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skillscompaniesdemandIt’s graduation time – and that means it’s that time for commencement speeches! Check out this great NPR collection compiling the best Commencement speeches, ever.

Commencement speeches are thought provoking, uplifting, and hopeful.  They are great to teach in your classroom because they have interesting, relevant audio content that engages students.

A lot of the time we emphasize communication skills, but don’t specifically focus on them individually in lessons. Instead, they become complementary to the lesson.  In order to prepare students for 21st century learning we must equip them with the listening and communication skills to succeed.

Many studies have shown that an ability to communicate effectively is a prerequisite for success in college, careers, and social situations. More and more employers are beginning to realize how crucial it is to hire employees who have good communication skills. Looking at the recent GMAT survey shows that oral communication, listening skills, written communication, and presentation skills are the highest skills in demand for new hires. Not only important in careers, communication helps us form relationships, encourages understanding among people, and essentially makes us human.

Because of this importance, speaking and listening skills are also included in the Common Core standards. By middle and high school, conversations and group work is more demanding and requires more than building on others’ comments and asking clarifying questions. Speaking and listening must go beyond the “turn and talk” opportunities and students must be able to present information to small groups and large audiences.

So how can you increase students’ listening and speaking skills at the end of the year? One idea is to study great speeches. Investigate the historical significance of a speech and analyze the implications made by the speaker. Improve your own speech writing ability or improve your own speaking skills by examining the text and flow of good speeches. Point out where effective imagery, examples, or emotional appeal are used.

Here are some great public radio stories you can listen to with your class to learn more about great speeches and to complement your lesson:

Looking to engage your class in a debate? Check out our current events every Friday for a new debate topic, or check out this blog with 50 persuasive speech & debate topics to try in your classrooms.