Please Note: This review is quite dated. Beginning Public Speaking has undergone a revision and no longer includes a DVD component.
Teresa Moon says in Beginning Public Speaking that all Christians "CAN and MUST" learn to communicate effectively. Our life and faith centers around a message, and that message must be conveyed to believers and unbelievers alike. This course is intended to start children toward good communication skills at an early age.
It's not just intended to teach kids how to give a speech, however. Beginning Public Speaking is designed to strengthen skills such as mental organization, articulation, and physical presentation, build confidence, and show Christian students how to speak in such a way that their point is made and Christ is honored.
How Does This Work?
Designed for grades 1-6, Beginning Public Speaking consists of a teacher's guide, a 2-disc DVD set, and as many student workpacks (consumable workbooks) as there are students. The teacher facilitates the class, though much of the instruction is presented by Devin Moon and Amy Curran on the DVDs.
There are nine lessons altogether—in the first eight the kids learn the principles of public speaking and craft their own speeches, while in the final lesson they deliver their speeches. Everything you need is in this kit; if you have more than one student (it's almost impossible to complete the program with only one student), they'll each need their own workpack.
Lesson plans for each lesson are included in the teacher's guide, along with some notes, lesson objectives, and the workpages that appear in the student workpack. An appendix includes ideas for challenging returning students, extra notes, and various odds and ends intended to help instructors. Guidelines for evaluation are also included.
While there are nine in-class lessons, Moon suggests that teachers plan an initial orientation meeting so that students can get a feel for what they'll be learning and what's to be expected of them. Expectations include what they should wear, what materials they'll need, etc. There are also ideas for arranging the classroom, easy facilitation, and more.
The DVDs include live taped versions of each lesson. These lessons are presented by two young instructors, Amy Curran and Devin Moon, in front of classrooms full of young learners with whom they interact directly. There is no speaking to the camera, just kids and teachers actually walking through the content in real time. You (the teacher) will have to pause the video at key points to discuss or do activities with your own classroom. (It's a little like a multi-site megachurch.)
Each classroom lesson will take about 1.5-2 hours. This is about as much as 1-6 graders will be able to handle under even the best circumstances, but there are plenty of activities, games, and opportunities for them to talk and get their wiggles out that this shouldn't be too much of a problem. Teachers will need to be aware of this expectation, however.
Topics include everything from the 3-second rule (count silently to 3 before launching into or ending your speech), to using humor in public speaking, to organization and maintaining eye contact. Throughout the program kids will develop their skills and craft speeches to the end of not just delivering a speech, but also being able and confident to communicate effectively.
Our Honest Opinion
There aren't very many courses designed to teach public speaking to young students (most start in middle school or high school), and Beginning Public Speaking is therefore valuable. Moon's constant emphasis on the importance of speaking with grace and for Christ's glory is refreshing, and the enthusiasm of her student instructors will inspire many kids.
If you're trying to use this with older kids, however, this enthusiasm will likely be a big turnoff. Many users say they've adapted the course for older kids, but that seems like a stretch with all the hyperactivity. The production values of the videos leave something to be desired as well (images go in and out of focus, you can see boom mics, there's a lot of zooming).
There's also a mystery that I couldn't figure out. There are two interactive DVDs with all nine lessons included, but there's no discernable difference between the lessons on Disc 1 and those on Disc 2, except that the latter are called BPS Plus Lessons, while those on the former are simply BPS Lessons. The matter is not cleared up in the literature, either.
Overall this is a solid course. Students will learn the foundational elements of public speaking while keeping Christ at the center of every endeavor. Because this is for young kids, those who complete the program successfully will be well prepared for a more challenging course like Jeff Myers's Secrets of Great Communicators. The content is good, and the focus is excellent.
This set includes:
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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