Teacher agrees to assignment, too

January 24, 2013|Lisa Prejean

I will be teaching a public speaking class this semester, and I'm looking forward to working with the group of students who have registered for the class.

Their first assignment is an introductory speech that will allow them to get acquainted with each other, gain some experience by speaking on a familiar topic, and ease any apprehension they might feel about being "up front," before a group of their peers.

This introductory speech has structure that is similar to Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." Instead of being visited by the ghosts of three time periods, however, students select items to represent their past, present and future.

These items will be presented one at a time and will reflect the students' beliefs, values and/or attitudes, and also represent something in their lives. Each item will symbolize an important aspect of who the students are and how they have become that way.

The key is that only one item can be selected from each time period. This part of the assignment is often as difficult as the getting up and speaking part.

Think about it. If you could select only one item to represent your past, what would you choose? Why would you choose it? What stories would you tell to help your audience connect with your past?

What about your present? What item sums up where you are today? What's going on in your life?

How about your future? Where are you headed and how do you plan to get there? What one item sums up your goals for the coming weeks, months, years?

Then, once the items have been selected, what details would you include in an outline for your speech? An outline keeps a speaker focused and on topic, which is very important, especially for a speech that should only last five to seven minutes.

With an introduction, three points and a conclusion, there isn't much time to elaborate.

As I was explaining this part, one of my students spoke up.

"Hey, Mrs. Prejean, you should do this speech with us," one student said.

"Yeah," another one added. "We want to hear you give a speech about yourself."

How could I refuse? I guess I'll be joining them in this assignment.

Now I need to figure out what my three items should be.

I'll keep you posted on how that goes.


Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send email to her at

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