Portrait III: TEDxUPCS

10th Grade TED Talks

Along with taking over both sections of the UPCS 8th grade, I have also been able to teach Public Speaking to both 10th grade classes every Wednesday. My mentor teacher, Meghan Rosa, also teaches AP Language to a small handful of the 10th grade, and every year she has done a TED Talk night with her AP students. This year, because I was planning on having the whole 10th grade study TED Talks as one of  our Public Speaking units, Meghan and I collaborated on a TED Talk Conference, where all 10th grade students were able to write and present their own original talks on topics that they chose.

This unit was one of the most successful units that I taught with the 10th grade. Though it was a collaboration, I was primarily responsible for scaffolding the research and writing process. The students and I did a whole lesson on narrowing down topics, which ended with all students filling out a proposal form with the topic that they finally chose. Meghan and I individually conferenced with every student about their topic, helping each student narrow their focus or find specific resources that they could use to do their research. I had them complete a research graphic organizer to keep all of their sources together, and from there, the students began writing and preparing their speeches.

As the day of the TED Conference approached, many students felt nervous about speaking in front of a crowd, even saying that they did not want to. Two specific students made arrangements to speak at a different time if they felt too nervous to perform on the day of, but everyone else approached the conference as planned. Having worked with this group of students for the whole year, I knew that they were mostly uncomfortable with public speaking, and getting them to present even in front of just their class was difficult. This time, the audience was going to be middle school students.

Because UPCS teachers all attend a faculty meeting on Wednesday mornings, I was solely responsible for getting the 10th grade situated in the auditorium at St. Mark’s Church, where we would frequently hold performances. I ran the first two rounds of the conference on my own, and was pleasantly surprised with how well everything went. Almost every student who did not make prior arrangements went up and performed their Talk as planned. Some students were definitely more prepared than others, but overall, it was wonderful and fascinating to learn about all of the different topics that they chose.

One student in particular, Maribel, almost never wants to present or participate. Maribel performed her talk on why middle and high school girls are often mean to each other. This talk was so popular among the 8th grade audience that she was voted to present it again at the TED Talk night we were holding the next night. This was voluntary‚ÄĒstudents who had been voted in the top 10 were encouraged to come present again and bring their family, though not everyone who was voted showed up. Maribel not only came to the TED Talk night, but brought her father, who was very pleased to watch her presentation. To me, this moment is a huge portion of what made the unit such a big success.