Severn News

Severn School 8th Graders Share Stories to Inspire Change

Have you ever spoken to a large audience? Shared something personal about your life or someone close to you? Public speaking can be challenging even for those who do it frequently. It involves a complex set of skills, hours of preparation and the courage to make yourself vulnerable to the onlooking crowd. As challenging as it can be, public speaking is an essential tool to create positive change in our community and the larger world. With English teacher Mr. Joe Christie as their guide, our middle schoolers face that challenge head-on with the 8th Grade Public Address.

What is the 8th Grade Public Address?

Every 8th grader must craft a two-minute speech that advocates for a local, national or global cause and address the entire Middle School with intention and persuasion. The element of choice is a critical piece of this assignment. Because they choose topics they care about, our students are invested in the research and motivated to create compelling speeches.

The Process

8th graders select topics at the start of the year and work with Mr. Christie along with Assistant Librarian Ms. Whitney Etchison to research and draft their speeches. They work through the writing process to develop technical skills and strategies including:
  • Research and citation skills
  • Introduction techniques
  • Text-to-self and text-to-world connections
  • Writing within a timeframe
  • Understanding of audience and purpose
  • Persuasion with rhetoric
They also practice presentation techniques like movement, timing, hand gestures and tone of voice. For middle school students who are hyper-aware of how they may appear to others, this part of the process is essential to build a foundation for speaking with clarity and confidence.

Check out a video of the 8th Grade Public Address in action!

A Community Building Milestone

Many 8th graders say this is one of the biggest challenges of their middle school experience, but also the most satisfying. Delivering these speeches gives every 8th grader a chance to find their voice, explore their purpose, and encourage reflection and action in those around them.

While this project is a milestone for our 8th graders, it also brings the entire school closer together. Eighth graders share their voices as leaders of our Middle School while 6th and 7th-grade students learn how to listen with respect as they observe what purposeful writing and speaking looks like. These speeches help students in every grade develop both empathy and a sense of belonging as they learn about the interests and personal struggles of their peers.

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