A museum display of six all-white statues of men from the 1860s, which represent the jobseekers and visitors to the Lincoln White House. In the center, a man in a suit raises a finger as he speaks. Opposite him, a short man in a top hat is pointing to him with his mouth open, as if they are engaged in a debate.
Large figures representing jobseekers and visitors to the Lincoln White House. Photo © Maxwell MacKenzie.

Original Speech Writing

Students write eight original speeches.

Rubrics and example speeches are included. Each speech performance focuses on using two Podium Points (elements of effective public speaking).

Common Core Standards


Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence

LEARNING OBJECTIVESTo write original speeches that include a beginning, middle and end.
GUIDING QUESTIONSWhat are the qualities/elements of a coherent and organized speech?
How might students effectively use Podium Points in their speeches?

Classroom Activities

  • Classroom Activity One: Introductory Speech
    Students write and present a speech introducing themselves using Presence.
  • Classroom Activity Two: Brown Bag Speech
    Focusing on Pace and Volume, students share an item that is important to them.
  • Classroom Activity Three: Storytelling Speech
    Tone and Emphasis are stressed in this speech where students tell a true story that happened to them.
  • Classroom Activity Four: Tribute Speech
    Each student honors someone in his/her life while working on improving Eye Contact, Enunciation and Diction.
  • Classroom Activity Five: “Read to Me Speech”
    After picking a favorite text, students return to Emphasis and Tone in order to share a selection with the class.
  • Classroom Activity Six: Book Speech
    Posture and Gesture are introduced to students through a speech on a favorite book. 
  • Classroom Activity Seven: Teaching Speech
    In this activity, students must use all Podium Points while teaching the class a new skill.
  • Classroom Activity Eight: This I Believe
    Using all Podium Points, students need to share their personal philosophy with the class.
Teacher Preparation:

Catherine Plumb-Sperry is a sixth-grade reading teacher at James Bridger Middle School in Independence, MO. Over the course of a year, her students write and perform an original speech each month. This lesson gives teachers framework for how to structure eight different speeches. Catherine’s most important tips for successfully implementing this in the classroom:

  • Students do not have the option to “opt-out” of giving a speech.
    The teacher should perform a sample speech on the day that each speech is assigned.
  • When delivering a sample speech, pick a few moments to intentionally ignore one of the Podium Points, so that students can hone their observation skills.
  • Starting with Lesson Activity One, model Warm and Cool Feedback.
  • Focus on two Podium Points for each speech. However, once a Podium Point has been the focus of a speech, students must continue to work on that element in all subsequent speeches. The Podium Points are cumulative as they progress through the school year. 
  • It takes about three 45-minute class periods for a class of 25 students to give their two-minute speeches and receive Warm and Cool Feedback.
  • Do not time speeches until the Tribute Speech. It’s better for students to have the first three speech opportunities to stand and speak in front of the class without the added pressure of a time limit.

Additionally, Catherine believes that a podium is a necessary classroom accessory when teaching oratory. Students need to be accustomed to speaking from and using a podium. The podium is also a visual aid indicating that when someone stands to speak, we listen.


Classroom Activity One

Introductory Speech

The first speech of the year is untimed. Catherine usually does the speech on the third day of school. Students cannot use notes of any kind. 

The podium point being evaluated is presence: Can you walk to the podium confidently (even if you don’t feel confident) and use a greeting?

Students are expected to:

  1. Have presence: walk to the podium confidently and stand confidently throughout their speech.
  2. Greet their audience.
  3. Sentence one – Tell their complete name.
  4. Sentence two – Tell us something about their family.
  5. Sentence three – Tell us something unique about them.
  6. End with a “thank you.”

After the speech, the students in the audience spend two minutes giving warm and cool feedback.


Classroom Activity Two

Brown Bag Speech

This speech is very similar to “show-and-tell” from early elementary school. 

Students are each given a brown lunch sack. They write the speech requirements on it. They bring it home that night, and select an item to share with the class for their speech. The item must fit in the sack, and may not be a previously living or presently living item. Students bring the item in the sack to school the next day.

The two Podium Points added to this speech are volume and pace. Nerves cause speakers to speak quickly so pace is a challenge. Introduce pace early in the process so student have many opportunities to practice speaking at an appropriate pace.

Students are expected to:

  1. Have presence.
  2. Use appropriate pace and volume.
  3. Select an item to share.
  4. Walk the item around and show it to the class.
  5. Return to the podium to speak.
  6. Greet the audience.
    describe where the item came from, what it is used for, why it is significant to them, why they like it, or any other information they want us to know.
  7. Ask the audience if they have any questions.
  8. End their speech with a “thank you.”

After the speech, the class spends two minutes giving warm and cool feedback.


Classroom Activity Three 

Storytelling Speech

In this speech, students tell a story from their life. It must be something they are comfortable sharing in front of the class.

The two podium points that are the focus of this speech are tone and emphasis. Students are telling stories that may contain strong emotion, so this is a natural way for them to add tone and emphasis. Students should write their speech down and identify the tone they are trying to achieve. They should also highlight or circle any words they are going to emphasize. They will use the written text to rehearse, and then turn in the text before giving their speech.

Students are expected to

  1. Have presence.
  2. Use appropriate pace, volume, tone and emphasis.
  3. Greet the audience.
  4. Tell a story with a distinct beginning, middle and end.
  5. Have the story memorized.
  6. End their speech with a “thank you.”

After the speech, the class spends two minutes giving warm and cool feedback.


Classroom Activity Four

Tribute Speech

In this speech, students are telling the class about an important person in their life, and why they admire this person.

Encourage students to bring a photograph of their person. A photograph gives the audience a nice visual reference during the speech.

The two podium points that are the focus of this speech are eye-contact and diction. Students may use a script when delivering this speech. A caveat: because a script is  allowed, students may tend to read to the audience. It takes a high level of skill to have a script and still make eye contact. Students are expected to rehearse their speech at home before the speech performance day. Assign a rehearsal log to ensure that students practice before their performance.

Teach tongue twisters in class to support development of diction. Students can practice these tongue twisters at home when rehearsing their speech. On speech performance day, the class can warm-up using the tongue twisters. Starting off class this way may also alleviate nerves, as tongue twisters can be fun and promote a bit of laughter.

This is the first speech where speeches are timed. Speeches must be at least one minute and no longer than two minutes. Discuss time with the students but do not use it as an evaluation criteria.

Students are expected to:

  1. Use all previously learned Podium Points.
  2. Use eye-contact and diction.
  3. Greet the audience.
  4. Section One: Tell who the person is, what their relationship is to the student, and why the student admires them. The student might also describe physical traits.
  5. Section Two: Give a personality trait the person has. Students must give two examples of the person showing the trait. (If he says a person is kind, he must say two ways that they show kindness.)
  6. Section Three: Give a second personality trait that the person has. The student must also give two examples of the person showing the trait.
  7. Conclude by restating in a different way from their introduction why the person is so special to them.
  8. End their speech with “thank you.”

After the speech, the class spends two minutes giving warm and cool feedback.


Classroom Activity Five 

“Read to Me” Speech

Note: It might be helpful to pair this with the Refining Tone and Emphasis Lesson.

In this speech, the students read a piece of text written by someone else. The text can be lyrics from a song, a story or a poem.
The Podium Points that are the focus of this speech are emphasis and tone. Although these Podium Points have been covered in the past, the content of this speech requires “extra” attention to tone and emphasis when delivering the speech. Students should make a deliberate effort to put emotion into their delivery.

To find a text to read for performance, students may search online to find song lyrics, a story or poem that they connect with emotionally. They should cut and paste this text into a Word document. Students should read the text carefully to understand the message of the text, and determine the emotional tone. They should annotate their text by circling words they think best express the meaning and tone, and practice emphasizing those words when saying it aloud. Students should bring their annotated text with them to the podium for reference.

Speeches are timed and should be between one and maximum two minutes long.

Students are expected to:

  1. Use all previously learned Podium Points, with extra effort to demonstrate tone and emphasis.
  2. Greet their audience.
  3. Credit the source of their reading.
  4. Make an effort to memorize as much of their text as possible and only use their scripts as reference.
  5. End their speech with a “thank you.”

After the speech, students are expected to explain briefly how they employed tone and emphasis to convey the meaning of their speech. The class then spends two minutes giving warm and cool feedback.


Classroom Activity Six

Book Speech

In this speech, students review a book they’ve read during the school year.

The Podium Points added for this speech are gesture and posture. Students need to demonstrate confident posture. Confident posture includes standing up tall, without slouching, feet firmly on the floor, no rocking or fidgeting. Shoulders should be back and down. Students can be prompted to squeeze their shoulder blades together, or imagine  that they are tucking their shoulder blades into the back pockets. The goal is to open the chest up, without puffing it out, so that students can breath properly and look confident.

They also should use gestures to emphasize the important parts of the speech or to engage the audience. Remind students that gestures should be as natural as possible. As a frame of reference, it may be helpful to demonstrate examples of natural gestures, or play clips of famous orators and have students observe their gestures.

Students are required to use a visual aide for this speech. They have the choice between creating the visual aide (e.g. a poster advertising the book) or bringing in an item related to the topic of the book (e.g. for a baseball book, a news article from the same time period as the book, or memorabilia that relates to the book). Using the visual aid is an easy way for students to include gesture into a speech.

This is a timed speech and should be between two and three minutes.

Students are expected to:

  1. Use all of the Podium Points learned previously.
  2. Use gestures and have confident posture.
  3. Greet their audience.
  4. Discuss the literary elements of the book: main character, theme and plot (without giving away the ending).
    Share if they liked or didn’t like the book, and offer reasons why.
  5. Have confident posture, with feet solidly on the floor, standing calmly.
  6. Use gestures.
  7. Show their visual aid and explain how it relates to the book. The visual aid must add to the understanding of the book or author of the book.
  8. Ask if there are any questions about the book.
  9. End the speech with “thank you.”

After the speech, students spend two minutes giving warm and cool feedback.


Classroom Activity Seven

Teaching Speech

In this speech, students teach something to the entire class. To help students decide their lesson topic, offer some suggestions. This helps students to focus their ideas, so they select something they will feel confident teaching. Some suggestions: origami, how to draw something, a sports strategy, how to do a card trick, a dance step or a simple craft project.

By lesson seven, all of the Podium Points have been introduced. Students are now assessed on their use of all Podium Points and speech requirements.

This is a timed speech and should be between three and five minutes.

Students are expected to:

  1. Use all of the Podium Points.
  2. Greet the audience.
  3. Include what the class will be learning in their speech introduction.
  4. If teaching a step-by-step lesson, circulate around the room to assist classmates when needed.
  5. Provide all the required materials, enough for every student.
  6. Answer any questions the audience might have.
  7. End the speech with “thank you.”

After the speech, the class spends two minutes giving warm and cool feedback.


Classroom Activity Eight

This I Believe

In this speech, students speak about a topic important to them. This speech introduces students to the art of persuasive speech. Students should be encouraged to think about what matters to them, and to select a topic they feel passionately about.  As they write their speeches, students should consider what they want the audience to know, understand and do about the topic as a result of listening to their speech. The speech must include a call to action to the audience.

This is speech includes a research component, to help students understand their issue, find evidence to support their belief, and learn about any opposing points of view. Students will need to be provided with time for research. Length of instructional time dedicated conducting research should be determined according to grade level and how much time the school curriculum will allow.

After researching the topic, the writing process begins. In-class time devoted to writing should be a minimum of three days. Consider a process that includes students writing drafts, editing and rewriting. This I Believe has an excellent teaching guide on how to help students write their own statements.

Our original speech writing lesson also has several useful techniques for helping students write their own speeches.

This is a timed speech and must be at least 1 minute 50 seconds, and no longer than 2 minutes 10 seconds.

Students are expected to:

  1. Use all of the Podium Points.
  2. Greet the audience.
  3. Include a personal belief.
  4. Share a personal story to highlight their belief.
  5. Explain why this topic is important to them.
  6. Include a call to action.
  7. End the speech with “thank you.”

After the speech, students spend two minutes giving warm and cool feedback.


Each speech includes an individual rubric for assessment.