I love teaching debating, speeches and oral presentations. It really prepares the students for the oral presentations and to write speeches for the functional writing section on paper 1 of the English Junior Cert. It helps the students to foster their creativity, confidence, vocabulary, grammar, communication skills, organisational skills and to think critically.
As my school is ASTI, I have not been able to go to any of the English Junior Cycle induction days. However, I have self-taught myself using a range of websites. English in the Junior Cycle aims to expand a students’ knowledge of language and literature, deepen their literacy skills and make them more self-aware as learners, creativity and teach them to think critically. Debating, speeches and oral presentations help students to foster ‘control over English using it and responding to it with purpose and effect through the interconnected literacy skills of oral language, reading and writing’.
The six Key Skills of the Junior Cycle are evident in debating, speeches and oral presentations. You must be creative as debating demands you to think on your feet. Debating develops literacy as you are practicing oral presentations and you are using a solid vocabulary. You are being numerate as you are keeping track of time. You are communicating with others and also working with others as you must communicate with your team members to prepare a good argument and then debate against members of the opposition or by delivering a speech/oral presentation in front of your peers. ‘The English classroom is a place of talk and discussion. Students enjoy frequent opportunities to debate, to adopt a point of view and defend it. They learn to communicate by writing in a range of forms and for many purposes.’  You are managing information and thinking as you must structure your argument. You are staying well as you are communicating with others and by participating in an oral presentation, you are growing in confidence.
There are many activities you can do for these topics!
- Walking debate
Students no matter what age love this activity. Write ‘Strongly agree’, ‘Agree’, ‘Strongly disagree’ and ‘Disagree’ on different sheets of paper. Stick the sheets of paper on different sides of the room. Get all the students to stand up. Now call out statements and tell the students to go and stand beside the poster that portrays their view. Give the students a minute to decide where they are going. Once the students are in front of their chosen statement. Ask a number of students why they have picked that statement.
- Traffic light debate
This works the same as the walking debate above except you must put the colours red, green and orange on different walls in the classroom. You must explain to the students that green means agree, orange means neutral and red means disagree. Like the walking debate, you call out statements and the students stand beside the colour which matches their opinion.
You write a statement on the whiteboard and then you ask the students to agree or disagree with this statement and to write down 5 reasons to back up their point. This is a really good exercise as it helps the students to develop opinions and also to develop reasons thus meaning they fully understand why they agree or why they do not agree with a given statement. It is a great starter exercise to prepare the students for debating.
- Class debating
Make two groups of 4 students each. Pick a chairperson, three adjudicators and one timekeeper. The rest of the class will be the audience. Rotate this daily so each student gets a turn. Write a statement on the whiteboard such as ‘Should all schools be single sex?’. Tell each group to decide who in their group is going to go:
Each speaker in the group will speak for 2 minutes each which means that each group will speak for 8 minutes.
The adjudicator will control the meeting. The timekeeper will time the students. They must make the students aware of the first 30 minutes and the last 30 seconds.
- School debating competition
You can either invite other schools to come into your school and thus have a debating competition with one school or many schools. Get the students to help you organise it, this will improve their communication and organisational skills.
Tell the students that each of them must write a speech and present it in front of the class. Topics can be
- ‘Imagine you are the new principal of your school, write your first speech welcoming everyone and outlining what your leadership will be like.
- ‘Imagine you are the running for class president, write a speech outlining what you will implement if you win.
- ‘Imagine you are a second year student who has been chosen to give advice to 1styear pupils about how to survive 1st Write the speech you would give the first years.
- ‘Imagine you are setting up a new extracurricular activity in school. Write the speech you would give to the students in your school to encourage them to join’.
- ‘You want a half day on Wednesdays at school, write the speech you would give to encourage your principal to implement this change’.
- ‘We should be allowed wear whatever we want.’ (Caityn Jenner and the transgender community are topical news stories).
- ‘The importance of school uniforms for equality’.
WHAT NOT TO DO- INTERRUPT SOMEONE DURING THEIR SPEECH
Split the students into groups and give each group an envelope of statements. In each envelope there will be 15 statements. I will give each group 2 boxes. The 1stbox will say ‘Debating statements’ and the second box will say ‘Grammar errors’.
The students must work together in their group and decide what box each statement goes in. This is a really good activity to test the students’ grammar. Some of the statements will feature slang as I want the students to learn that they must not use slang. The Junior Cycle aims ‘to gain an understanding of the grammar and conventions of English and how they might be used to promote clear and effective communication’.
8. Oral presentations
Do this one day a week so the students will have a routine. For example every Friday. Each week give the students a topic to research, write about and then present in front of their class. Sample topics are my favourite animal, my favourite hobby, an inspirational person, a book review, a film review, a music album review, my favourite singer, my favourite band, my favourite sports team, my favourite celebrity, a great charity, a news story from a newspaper, why it is good to live in Ireland, what it means to be Irish, a student presents on country of their choice, its culture and literature and the stereotypes we need to cast off to truly understand the country, the students conduct interviews on others, the benefits of using technology in education and the student writes their own poem and presents it to the class.
9. Unseen pictures
Split the students into groups. Using unseen pictures, each group will argue a point. Each group must use each picture, thinking of a way it can support their argument.
Debating power point Introduction- Debating power point 1
Debating power point 2–Debating power point two
Agree/Disagree/Strongly Agree/Strongly Disagree statements for walking debate–Agree disagree strongly agree strongly disagree statements for walls
Debating worksheet– Debating for or against template
Debating topics handout–Debating topics
Debating motions handout- Motions
Ship debate handout– Ship Debate
Speech tips handouts–SPEECHES tips
Scoring sheet for a debate–Debate scoring sheet
Speech planning sheet-Planning Sheet for speeches
Persuasive speech worksheet–Planning Speech Persuasive Speeches
Biography power point–Writing a Biography power point.
Glossary handout for inspirational person oral presentation- Glossary for inspirational person oral presentation.
Differences between a autobiography and biography handout- Differences between a biography and an autobiography.
Biography sheet for inspirational person oral presentation–Inspirational person handout
Biography features handout for oral presentation- Features of biography.
Biography template for oral presentation- Biography template
Roald Dahl oral presentation example– A Biography of Roald Dahl
Book review oral presentation–Book review
Film review for oral presentation–Writing_a_Film_Review