Johnson Middle School Students Develop New Public Speaking Project By Edwin ryan, Greg tsougas, and sam donovan

This year, eighth graders from Johnson Middle School’s public speaking class, shared videos of themselves reading children’s books with Fisher and Elm Street Elementary schools. The public speaking teacher, Alison O’Hara, led this reading initiative to help the elementary school students read more. In O’Hara’s speech class, students have branched their creativity in writing and even wrote debate speeches on relevant topics today. O’Hara has helped create an outlet for middle school students to write analytically and share their opinions all while helping elementary students read more.

“My teaching philosophy, anything that we do, must have a purpose so children can see the bigger picture. I really want to involve my students in the community. My goal of helping the community was accomplished by helping the elementary school students read more,” said O’Hara.

Along with O’Hara, Technology Support Specialist BJ Burke has been working to help this initiative reach the elementary school students by finding and using new platforms for sharing speech videos created by middle school students. In prior years, elementary school students could listen to middle schoolers read via CDs, but now they can watch them read on ipads, tablets, and computers on youtube.

“Today, students can just record videos on their chromebooks at home and upload them to their speech teachers. It’s a lot more easier to share speeches because of today's technology,” Burke said.

Although the videos are mainly for the enjoyment of the elementary school students, the middle school students also have fun making the videos. Eighth graders, Sophie Theofilou and Lorelei Lee love their public speaking class and the class has inspired them to want to join the debate team at Walpole High School.

“Public speaking is by far my favorite class that we take, so I thought [the project] was something really fun. We usually have to do stand up speeches in front of the class, so to do something on our own time at home was a little more unique and was really fun to do,” Lee said.

Johnson Middle School eighth grader, Lorelei Lee's, public speaking video.

The public speaking students chose books that demonstrated a good message for the younger kids to make the videos more engaging and made the project more fun.

“I thought [my book] had a great message in it to share with the kids. It was a good break from getting to stand in front of the classroom because it was more relaxed,” Theofilou said.

Johnson Middle School eighth grader, Sophia Theofilou's public speaking video.

O’Hara believes that elementary school students get more out of books and reading from watching middle schoolers read as opposed to watching adults.

“Middle school kids have way more appeal to their students and teachers, elementary school kids must think reading is cool because the middle school kids do it,” O’Hara said.

O’Hara and her students designed this project to inspire the younger kids to learn how to read and to enjoy reading. The project also helped the middle schoolers with their public speaking skills and provided them with opportunities to utilize those skills by helping others. O’Hara and her students plan on continuing this project in future years to continue to nourish the reading skills of elementary school students and to motivate them to want to read.

"It gives the eighth graders a sense of importance knowing that their project is going to be shared, and that part's important to me," said O'Hara.

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