More than just idle chatter

Talking is encouraged in Shawn Quinn’s class at Camp Discover – in fact, talking is what the class, Tell Me Something Interesting, is all about. No one in the class needs help with the physical act of speaking; the campers all have that down (though some do practice more than others).

Instead, the class is designed to help students become better public speakers who are aware of their audience and who use specific strategies to engage their listeners. After covering some basic groundwork on Tuesday, campers jumped right in on Wednesday with an extemporaneous speaking exercise. Following the learning-by-doing philosophy, each was given an index card with a word or two on it. This would be their topic for a one-minute speech. They were given a few minutes to prepare and then it was go time.

Sophie P. kicked things off with her take on zebras, followed by an eclectic mix that included Google (Solon S.), The Incredibles (Kaylee B.), breakfast (Keira C.), space (Kale P.), cactus (Addie Belle P.), kangaroos (Lorelei A.), Europe (Aubrey H.), and turkey sausage (Katie N.). While interesting facts about each of the topics was shared, the day’s lesson came in the form of quick observations and critiques. Through reviewing the speeches, Mr. Quinn was able to point out that the audience assumes a speaker is knowledgeable about a topic unless given reason to think otherwise; that flow is important; that universal concepts like love and conflict are appealing; that facing an audience is a must; and that there is a lot of truth in the “fake it till you make it” mantra.

Students showed more confidence and poise on Day Two, he noted, which is a promising sign for Friday, which students will cap their Camp Discover week by delivering a longer speech on a topic of their choosing. Between now and then will come some research and more practice.