Unit 3: Practice in Public Speaking


This unit introduces students to strategies used in public speaking, such as debates, group discussions and extempore speech as a means of developing self-confidence, conviction and fluency in speaking. Speaking in public is not something that most people enjoy, and it can make them self-conscious and hesitant. At the JSS level, therefore, students need to be given practice in speaking in front of an audience. This can be done by organising speaking activities such as debates, extempore speech, group discussions, etc. This unit contains activities that should help your students develop public speaking skills. It should also help you make students aware of the conventions of non-verbal communication such as gestures and eye contact.

Unit outcomes

By the end of the unit, you should be able to:


  • develop your students’ confidence in public speaking by giving them exposure to debates, discussions and extempore speech;

  • give your students the strategies they need for expressing themselves clearly and logically in public contexts;

  • give your students exposure to and practice in speaking in longer turns (as opposed to the shorter turns in conversations); and

  • make your students aware of the importance of non-verbal communication such as eye contact and good posture.



Non-verbal communication:

Use of facial expressions, gestures, eye contact and other such means of signalling attention in an oral communication situation.

Teacher support information


Participating in debates helps students to improve their ability to express their point of view and to think critically. Ensure that the topics chosen are important to your students so that they will really want to express their point of view with enthusiasm. Also teach them to avoid the use of too many technical terms requiring boring explanations.

Before letting the students take part in debates and other situations that require speaking before an audience, have them brainstorm on ideas in groups — this increases their self-confidence.

Case study

Case study

Mr Maisamari’s 14-year-old students had diverse abilities and personalities. Some were very shy and were reluctant to speak in class; others were more confident and fluent in English. He realised right at the beginning of the year that he would have to provide different types of activities and challenges for the different ability groups.

Charo was typical of the first group of students. Her home language was Fulfulde and when she first arrived at Essence Junior Secondary School, she spoke very little English. There were only two other students whose parents were Fulfulde, but they spoke no Fulfulde. All spoke Hausa, the widespread local language. So, they were of no help to Charo. She was unhappy for the first three months, afraid to speak the little English she knew for fear of making mistakes. The other students made fun of her English, which sounded like Fulfulde. But Mr Maisamari changed all that. He began by identifying Charo’s difficulties. Then he took every opportunity to chat with her. He smiled, asked about her parents and siblings, what she did at home, and anything else that she could respond to comfortably. He asked her questions that were easy for her to answer. Soon, Charo developed enough confidence to participate in all the class activities. Her pronunciation improved, and she was no longer the focus of jokes. Towards the end of the year, Charo even improved her performance in other subjects because of her newfound confidence. For students with stronger English, Mr Maisamari organised class debates. These helped them generate ideas, and to organise them logically and present them in a convincing manner. The students were very highly motivated. In fact, some of them showed keen interest in participating in the inter-school debating competition, so Mr Maisamari decided to coach them. They met during breaks to go over their debating points and generally carried over their organisational skills and fluency into their writing composition. These efforts helped them win several prizes in the inter-school competitions.

Points to ponder


  1. Do you agree that language skills develop only when students feel confident about speaking? What strategies do you use in your class to develop students’ self-confidence?

  2. How important is it for students to participate in speaking competitions? Do they really have a use for it in adult life?


Activity 1: Practising the language of debate

Activity 1

Participating in a debate is good preparation for public speaking. Taking part in a debate not only develops students’ self-confidence, it teaches them to think logically, articulate clearly and respond effectively — all of which are effective oral communication skills. Module 1, Unit 3, Activity 2 teaches students to listen attentively to a debate in order to learn how to respond effectively. For this activity, you can refer to Module 1, and have your students go over Unit 3, Resource 3c: Preparing a Debate again.

To begin this activity, take your students through a few preparatory exercises to help them generate and organise their ideas, and also learn the appropriate expressions to use in a debate. You can follow these steps:

  1. Take a topic that is interesting and generally lends itself to differing opinions, such as Women are better teachers than men or Boys and girls should be educated in separate schools.

  2. Assuming that the class decides on the first topic, divide the students into groups and let them brainstorm on the qualities of a good teacher. For example:

             i)  good knowledge of the subject,

             ii)  ability to explain difficult points,

             iii)  good communication skills,

             iv)  good classroom management skills and control,

             v)  ability to make students think clearly and to participate, as well as learn from each other, and

             vi)  kindness and helpfulness to students, etc.

  1. Divide the class into two sections — one to support the motion (that is, women are better teachers than men) and the other to challenge it.

  2. Let each section sit together and prepare a list of points that support their views.

  3. When they are ready, each section should nominate three speakers to argue their viewpoint. With your help, the class should also agree on the judging criteria — for example, clear organisation of ideas, focus on the topic, grammatical accuracy, pace of speaking, logical presentation of points. (See Resources 1a and 1b for more ideas on the language of a debate.)

  4. When they are ready, the debate can begin, with you as a judge. Decide on the modalities of the debate — for example, time allotted to each speaker, being polite and respectful to speakers in the opposite team, taking turns to speak and not interrupting, and so on.

  5. If possible, record the debate, and play it back later so that the students can comment on it and learn from their experience. Extend the debate experience by involving students from other classes, and asking other teachers to judge. This will extend the students’ exposure to debates and help them improve their public speaking skills.

Activity 2: Taking part in group discussions

Activity 2

At college level and beyond, when students apply for placements or jobs, one of the requirements for selection is a group discussion, popularly referred to as a GD. In a GD, several candidates are put in a group and asked to share opinions on a topic. Their responses are monitored by examiners, who may or may not take part in the discussion themselves. Candidates are judged by their ability to initiate and conclude a discussion, make their opinions heard, speak audibly with good pronunciation and grammar, and behave politely.

At the school level, students are rarely exposed to the norms of a GD. Although in the classroom teachers do place students in groups for discussion, it is difficult to monitor all the groups at the same time, and the focus is mostly on the topic being discussed rather than the norms of speaking.

In this activity, you will be able to have your students practise the skills they need to take part effectively in a GD. You may need several classes to complete this, depending on how many students you have, but each session will benefit the entire class.

Before the activity, have a class discussion on the qualities of a good speaker. (See Resource 2a.)

Have another brainstorming session on the norms of good behaviour when working in a group. Or you can have your students respond to the worksheet in Resource 2b and have a discussion after that.

Once the students have some background in the qualities expected of a good speaker, and the norms of group behaviour, divide them into groups of seven or eight, and have them sit in circles (rearrange the furniture if possible). In every group, appoint a secret observer. Without letting the group members know, the observer has to monitor the group members’ speech behaviour according to the norms discussed above, and record each member’s performance. Since the observers will also be students, do not expect too much objectivity or incisiveness from their observations; the purpose of using them is simply to make the students aware of their abilities and areas for improvement. Give the groups a popular topic to discuss, such as Respectable Professions, where students discuss which professions are considered honourable and why. You can initiate the discussion by mentioning different professions, such as farmer, pilot, teacher or university lecturer, nurse, scientist, medical doctor, banker, computer expert, astronaut, or even professional sportsperson like Serena Williams of the United States (tennis) or Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal (football).

At the end of the allotted time, the class should reassemble and the observers present their observations on each member of their group. You need not encourage a debate on whether the members agree or disagree with the observer; the focus should be on the qualities of a good presenter that emerged. In the next two or three classes, give students more practice in group discussions, with different observers in every group. The experience of participating effectively in group discussions and adhering to the norms of polite behaviour will develop students’ self-confidence and clarity of expression.

Activity 3: Speaking extempore

Activity 3

At the Secondary School level, one of the most popular co-curricular activities is extempore speech, where students are asked to speak spontaneously (extempore) on a topic of general interest for four or five minutes. Unless students know beforehand which topics they have to choose from, speaking extempore requires both language proficiency and presence of mind. Unlike normal conversation, there is no time to think of a response, no break and no clue from the listeners. In addition, the speaker has to stand before an audience and speak at length, formulating ideas and presenting them logically instantly. All this requires both confidence and familiarity with a wide range of vocabulary and structures.

In this activity, you will be able to take students through the preparations for delivering a speech extempore. To introduce the activity, play the video/audio file in Resource 3a in which two speakers deliver a short speech on a topic. Ask your students to rate the speakers out of ten, and then ask them to explain their rating (i.e., which speaker they consider better, and why). Follow this with a discussion of the things to keep in mind while delivering a short speech effectively. (See Resource 3b for a list of points to remember.)

Now ask the students, working in groups of five or six, to think of three topics that they feel confident about speaking on — for example, sport (cricket, football, athletics, etc.), a movie star, a local hero, eating junk food, a pet. Ask them to write down the topics on slips of paper, then fold the papers and put them on the teacher’s table.

Before asking students to come up and practise speaking extempore, it might be helpful if you gave a demonstration. Remember to follow the norms of effective speaking identified in the preceding discussion. Then ask your students to come up one by one and pick a topic to speak on. Encourage the shy and quieter ones to speak. Make sure all the students come up to speak, and appreciate their efforts even if they speak in halting English or cannot say more than a sentence. If you repeat this activity several times during the year, your students’ speaking abilities are bound to improve.

Unit summary


In this unit, you learned how to give your students practice and tips on speaking effectively in public situations. This practice and the strategies suggested will develop students’ confidence and language skills. The focus of the unit was on giving every student an opportunity to stand in front of an audience and be able to express themselves clearly. The unit tried to help you prepare your students to speak for longer turns without hesitation. The activities address three important areas of public speaking relevant to students at the JSS level.



  • Do the preparatory activities and discussions help students perform the activities with more enthusiasm?

  • Does asking your students to make suggestions based on their own experience and understanding help you administer the activities better? Or do you feel you should provide the necessary information?

  • How can you involve parents or guardians in developing your students’ oral communication skills? Can you invite them to watch speaking competitions in the school? Would students be motivated to speak better if their parents were present?



  • In what other situations do your students need to speak in English? Do they show enthusiasm about participating in public speaking competitions like extempore speech or debate? How can you help them become more motivated to speak?

  • Do you think that, in addition to lessons, textbooks should include tips on public speaking like the ones given in the Resource section of this unit? Why or why not?


Resource 1a: Structure of a debate

Resource 1a

A debate, as you are aware, is a discussion in which speakers form two groups, and argue in favour of or against a topic. The topic is called a motion, and the speakers from each group not only give reasons to support their argument, they also counter the arguments made by the members from the opposite group.

A. (From the pros) Those who support the motion (proponents/ proposers or pros, for short)

  • The first speaker rises and states the motion as follows: I move [or I support] the motion that all “out-of-school” youths who dropped out for any reason should be encouraged to return to school.

  • They define key terms in the motion. In this case, they need to say what they mean by “out-of-school youths.”

  • They give their reasons in support of the motion: for example:

                -  My first reason for supporting this motion is that today’s youths are tomorrow’s leaders.

                -  Secondly, they are the…

                 - Thirdly,…, etc.

  • They sum up their argument in support of the motion: In summary, [or to sum up]…

  • Restate the motion: I, therefore, repeat [or I, therefore, urge] you all to support the motion that…

B. Opposing the motion

  • The opposite team states their opposition to the motion by stating as follows: I oppose the motion that… or I support those who oppose the motion that…

  • Like the pros, they define the motion, possibly differently. All those opposing the motion need to agree on their definition of the key term(s) in order to speak as a united team.

  • They give their reasons for opposing the motion: for example:

               - My first reason for opposing this motion is that not all youths need the kind of education one sees in schools today. Some are better as roadside mechanics, vulcanisers, house helps, etc.

                - Secondly, some have lost interest and confidence in schooling.

                - Thirdly,…, etc.

  • They sum up their reasons for opposing the motion: In summary, [or to sum up]…

  • They restate their opposition to the motion: I, therefore, repeat [or I, therefore, urge you all NOT to support the motion] that…

The process

There are two teams, each consisting of two or three speakers. One team (the affirmative) supports the motion, and the other (the negative) opposes the motion. A chairperson controls the proceedings.

The speeches and speaking time are divided equally between the two teams.

Each speaker makes a prepared speech to argue his or her case. The teams prepare collaboratively, building up their case. The sides speak in turn, starting with the proposer of the motion followed by his or her opponent and then the others in like order. Each speaker has a specified amount of time to speak (e.g., three minutes or five minutes).

Then the debate can be opened to the floor, with the speakers standing up to offer points supporting or opposing the motion. Each speaker from the floor is allowed a specified (usually shorter) amount of time (e.g., one minute or two minutes).

Important rules

  • The team supporting the motion must not change their point of view. The same goes for the opposition, who must oppose the motion completely (whatever their private opinions may be).

  • If a speaker makes a statement, he or she must be able to provide evidence or reasons to support it.

  • The facts presented in a debate must be accurate.

  • Speakers may not bring up new points in a rebuttal speech; that is, one that demonstrates that the opponent was “wrong” or ill informed.


Resource 1b: A sample class debate

Resource 1b

Motion: A teacher contributes more to the nation than a medical doctor

Pro: Mr Chairperson, distinguished panel of judges, ladies and gentlemen:

          I rise to support the motion that teachers contribute much more to the development of the nation than medical doctors do.

          First and foremost, without teachers there will be no doctors, to start with. Teachers produce doctors, engineers, governors, bankers, the army officers and police as well as all of the civil servants, to mention a few. They mould character. Many national leaders were teachers at one time or another. Teachers never lose any lives while teaching, but many poor doctors lose their patients.

Con: Mr. Chairperson, distinguished panel of judges, ladies and gentlemen:

          They say “health is wealth.” Without doctors who provide good health services, we would not all be here today. My worthy opponent forgot to tell this august audience that when teachers fail ill, they must rush to the doctor. Otherwise, they may never be able to teach anymore; they may be dead or disabled! It is because doctors are more valuable to the nation that they spend a longer time training to make sure that the nation remains very healthy. That is why doctors are better paid than teachers who are clearly less educated. Medical doctors are also always on duty. While teachers are engaged in chalk and talk, doctors are busy saving lives in emergencies all the time. Doctors are smartly dressed in clean white gowns and definitely look more respectable and attractive than teachers who only have a piece of chalk in their hand.


Resource 2a: Qualities necessary for an effective presentation

Resource 2a

Making a presentation effectively involves not only knowledge of the grammar of the language; it also includes features of good communication. Here are some features that should be elicited in the class discussion:

  • Fluency

  • Good pronunciation

  • Clarity of speaking; that is, clear delivery in an audible voice and comfortable pace of speaking

  • Knowledge of the topic

  • Willingness to listen to others’ point of view

  • Politeness and pleasant personal behaviour

  • Ability to use humour

  • Ability to maintain eye contact

  • Ability to take listeners logically through their speech by using appropriate discourse/semantic markers (see Modules 3, 4 and 6 for more information on discourse/semantic markers)

Resource 2b: Taking part in group discussions

Resource 2b

Group discussions involve the participation of several group members, each of whom has an opinion to share. Since group discussions are social events, involving human communication, members are expected to follow the norms of social conduct. Below is a list of things we do when we have group discussions. With a partner, decide which ones you think are examples of acceptable behaviour, and which ones are not.

  1. Everyone speaks at the same time.

  2. Participants have thought about the topic and what they plan to say.

  3. A participant initiates the discussion by thanking the organisers, introducing himself or herself, laying out the general nature of the discussion, and invites everyone to speak.

  4. People are willing to listen to what others have to say.

  5. Some participants use a joke and a little humour to make a point.

  6. Participants talk in whispers with their neighbours.

  7. Everyone has a turn to speak.

  8. A participant makes eye contact with the moderator but not with the other group members.

  9. A participant is not afraid to defend what he or she believes.

  10. Some people become emotional and burst out in anger or desperation.

  11. Some participants make long speeches.

  12. A participant is willing to change his or her opinion.

  13. A participant gets annoyed when someone contradicts her.

  14. Participants encourage others to speak.

  15. Some participants think group discussion is a waste of time and do not hesitate to show their boredom.

  16. Some participants make sarcastic comments.

  17. Participants support good ideas made by other participants.

  18. A participant picks on the previous speaker’s point, acknowledges it and adds his or her own view.

  19. Participants interrupt only to ask for clarifications, and do so politely.

  20. A participant sums up the discussion by making his or her own concluding remarks and then summarising what the others had to say.

Resource 3a: Extempore speech: My favourite sport

Resource 3a


Speaker 1

Good morning. Today I’m going to speak on the topic My Favourite Sport, which is soccer. Soccer is a game played by two teams of 11 players each, in which each team has to score goals by kicking a football into a goal. The team which scores the most number of goals is the winner. I love soccer because it is a fast game which requires great stamina, foot skills and the ability to control the movement of a ball. My favourite players are Didier Drogba of Ivory Coast, Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Wayne Rooney of England. My friends and I spend our weekends playing soccer, and we all dream of playing for our country one day. In short, soccer is the sport I love most, and I would like to be a professional soccer player when I grow up.

Speaker 2

Uhh… goo... good morning. I uhh… I am speaking on soccer. My favourite sport is soccer. Soccer is played 11 players. Soccer is my favourite game. Soccer is played with football. I love soccer because it is fast game. To win we need goals. Goals kicked into goalpost. My most favourite players Didier Drogba, Ivory Coast, Cristiano Ronaldo, Argentina, no, …. Portugal, I think. Wayne Rooney is also my favourite from England. I play soccer with friends on every afternoon. Oh, I forgot, soccer is national game.



Resource files

See in the enclosed DVD an audio recording of the activity:

  • Scripts\Module2\Unit3\Activity3\Resource3a\Audio\My_favourite_sport_Speaker1.mp3

  • Scripts\Module2\Unit3\Activity3\Resource3a\Audio\My_favourite_sport_Speaker2.mp3


Resource 3b: Speaking extempore: Effective strategies


Resource 3b

  1. Make eye contact with the audience.

  2. Speak at a normal conversational speed, neither too fast nor too slow.

  3. Have positive body language — maintain a good posture by standing straight, with your arms in a comfortable position.

  4. Follow these steps to speak on the topic:

             a)  Define the topic.

             b)  Give examples.

             c)  Mention one or more characteristic of the topic.

             d)  Say why it is good/bad/important.

  1. “Buy” yourself time by using expressions to:

             a)  introduce the topic: My topic today is…/I’d like to begin by….

             b)  keep people interested: What is interesting about this is…/I think the audience would be interested to know that…

             c)  give illustrations: For example…/For instance…/A good example of this is…

             d)  emphasise: An important thing about this is…/Let me emphasise that…

             e)  conclude: In the end…/I’d like to end by…/In conclusion…

  1. Choose your words carefully, and try to use different words in each sentence. For example, rather than saying: Ghana is a beautiful country. It has beautiful scenery and beautiful animals, use different descriptive terms like breath taking scenery, a variety of animals, etc.

  2. Use good pronunciation. Do not run over your words, and avoid an artificial accent. A natural and clear pronunciation impresses people.

  3. Be grammatical. The best of speeches fail to impress if the sentences are ungrammatical.

Teacher question and answer


Question: Some students are more eager and rush to be the first to speak, and unconsciously make others feel inadequate. How do I handle this situation?

Answer: Take the more enthusiastic students aside and tell them you need their help. Students love to be given responsibility that makes them feel important. Put one student in charge of one or two quieter students and tell him or her to think of ways to encourage these shy students to speak more in class. Ask the brighter students to tutor the less articulate ones in a “study-buddy” style — buddies are friends, and are meant to help one another. However, be careful that the better students do not become overconfident and do not bully the buddies in their charge.