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Public speaking is child’s play

Many Head Held High student parents reading this will be very aware that public speaking modules and competitions in primary schools around Auckland are evolving.

Goodbye to the one-size-fits-all approach.

Goodbye to all kids being forced to do a “classic” 3 minute speech.

Hello to three new, exciting speech formats for children to choose from, including ‘spoken word’, ‘rap’ and ‘flash talks’.

Introducing; Rehu Tai Festival of Oral Language

All of these new speech formats (as well as the classic 3 minute speech) are options for students whose schools are adopting the awesome Rehu Tai Festival of Oral Language school speech format.

At Head Held High, we love Rehu Tai which recognises the diversity of oral traditions within the many cultures of Aotearoa. It is currently being offered in many Central Auckland schools, although the enthusiasm for it is spreading quickly into other areas of Auckland and we’re hopeful it will soon start to be adopted in other regions of NZ too.

By providing 4 options of different ways to take part in public speaking modules and competitions in schools, Rehu Tai gives more students the opportunity to express themselves, with more passion than the traditional three-minute speech!

Over the past 10 weeks, in Head Held High lessons our students have been learning about how to write and perform across the spoken word, rap, classic speech and flash talk formats. They’ve been having great fun having a go at the different techniques!

What is spoken word?

For those of you who don’t know (or who weren’t lucky enough to sample your child’s work by watching home performances!) spoken word is a mix between poetry and a speech. The speaker uses poetic devices and techniques – such as repetition, emphasis and descriptive language - in order to grab the listener’s attention.

It’s often used to get a powerful point across, to comment on and encourage change. It can therefore be a very empowering format for students who feel less confident speaking in public.

Our Head Held High spoken word module gave students the option to choose a topic they felt passionate about. Global warming, plastics and gender inequality were but a few of the very interesting topics that some of our young spoken word artists chose to perform about.

Students took turns within the spoken word lessons to perform in front of their classmates, and to get feedback from their peers and teacher. Voilá – spoken word performers, ready to participate in their school speech contest!

My child is rapping?!

Next up this term was the ‘rap’ module, which intrigued students who had pre-existing ideas of the musical performance technique.

Rap is so much more than what we might first think; no longer a male dominated art-form, and definitely not in keeping with the stereotype of focusing on less-than-child-friendly subject matter.

Rap is expressive, percussive and takes a lot of skill to master, as our students soon found out. For homework, students watched a ‘best of kid rappers’ selection from America’s Got Talent and were impressed by the range of performance styles and topics.

Together, we wrote rhyming and rhythmic lyrics and read them aloud. A vocal warm-up helped students to relax their facial muscles and get their tongues around complex syllables and alliteration, and then we added music.

It was amazing to see how all students – regardless of age, experience or confidence – managed to master their rap once a beat came into play. Magic!

The rap-based lessons helped many students to realise that something initially dauntingcan be broken down into mini tasks and successfully accomplished with the right guidance and support from peers.

The rap-based lessons were a personal highlight for me as a teacher this term, and the range of material that I’ve seen from other Head Held High teachers’ lessons shows just how much the classes were enjoyed by students this term!

What is a flash-talk?

Our penultimate public speaking module this term explored the world of ‘flash-talks,’ where students utilise pictures to accompany a speech (ie. a Powerpoint or Google Slides presentation). Perhaps the best way to imagine a flash-talk is to picture the uber-popular TED Talk phenomenon.

Unlike with rap and spoken word, this task seemed fairly simple on the surface but the challenge for students was to select the best images to accompany their talk – to be concise with their wording, and emphasise or evidence their point through a photo, picture or diagram.

Flash-talk skills are becoming increasingly more necessary for young New Zealanders as they prepare for higher education, and then employment. Mastering the technical, presentation and self-confidence elements that are all inherent within flash-talks will stand our students in great stead for the remainder of their lives.

The flash-talk module was a firm favourite with our students this term, who liked the opportunity to talk about their favourite subject, object, topic or issue!

"Classic" speeches

While the majority of our students are part of schools that participate in Rehu Tai, many still

take part in ‘classic’ school speech contests too, and were busy writing these this term.

Where possible, as Head Held High teachers we helped when asked, by suggesting vocal, body language and mental techniques that would improve their performances.

We also allowed these students the opportunity to practice speaking aloud with an audience - in front of their Head Held High classmates.

As Head Held High teachers, this term we have all seen phenomenal improvement in our students during the public speaking modules.

Regardless of whether they chose to take on the challenge of giving a public speaking performance at school or not, the opportunity to be exposed to new forms of public speaking within Head Held High lessons has been immensely valuable to them. We hope all students enjoyed the new public speaking formats and will consider choosing an alternative to the traditional three-minute speech format for future competitions!

At Head Held High, we are huge fans of Rehu Tai, and can see first-hand how by giving a wider selection of performance options it is opening up the joy of public speaking to a much larger cross-section of students.

At the end of the day, that’s what we’re all about - encouraging greater participation, mastery, enjoyment and satisfaction of speaking and performing in public!

Bravo, Rehu Tai!

Jess Macdonald Head Held High teacher

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