By: Susan Dugdale | Last modified: 04-28-2021
Writing a speech for kids and then giving it is relatively straightforward. Truly! Once you've gained some experience you'll find it fun, as well as hugely rewarding.
You'll follow exactly the same steps as you would when preparing a speech for adults but with minor, yet crucial variations.
You'll plan, make an outline, write up your notes, prepare cue cards if you need them, rehearse and finally, deliver your speech.
However because you are presenting to children you'll need to adapt some of the processes. Kids are a very different audience!
Use the on-page quick links below to follow my 3 part outline, and you'll be fine.
Part One: Background & audience research
Part Three: Rehearsal
Whoops, that went down like the proverbial lead balloon: Traps for the unwary
Your first step is to consider your audience. The questions you'll want answers to are:
- What age are these children?
- What backgrounds do they mostly come from?
- What background, if any, do they have in relation to your topic?
- What common experiences do they all share that you could use as stepping stones into your material?
- What level of vocabulary will they readily understand?
- what grabs and keeps their attention?
To get the answers, ask the person or people, who invited you to speak.
Once you've got that information you're ready to begin shaping your material.
Bear in mind the following as you plan:
Use humor and personal storytelling to get your message across.
Children of all ages love stories, especially personal ones. A story told well, with humor, will grab their attention faster and hold it longer than any other technique I know. Make it relevant, add characterization, (voices and appropriate body language), and you'll have every child listening.
You can find out more about incorporating stories into your speeches on these pages:
Use interactive questions, and instructions, to ensure they're following you throughout your speech. For example: 'Have you got that? Nod your heads if you have.'
Or, 'Wave your hand like this (demonstrate) if you can see the picture I put on the board.'
Get them involved by asking for volunteers to help hand things around.
Play simple chorus answer and action games like, 'When I say, who has got a good thinking brain, you say ME and pat your head. Let's try it now. Ready? Who's got ...'
Or, 'When I get to a scary bit in the story you're going to go ooooooh,oooooh in a very frightened sort of way and make yourselves very small like this.' (Demonstrate.) 'Now, let's try it together...That's fantastic. I've never seen a better bunch of scared kids.'
Where possible incorporate 'showing' as well as 'telling'. Take along things children can see and if at all possible, handle. This gives your speech another dimension. And don't be afraid to break out your silly wig, or a clown's nose ...
Check this page on using props well in speeches.
Once you have the basic outline of your speech planned you're ready for the next step.
Now you're going to trial your work.
Rehearsal will help you identify what you've done well and where you need to fine tune.
If you can, practice in front of several children of the same age and background you're going to talk to.
If they're old enough to understand, ask them before you give the speech, if they can help you make it better and collect their feedback at the end.
If they're not old enough, look for cues like looking away, looking puzzled, talking through it, or wriggling. If it's too long and without relevance or connection to them they'll soon let you know.
Children don't have filters. They'll show and tell you like it is. They're not being deliberately rude. It's actually quite simple. They're not interested and haven't learned to pretend otherwise, yet. Don't make the mistake of taking their responses personally!
Before you go on to finalize your speech incorporate your changes.
If you'd like pointers on how to rehearse you'll find them here:
try and give your speech without a word-for-word script. It might feel
safer for you but for children, listening to you read is not as
effective as you talking to, or interacting with them, directly.
Use cue cards if you can. Rehearse until you know it fluently and the cue cards are merely a safety net should you need them.
And finally run through the checklist below.
These are the pitfalls I've either fallen into myself or watched others tumble down. Knowing will help you avoid them.
Learning the hard way; when it doesn't go like you imagined it would and a great dark chasm opens beneath your feet and you find yourself rapidly disappearing down it, silly wig and all.
It's ghastly, and an experience I've had more than several times in my teaching career.
Here's what I've learned. Blaming your audience is letting yourself off the hook! When a presentation lurches sideways it's not the children's fault. The hell hole is generally of our own making. Any of these factors could have caused it:
There is a common sense remedy for all of them. Trial your speech in rehearsal! And if it helps get a trusted and experienced colleague in to give you feedback!