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Educator Tools: Assessing Students' Speeches

Educators can assess student speeches according to such key factors as quality and organization of content, the speaker's familiarity with the overall subject, and the appropriateness of the speech for its audience (preparation). The actual speech delivery and interaction with the audience (presentation) is also important.

  1. Did the student research his or her subject thoroughly? Ask yourself: Were the questions the students asked afterward ones that they asked because they were interested in the subject and wanted to know more about it, or because the subject  wasn't explained well enough?
  2. Was the choice of material appropriate for the audience? Given your knowledge of the subject, did the student select the most relevant information? What might he or she have added or removed to make the information most relevant?
  3. Was the speech well organized? Did it move smoothly from one point to the next? Did the student make a proper introduction that was amplified by the rest of the speech? Did the summation pull it all together? Did the student outline his or her main point in the introduction and then support it? Did the summing up encompass all the points the student made, or did it bring in new information that was not part of the speech and so went unexplained? Was what you assessed to be a central aspect of the case that the student was trying to make missing, perhaps cut for time? Did the student sacrifice clarity and conciseness by trying to cram too much information into the speech?
  4. Do students need to better understand how to recognize which are the essential points in a welter of available material on any particular subject, and how to organize them coherently? Are students amassing volumes of material off the Internet and then not being clear about how to deal with it in a logical way (both in writing term papers and in speechwriting)?
  5. Did the student display familiarity with the material beyond what was in the speech?
  6. Did the speech—its vocabulary, level of sophistication—align well with its intended audience, or did the student try too hard too impress without thinking how the speech would actually be received by that particular audience? Or did the student try too hard to be entertaining and fail to get critical information across?
  7. Were the visual aids and/or other media well chosen and well produced? Did the student choose the best way—maps, tables, graphs, videos, handouts—to convey information to the audience? Or did the supporting media substance?
  8. Monitor the audience's reaction—facial expression and body language as well as verbal response. Were the students taking in the information? Did they look bored? Interested? Were they being entertained but not really learning anything? Were they eager to ask questions?
  1. Was the presentation audible? Did the student appear confident and relaxed? How would you rate the student's delivery? Should he or she have been more emphatic? Less dramatic? Did the student engage the audience by drawing them into the speech—making eye contact or perhaps by asking rhetorical questions? Did the student stay rooted in one spot or make good use of the available space?
  2. Did the student stick to the allotted time assigned for the speech? Did the student have a clear idea of how long it would take to read the speech?
  3. After judging all the speeches, can you think of any instruction that would have been helpful to the students but that you did not give them?
Classroom Activities
  1. Have another student read the same speech that has just been delivered. Or have two different students read the same speech to a different class at the same level. Note what was different about each delivery. How did reactions differ?
  2. Have students rate the speech. Lead a class discussion on any differences in reception of the speech by different sections of the class. Were the students able to honestly judge the speeches, or did they play favorites? How could you tell, and what can you do about it?
  3. Ask the students to turn their speeches into a term paper, and vice versa. Lead a classroom discussion that compares writing a speech to writing a research paper. What did the students learn that will help them write better term papers? Write better speeches? (Issues to address could include how to research and choose pertinent information; how to condense masses of information into a concise whole, discarding what's not important; how to organize material into a logical sequence; and how to summarize and explain the material.)
  4. Discuss how having to deliver a speech might aid students in areas of their life such as going for interviews, taking part in discussions or debates, and formulating an opinion and being able to present it coherently in a group. Discuss techniques that they learned in presenting their speeches that are vital for developing the confidence not only to make a presentation in class but also to deal with real-life situations.
  5. Take a speech reprocuded in Issues & Controversies and have students analyze it.
  6. Have students formulate a rebuttal to the speech.


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