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In my first-year seminar, I move my students through exercises and assignments aimed at:
1. Helping them feel comfortable with their own voices.
2. Helping them organize their thoughts before making formal oral presentations.

I consider these exercises and assignments important both for their success as college students and for success in their lives beyond college. Most of our students come to us as good high school writers, and through our first-year program and through subsequent college writing classes most become good to competent college level writers and many become excellent writers. There are, of course, exceptions, but in general we achieve our writing goals for our students.

On the other hand, these highly intelligent students often do not sound articulate or intelligent when they speak, especially when they speak in formal settings. In order to help my students sound intelligent and feel comfortable, I move them through increasingly challenging sets of assignments and exercises.

o First start small. Try an exercise to move students to the front of the class to introduce themselves. Teach them to use deep breathing to control their voices. Teach them to be aware of their bodies during presentations.
o Let them get comfortable presenting informally from the middle of the class.
o Have them record and listen to their own voices while creating an i-movie.
o Give them tips and strategies to help them give better oral presentations.
o Move from shorter to longer more complex oral presentations.
o Have them evaluate classmates’ presentations for clarity, volume, organization, content, and poise.
o Add a public dimension: online or with an audience.

Student comment:

Aside from learning how to write deep, well-thought out, analytical papers, I think that the most valuable thing that I have learned is how to present orally in front of the class. Before this class, I really didn’t feel comfortable speaking in front of a class or group of people. After presenting several times in this class, however, I really do not mind giving oral presentations. In fact, I have found that I really enjoy crafting my words just so, and seeing the audience’s reaction to what I have written. I like anticipating their reactions and playing off of them. My confidence in public speaking is at an all time high thanks to Jane Austen!

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