to act can choose a speech from a historical figure they admire and perform it for the class or a small group. Give children feedback privately afterward, pointing out things they did well and skills they still need to work on.

  5. 5

    Assign oral presentations. Older children can make a PowerPoint presentation or make a poster about a topic of their choosing. Ask them to speak about it with the help of their visual aids for three to four minutes. Having visual aids will help them feel more comfortable and gives them something to fall back on. Younger children can do an extended version of show-and-tell. Ask them to write a story or draw a series of pictures to tell a story and present it to the class.

  6. 6

    Organise a class debate. This activity requires children to speak to the entire group without having written materials to rely on. Make the debate topic something that is relevant to their lives. For example, should the school have a dress code? Break up the class into pairs and give each one a different topic. Have the groups debate each other for five to 10 minutes in front of the class. Even younger children can try this activity with shorter time periods.

Tips and warnings

  • Pair up shy children with more confident children who can help them open up.

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