Speech Matters

Authors: Judith Field and Marissa Pinkas
Publisher: Aly’s Books, 2015, 88 pages
RRP: $25.95

With the oral presentation in the new VCE study design increasing to 40% of the weighting of Unit 4 English, and an oral component also being built into the Literature course, it’s more important than ever that students become self-assured and skillful speakers right from their lower levels of high school. Speech Matters is a teacher and student friendly resource that Field and Pinkas, both experienced secondary English teachers, intend as 'a practical guide for Year 7 – 10 students on how to speak anywhere, anytime with confidence', a concept that will appeal to teachers and students alike.

The layout of the book makes it easily accessible. Each chapter is concise and focused with definitions and explanations, examples and finally user-friendly activities, which may be photocopied for classroom use. The activities have been based on the workshops Field currently runs at schools, so have been thoroughly tried and tested. The text works chronologically through all the elements that are required in scripting and delivering a successful presentation, from ascertaining purpose and audience, to how to structure and deliver the speech itself in terms of content, body language and voice variety, and how to use cue cards. It also provides helpful hints on incorporating visual aids, how to minimize nerves and avoiding extraneous 'fillers' in a speech. There are sections on different types of speeches (instructional, informative, occasions) and how to approach teaching these, listening skills and how to integrate orals across the curriculum, which may be as useful for Science, Maths and History teachers as for those who teach English.

In addition to its profusion of engaging and fun potential topic lists, the text further provides some hands-on material for both teachers and students, such as the graphic organizer that aims to assist students in setting out their speech content and the criteria sheet for teachers as a suggested way of assessing students from Years 7-10. The text is quirkily illustrated throughout with playful animated figures, which assist in making its content appear accessible and non-threatening for younger students in particular. As well as its obvious use for students in preparing major oral presentation outcomes, the book might also be used by teachers for enjoyable 'one off' classes here and there throughout the term, with its lesson plan-like organization making this an uncomplicated possibility.

Speech Matters is specifically aimed at students from Years 7-10, although could easily be utilized by those in Years 11 and 12 as a check-list of 'do’s and do not’s' for their all-important oral presentations. It would work as a classroom text or a teacher resource, with its spirited content making it an entertaining way to encourage students to speak with conviction and poise.

Reviewed by Penelope Wood, Camberwell Grammar School.