We’ve all been there. The night before the big interview/presentation/speech. Your stomach is in knots — and your mind is racing.
But the jitters don’t bother students at Krieger Schechter Day School (a co-educational, K–8 independent Jewish day school in Baltimore County). They have been building self-confidence in public speaking from the time they begin kindergarten.
Students at Krieger Schechter (KSDS) are encouraged to communicate their personal and academic thoughts as soon they become part of the school community. Lower school students at KSDS are commonly found role playing problematic playground scenarios, publicly expressing instances that hurt their feelings or those moments that made them feel proud. That communication training then extends into the academic arena as well. Students create their own research projects about countries around the world, or share with their class how they reached a certain answer when solving a tough math problem.
“When a child has an opportunity to share their knowledge publicly, they officially OWN that knowledge. That not only builds excitement around the subject matter, but it’s empowering and builds their confidence,” said Ali Tzameret, first grade teacher at KSDS. “The doors are open for them to start making connections to seemingly unconnected things around them. The connections are what keeps them stimulated, engaged, motivated, and looking for more.”
It’s that excitement for learning that helps to keep students excited about sharing their learning and communicating, even beyond their lower school years.
“Our students have amazing ideas, and public speaking is an important platform to share those ideas. Young people have a powerful voice that can bring change,” explained Kelly Platzke, KSDS middle school English teacher. “Our students are raised to look beyond their own community to address injustices and speak for those without a voice; public speaking plays a critical role in that mission.”
KSDS educators boost students’ public speaking confidence in big and small ways, but all prove to be powerful confidence builders for students. It starts inside the classroom, where students are encouraged to share their thoughts and learning through oral reports and daily morning meeting. And then extends to presentations that students give as part of “big” school-wide events, where parents are invited to celebrate and engage their child’s learning, too. The result? Students have a variety of opportunities to share the information they learned in authentic and creative ways.
And they do it with gusto.
“By the time a ‘big event’ comes around, the public speaking aspect of any performance comes very naturally and is really just an extension of what’s going on in the classroom,” explained Ms. Tzameret. “We don’t have kids saying ‘I’m so nervous.’ We have kids saying ‘I’m so excited’ because the presentations are a genuine celebration of what they know, not an artificial show.” Students are given practice in sharing their learning, their opinions, and their feelings each day, which makes the ‘big’ presentations feel less intimidating.
In the upper grades, each grade level is provided a schoolwide public speaking opportunity annually, in addition to frequent oral presentations in class. Students present a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day program, a Great Fruit Debate to celebrate the Jewish holiday of the trees, a Purim Shpiels presentation to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim, and a full scale musical production in Hebrew for the Baltimore community. They also hold a Social Justice Fair, where many past students return to speak about the work they are doing locally and globally to make the world a better place.
“KSDS students continue to use public speaking skills as adults, not only to further their own success, but also to give back and improve the lives of others,” said Ms. Platzke.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of our School Spotlight Series. Each week, we spotlight our partner schools to give you a glimpse into what learning looks like on their campus. To learn more about Krieger Schechter Day School, visit their directory listing in our Independent School Directory. Images were provided by the school. Want to become a school partner? Email us.