With so much literature, grammar, writing, and vocabulary to cover in our curriculum these days, it’s easy to overlook the importance of oral language in our classrooms. Consider also how reluctant many students already are about “getting up in front of the class,” and it’s easy to put off teaching about speeches and oral presentations. But with evermore rapid advancements of technology and the internet, listening and speaking skills are becoming increasingly important. The authors of the Common Core State Standards put it this way: “New technologies have broadened and expanded the role that speaking and listening play in acquiring and sharing knowledge and have tightened their link to other forms of communication. The Internet has accelerated the speed at which connections between speaking, listening, reading, and writing can be made, requiring that students be ready to use these modalities nearly simultaneously.”
Looking for tools useful in focusing on verbal communication and rhetoric, I’ve discovered a great online resource—American Rhetoric.com. This site offers a great deal of audio, video, and text files as well as activities, quizzes, and more for exploring oral language, history, and rhetoric with your students. For example, they have a whole section of audio and video files dedicated to 40 different figures of speech such as alliteration and hyperbole. You will also find movie speeches, inaugural addresses, and more…and all of these are free to download.
In the classroom
You can use the vast number of multimedia files at American Rhetoric.com simply to enrich your own presentations, or you can guide students to use its resources to explore history, enhance their own speeches and presentations, or to bulk up their knowledge of figures of speech. The “Cool Exercises” section includes some excellent lessons that show students how to analyze rhetoric critically. For cross-curricular connections in light of the upcoming 10-year anniversary of 9/11, the Rhetoric of Terrorism section contains many audio and video files documenting the events surrounding the terrorist attacks. This is sure to generate plenty of discussion about how such events influence public discourse.
Explore and enjoy,