Speech Anxiety

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Ms.H, Nov 14, 2007.

  1. Ms.H

    Ms.H Companion

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    What would you do if you had assigned a project that involved an in-class presentation and a student came to you the day before their presentation was due and explained that they had "speech anxiety" (worried about peer comments) and asked about the possibility of doing it for only you instead of the whole class? As you may have guessed, this is my situation, and I asked her to let me think about it, saying that there would probably be some sort of penalty if she didn't do it in front of the class. What would you do? If you allowed her to give it just for you, how big of a penalty would you impose? By the way, these students are seniors, which kind of makes me want to say that there isn't an out to prepare the student for future unavoidable speaking situations. The students are very comfortable with one another, but this also means that they are sort of quick to give each other a hard time if they misspeak or something. (A paper is already part of the project, so that is not a possibility for an alternative.) Thanks for your ideas-- I tend to get torn between wanting to have high expectations and being understanding...
     
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  3. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    How long have the students known they would be speaking in front of the class? Sounds kind of fishy if the student is just now bringing up the anxiety the day before its due.

    If they are seniors and have been around each other since freshman year, then they should have no problem with giving an in class presentation.
     
  4. jenngugs

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    I might make a general announcement to the whole class before the presentations begin and let them know that you expect them to be respectful (no critical comments) and attentive to all the presenters. That might make your worried presenter feel more at ease.
     
  5. JoshCHT

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    I had/have issues with social anxiety and selective mutism and when I was in elementary through high school it would not have been possible for me to give a speech in front of the class.

    Even in the beginning of college I would skip classes where I had to do a presentation. However, eventually I had to do speech class and I was able to do it and get a good grade. By that time my anxiety had decreased a lot.

    If the student has a severe anxiety problem they might need an alternative assignment.

    If its not too severe, maybe consider letting the student get by with a shorter presentation than the others.

    Or allow the student to do the speech/presentation with another student or in a group.

    Students with anxiety have to be eased into things like this.

    In one of my masters classes the professor had us do impromptu role playing and I just could not do it. It gave me such a severe anxiety attack that I couldn't think and I could not bring myself to even speak. The professor knew that I had a history with severe social anxiety and it really embarrassed me and upset me that she expected me to role play on the spot without warning.

    But of course sometimes we have to speak in front of others and we have to try to combat our phobias, so just be supportive of the student and ease them into presentations.

    Their previous teachers throughout the years should have been easing them into it gradually until they became comfortable.

    It can be a tough situation because forcing them to do something before they are ready won't help them but always letting them get away without participating doesn't help them either. Thats why it needs to be a gradual process.
     
  6. GardenDove

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    I have a speech giving phobia, it is very real. Not everyone is cut out to be a public speaker, anymore than everyone being capable of being a star athlete. I think you should respect this as much as possible.
     
  7. INteacher

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    My suggestion - check with past teachers. Surely she would have had an assignment with a past teacher that included some type of oral presentation. I would find our first if she had ever presently orally for any other teacher before I made up my mind. Having said that, I do make all my students present orally at least once a semester. I explain that learning to speak in front of people is a learned skill and that being a proper audience is will be a part of their grade. One thing that seems to make some of my students more comfortable in front of the class is sitting in a chair. Not sure why but it works for many.
     
  8. Budaka

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    I was more sympathic until I read that she is a senior. I would tell her to give it a shot. Sometimes I will let my 7th and 8th graders to partner presentations. It is not as scary with a buddy along but they get the same grade!
     
  9. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Is speaking part of your curriculum? In NY and NJ students must be able to read write and speak effectively in content areas.
     
  10. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    I was going to ask if it is part of the curriculum, also. If it is, I would say she needs to do it, even if you make some accomodations like having a buddy, a chair, a shorter presentation, etc.

    If communication and presentation skills are NOT part of the curriculum, I don't see the problem in giving her another form of assessment (I am big on the stuff in the gradebook matching the curriculum.)
     
  11. monsieurteacher

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    But if the student asks to give the presentation in front of the teacher alone, that would still accommodate the curriculum for speaking. The student would still be showing that she can do an oral presentation, I'm assuming the curriculum outcomes don't specify the audience that is required.

    I would let her do it with you after class, and explain that in the future she should make arrangements at the time the assignment is given, not when it's due.
     
  12. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    As the mother of a child who had extreme difficulty with this type of presentation all through elementary school I am quite sympathetic. I ususally allow the students to present for me alone or a small group of selected peers (this is what I prefer).
     
  13. Iowa_Teacher

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    I know what you mean!

    I have this same situation. I have a student with Asperger's syndrome and he CAN talk in front of the group, but it is really hard for him. We're going to work up to it. I also have a student with a psychiatrist's note getting her out of speaking in front of the class. I'm not so psyched about that one because she answers questions, etc. so she should be able to do a small speech, but I do what I'm told. I make them come talk to me about it, though---at least they're making that step in communication. :)
     
  14. Ms.H

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    Thanks for all of your feedback. As far as whether or not speaking is part of the curriculum, I am at a private school, so I have a lot of freedom with what is or isn't technically "curriculum." I don't necessarily have state standards to adhere to.
     
  15. MsTeacher98

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    I like the idea of having the student speak in front of a small group. What about having her present alone, but tape her so that it can be presented to the class. Kind of the first step to doing it in front of the class?
     
  16. LI Teach 99

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    Students MUST present in front of their peers! My reasoning for making them is that public speaking is a must in life, it won't disappear, and you do more harm by letting a student get out of it, than to just have them learn from experience. I make an announcement that NO ONE is to criticize, joke, or talk when someone is presenting and that all clapping should be held until the last person goes.
     
  17. monsieurteacher

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    How is public speaking a "must" in life?

    I know a lot of people that don't do public speaking. They don't become teachers or politicians. Public speaking is not for everyone.
     
  18. GardenDove

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    I agree. Public speaking is extremely tramatic for some people. In my High School Oral Arts class I broke down and cried, I was panic stricken. Fear of public speaking should be handled very delicately as it is a true phobia for some.
     
  19. KDS

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    as a speech teacher and wife of a speech teacher (both of us in HS) i want to give my 2 cents.........

    first, EVERYONE is a public speaker....from telling a joke at a party to giving the state of the union address, we all give presentations through out our lives. We may have to tell our boss that we need a day off or we may have to tell a jury that our client is innocent. People have to know how to deal with talking in all sorts of situations in front of people they may or may not know. a public speaker doesnt just have to stand at a podium and use notecards to be a speaker or to give a speech.
    There are hardly any situations/jobs in the world that i can think of that you dont have to deal with the public and present an idea. Even the person at the fast food establishment must learn how to ask a complete stranger, "Do you want fries with that?"
    These are Sr in HS? YEP! They need to get used to talking in front of people. Its about to hit them smack in the face that its a part of life!

    Taking a speech class is very important to learn how to open your mouth and SAY something. Can it be scary and intimidating?? YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! it is the number one fear of most people. In a poll, most people would rather be the person in the coffin than the one giving the eulogy. But can that fear be overcome or lessened? also i say YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! As i went back and read the posts, i noticed that a few of us wrote we USED to be terrified of talking in front of a group. But taking a class helped us get over it. Will everyone who takes a speech/presentation class be the worlds best speaker, NO!!!!! But can you help give someone confidence to be able to stand up and say something? YES!!!!! does it take practice and work? YESS!!!!!!!!!

    How i used to handle this with those who froze up varied. First, i would work from the start to make my classroom an enviornment where you could talk w/o too much trouble. (i had a rather interesting way to take attendance...everyone had to answer a question of the day at the start of each class....and no one else was supposed to talk...so by the time we got around to giving actual speeches, it wasnt as bad) NEXT, i stressed over and over and over about how to be a good audience member and how most of us dont like getting up in front and we should all be supportive of the poor victim at the podium.
    We also applaud for EVERYONE when they give their presentations. Even if we are applauding to say, "Oh thank heavens she is DONE and i dont have to listen to her anymore!!!" We dont have to tell WHY we are applauding. :haha:

    I would start small and let students who are afraid work their way up to big speeches. EVERYONE works together and it helps. ENCOURAGE them. I have given out stickers and candy like i was in a 1st grade class for those who need the support. It may feel silly as a HS or MS teacher, but it helped some of them.
    As a LAST resort, i would let students give speeches to just me. Then to a small group, then a larger group (after school or lunch or something) until they got it....but i only have done that ONCE!

    Sorry so long winded....can you tell i believe in this? LMBO
     
  20. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    There's a difference between giving a speech, and then being able to have a conversation with a boss or make a request of a boss, or do a job interview. To say that you HAVE to do a speech in order to learn how to speak to small groups of people is silly imo. They simply aren't the same.

    Is public speaking a good thing? Definitely, I did my share of it, and for the most part, I enjoyed it. But it's not for everyone.
     
  21. Iowa_Teacher

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    I think that it's more than just the "public speaking" thing. It's more encouraging them to step out of their comfort level, which I think is important for them. It forces them to reevaluate a little bit----sometimes they can find a skill they didn't know they had. I have a student who stutters...she will still be doing speeches, but I won't be grading on fluency, etc. I suggested she do a speech ON stuttering because many of her classmates don't understand WHY she does. (This is a new development for her after an illness) and I think it would do her good to explain it to her classmates. Sometimes a speech doesn't have to be "tramatic". It can be amazing, wonderful, inspiring, educational, and helpful as well.
     
  22. LI Teach 99

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    There are plenty of things out of one's comfort level, but to just say "OK you can do something else," at a high school level is just, well "not a good thing." Throughout life we ALL have done things we don't feel comfortable with, but after each time we get a feeling of "OK I don't like it, but I CAN do it again, should I have to." I hated public speaking, but after my first time doing it I realized I can do it, and after many times of doing it I was able to become good at it. That attitude of being able to overcome things, and in some cases become good at it, is what's important. Practice makes perfect, and if a student is really uncomfortable with speaking to his or her peers, they can practice at home in front of their family, or with their friends. But I don't agree that students should be given "other routes" to take just because they find something difficult or uncomfortable. I found math hard, confusing, stressful, and VERY uncomfortable to be exposed to everyday for 40 minutes, but after successfully taking the Math A regents (and passing with an 86), I felt "Hey I CAN do math!" It gave me a confidence boost and I nolonger feared math (although the Math B regents was HELL!)
     
  23. LI Teach 99

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    That is true, but then again is math, science, social studies, or English for everyone? No--but we still "force" our students to take such courses.

    It is true that people may or may not "need" to do public speaking, but it's a good thing to know how to do. Just like being able to do geometric proofs or avoiding passive sentences are important, but do they necessary get used in the "average" job? No.
     
  24. KDS

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    i have to disagree that there is a difference between giving and speech and having a conversation with boss and/or do a job interview. They are very MUCH the same. You have one person who wants or needs to get a message across (the SENDER) and you have the person who should be listening (RECEIVER) and the information is being transmitted (MESSAGE) and it is a face to face formal setting (SITUATION). the only real difference could be where the Sender stands/sits. But is it a special situation? Where you want some specific result? YEP

    is giving a speech exactally the same as talking to a small group of people...ummm...you still have one person talking and hoping the rest of the group is listening and going to pay attention/laugh/take an action...so yep...going to say its the same thing.

    did i say you HAVE to give a speech in order to learn how to talk to people...nope...did i say it helps teach the skills for dealing with a group...yep...but lets just look at these message boards....it is simple and easy to input something over a computer, but learning how to say "i agree" or "no way...you are wrong" in PERSON is much more difficult.

    and i 10000000% agree with the poster who said we make people take math,science, history (which i totally agree with doing) to 'make them well rounded individuals'...therefore taking a speech class is similar.

    the original poster was talking about speech ANXIETY...and that can happen to the best and the worst speakers...but helping teach HS seniors be more comfortable in that situation is important and i would love an update on how things are going.
     
  25. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    I'm agreeing with the speech teacher, and I'm a math teacher. I think the ability to speak effectively in front of a group is so important that I make it a daily part of my MATH classes. By the end of the week, every single students in every one of my classes has gotten up to the board and explained to the class how to do a particular problem. Now, was it hard for some sudents at first? You betcha. I had a couple of them turn white as a sheet at look like they were going to pass out before they got done with the three minute explination, but, you know what? They all did it, and now they argue about who gets to do a problem on the board first.

    Communication is absolutely to most important skill in a person's life, and verbal communication every bit as essential to life as written communication. I do realize that this kind of assignment is prone to giving students major anxiety, but, there are ways around the anxiety (building them up to it, ect) and it is up to teachers in all disipline areas to teach our kids this very important life skill.
     
  26. holliday

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    I'm dealing with this issue right now and it's got me totally out of ideas. I have a 7th grade boy whose mom says he is unable to present publicly (even read out loud!). I've offered him the option of presenting just to me at lunch, taping himself and letting just me watch it later, etc. but he won't do any of it. He'd rather take the zero.

    It has come to the point of everyone knowing that on presentation days, he'll be absent. He won't even play grammar games with us! At this point (13 or so weeks into the school year), he's missed my class 15 times!!

    He has no IEP or Support Team Plan or anything like that so I'm disinclined to keep excusing him from these types of assignments. But what do you do with a kid like that?
     
  27. INteacher

    INteacher Aficionado

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    We have a very strict absence policy - if you miss more than ten unexcused (excused ONLY with a dr's note) then you do not recieve credit for the class. How can mom justify allowing him to continue to miss for this reason?? High school is coming and he will have to present for many different classes.
     
  28. holliday

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    Good question...I've heard that investigating educational neglect (excessive absences) is more costly than our district seems to want to deal with. It's really sad for this poor kiddo, and I'm clueless as to how to grade him.
     
  29. KDS

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    i would go and see if he needs modifications...perhaps he hasnt been tested yet.

    i would also deal with the absence problem. He would be dangerously (if not already there) close to losing credit for the class.

    Can you talk to the young man and/or his family? Can you give him an incomplete until you get to the root of the problem? Unfortunately, you may have to fail him to wake him up to having to face real life situations. If he and his parents say he really cant present in public, and are willing to take the zero, you may have to do just that.

    I would get an administrator involved. CYA!
     
  30. bonneb

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    Have you eased this student into the speech arena? The student should be eased in. I think it would be ok to let the student give the presentation to you and maybe 3 or 4 other students. This would accomplish a lot of the goals, and give the student the shot of success that will lead to future success. What is the harm if the student truly has the anxiety? Even if the kid is pooting around, you would still accomplish the goals if the speech was given to you a a tiny group of peers.

    I often have to ask myself, "Will this modification hurt the learning of this child? Will it accomplish the goal in mind just as well as my original plan?" If it will accomplish the goal, yeah! It won't hurt anyone and might give that little extra that this kid needs to be successful.

    What did you end up doing?
     
  31. sweetpea1971

    sweetpea1971 New Member

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    Sorry but failing the child for something in which he most likely has no control over (yet) is not helping him. It sounds like he truly has an anxiety about public speaking. He may have a mental disease. Specifically to you KDS--I guess if you were to teach PE and had student who couldn't play basketball because they had a sprained ankle, then you'd fail the kid for that too. Just because you can't physically see this child's disease, doesn't mean it's not real, and in the more severe cases, debilitating.

    Yes, the original poster was talking about ANXIETY. True anxiety is not the same thing as the typical stress. You can't be "eased into it" after 3 or 4 times. You can't just snap out of it--no matter how much you try. It takes longer than that and often the help of a psychologist or psychiatrist.

    If these students have an actual anxiety, then getting judged by their teachers as to whether or not they have an actual anxiety issue or just trying to "get out of" an assignment certainly isn't helping them.

    Maybe you should read up on anxiety disorders.
     
  32. GardenDove

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    I agree. This type of anxiety might be like a severe phobia. If a child is missing days of school when an oral report is due, maybe they need a reasonable accomodation, much like other 'disorders'. I personally had a problem, and still have anxiety over speaking. For some people it's a debilitating phobia and I don't think it's healthy to force the issue. There should be some leeway, this would be like trying to make a child with cerebral palsy play basketball.
     
  33. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    agreed
     
  34. bonneb

    bonneb Fanatic

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    So what happened?
     
  35. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    We need to be aware of the needs of our students and work to accommodate them. Providing an alternative audience (small group, teacher only, younger students) or an alternative assignment (PowerPoint) will allow the student to share their knowledge in a way that is more comfortable for them. As the parent of a child who went through some pretty serious social anxieties in his elementary years, I would never force a child to choose between standing up in front of a class and presenting or failing.
     
  36. bonneb

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    Mu husband went through speech anxiety in seminary! He had one bad experience reading in front of the whole school, started shaking, and had to sit down. This is a group of ministers in training mind you. The school was kind of hard nosed and his speech teacher was going to flunk him, which would have put him out of the school! This was a normal 20-year old with lots of self confidence, but the pressure got to him.

    Thank God, the dean of his school stepped in and found an alternative - he sent my husband to the Dale Carnegie program! There he learned public speaking from scratch, and he has spoken to crowds of up to 5,000 people. So, I am strongly in favor of bringing the speech anxiety person along slowly in a way that will help the person. If the teacher had had his way back then, my husband would have dropped out of the school and felt like a real loser. Instead, he met the goals of the speaking class in a different way.
     
  37. KDS

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    i do agree that alternates are the way to go if the situation warrants. I dont think you should automatically fail a student if they have speech anxiety. I suggested meeting with the administration/parents/student. If the parents and student know that he must give a presentation or something and STILL refuse, then failure is an option that must be presented. MY post said that if the parents and student are WILLING to take the zero then that is the end.

    I did more than my share of modifications for students giving speeches. I heard a ton of 30 sec speeches instead of 3 min speeches. The point is, the student has to do SOMETHING.

    Speech anxiety is a REAL anxiety. It can cause major problems for some people. But i think it needs to be addressed and dealt with. I have heard GREAT things about the Carnegie course.
    I would never advocate failing a student right off the bat. If i can modify a test or a written assignment, i can (and have) modify a spoken assignment.

    But again, i would say to get the parents and administration involved. I sucked at at lot of stuff in PE, but i did what i could. I think most people understand phobias and lack of ablility. If a student refuses to do ANYTHING, as a teacher, your hands are tied. As an earlier post stated, i would NOT fail a student b/c they couldnt play basketball. I do know that some problems that student may have dont fit into the specific modification plans of some schools. As a teacher, i think it is important to look at each student and what his/her ability is. A student who is just trying to get out of doing an assignment is a whole lot different from one who has a phobia/fear/anxiety. That is why i say you need to get the administration and parents involved.

    I also stand behind the idea that the atmosphere of the class can help. I always eased students into speaking in front of the class. It takes time. But i found starting off small (saying just one or two sentences at their desk when no one else is talking) helps make standing in front a bit easier. Not all teachers have that time (ie: you teach English or Math, you cant always do that sort of activity...hurrah to those who do!!). But for a speech teacher, i felt it was my responsibility to teach them that skill of dealing with the anxiety. I dont think a student with speech anxiety can "snap out of it" after 3 or 4 times (as an earlier post stated) But can i make it EASIER...i think as a speech teacher, it is the PURPOSE of my job/class.
     
  38. GardenDove

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    One thing that helped me with speaking was calling talkshows. No one can see you, but you are talking in front of an audience, yet you are anonymous. In nursing we have to give report, which is like a small speech in front of a small group. So it is good to work with these students. I did make it through my oral arts class in high school, plus speech was a pre-req for nursing, and I did survive, despite breaking down and crying, then running from the room in highschool. So people can improve.
     
  39. KDS

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    now THAT is a wicked cool idea!!!!!!!
     
  40. GardenDove

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    Dec 6, 2007

    I used to listen to talkshows a lot when I was a SAHM with my 4 oldest kids, who are now adults. I was rather addicted to them, we didn't have TV, and we lived in the Mohave Desert where you could get great reception of AM stations from all over. I would have my oldest son record me in the other room, since I was trying to reduce the amount of times I said 'you know'. My husband had told me that I said 'you know' too many times. I still say 'you know' probably too much, but I think calling talk shows is interesting and fun.

    It's actually not too hard to get on them. The trick is to call early in the show. I hadn't called one in years, but recently I did while listening to a talk show in Seattle. With cellphones you can call from anywhere. I got on and said my speil, it was like old times.

    Maybe you can make an assignment of calling a talk radio show?
     
  41. INteacher

    INteacher Aficionado

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    Dec 6, 2007

    One thing that hasn't been mentioned that applies in my state - speech is required by state standards. Speech is a component of every English class and in order to meet state standards speeches must be done.
     

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