8 Steps to Teach a Famous Speech Gr 7-12: PART I

01
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Listen to the Speech

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A speech is meant to be heard, so the first step is to listen to the speech. A teacher or a student may read the speech aloud in class, but the more preferable method is to listen to a recording of the original speech by the speaker.

Many websites have links to audio or video recordings of famous original speeches from the 20th Century when technology was available for such recordings. These allow the student to hear how the speech was delivered, for example:

There are also versions of earlier famous speeches recreated by actors or historians. These recordings also allow the student to hear how the speech could have been delivered, for example:

 

02
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Determine What the Speech Says

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After the first "listen", students have to determine the general meaning of the speech based on this first reading. They should draft their first impressions about the meaning of the speech. Later (Step 8), after they analyze the speech by following the other steps, they can return to their initial understanding and determine what has or has not been changed in their understanding.

During this step, students will need to locate textual evidence to support their understanding. Using evidence in a response is one of the key shifts of the Common Core State Standards. The first reading anchor standard states:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1
Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

Students must revisit their drafts about the meaning of the speech at the conclusion of analysis  and provide text evidence to support their claims.   

03
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Determine the Central Idea of the Speech

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Students need to understand the central idea or message of the speech. 

They should draft their ideas about the message of the speech. Later (Step 8), after they analyze the speech by following the other steps, they can return to their initial understanding and determine what has or has not been changed in their understanding.

Addressing message is connected to another Common Core Anchor Standard for Reading:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2
Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

Students must revisit their drafts  about the message of the speech at the conclusion of analysis and provide text evidence to support their claims.   

04
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Research the Speaker

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When students study a speech, they must consider who is delivering the speech as well as what he or she is saying. Understanding the speaker's point of view is connected to a Common Core Anchor Standard for Reading: 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6
Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

Students can also evaluate the quality of delivery by the speaker of the speech based on the following speech delivery criteria: 

  • adequate volume and voice projection, 
  • vocal variety, 
  • use of gestures/body language, 
  • eye contact, 
  • pace, and 
  • projection of interest in topic and audience
05
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Research the Context

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In studying a speech, students need to understand the historical context that has generated the speech.

A set of focus questions that incorporate the different lenses for the new C3Standards for Social Studies should address the disciplines of civics, economics, geography, and history that are featured in the speech.

06
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Consider the Audience Response

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When students study a speech, they must consider the audience for the speech. Considering the audience means to consider the audience for whom the speech was intended as well as the audience response in class.

Understanding how an audience responded or could respond to a speech is connected to a Common Core Anchor Standard for Reading: 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.8
Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

During this step, students will need to locate textual evidence to support their understanding.

07
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Identify the Speechwriter's Craft

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In this step, students examine the ways the author uses rhetorical structures (literary devices) and figurative language to create meaning. 

Understanding how the language used in the speech is constructed is connected to a Common Core Anchor Standard for Reading: 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4
Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

A focus questions for students might be “How do the author’s choices help me understand or appreciate something that I didn’t notice the first time I read?”

After this step, students should return to the drafts for meaning and for message they created in their first impressions. After they analyze the speech for techniques, they can return to their initial impressions and determine what has or has not been changed in their understanding.

Students can also determine what argument or propaganda techniques were used including: assertion, bandwagon, glittering generalities, card stacking, stereotyping, circular reasoning, logical fallacies, etc.

08
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Revisit First Impressions

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This is the most critical step in understanding the speech's meaning and message. Students should revisit their drafted first impressions.They should consider how their analysis of the speaker's point of view, the context of the speech, and the techniques the speechwriter used has or has not changed the initial understanding they drafted after first listening to the speech.

During this step, students will need to locate textual evidence to support their conclusions.

If there is a writing assignment to accompany the analysis, then using text evidence from the speech in a constructed response is one of the key shifts in the Anchor Writing Standards for the Common Core.  

Student responses to speeches can be in one of three genres: persuasive (argument), informative/explanatory, and narrative. Each genre requires the use of details and evidence:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1
Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2
Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.3
Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.