Many people still rank their fear of public speaking higher than death. Glossophobia – the acute fear of speaking in public – is a phenomenon experienced by as many as three out of four people. It is a form of social anxiety and it can transform a usually calm, attentive student into a shaking, sweating, stammering hot mess. The English Department know this sensation all too well – most of us did not begin life as confident, extroverted public speakers... perhaps Mr O’Donohue was just born that way. Presenting complex information to an audience of your peers is a skill usually cultivated over time and with frequent practise.

As speaking is one of the five assessable ‘language modes’ in English – speaking, reading, writing, listening, viewing/representing – the Hills English team are always looking for creative ways to break students out of their shells and get them speaking! We hope that, over time, our students will approach their speaking assessment tasks with glee, rather than doom and gloom. If our School’s Mission is to foster each student’s potential for greatness, then we want to guide and empower our students to speak up and share their ideas and insights with conviction and clarity.

So what are some of the ways we encourage our students at Hills Grammar to cultivate their public speaking skills? Well, in addition to the array of co-curricular activities in Drama and debating, in each year from 7 to 12 in English, students are required to undertake a speaking assessment task. In Stage 4, students deliver their choice of Shakespearean sonnets, soliloquies and monologues to the class. This is always delightful as students embrace their inner performers, suited and booted in full costume (some even with props and make-up). In Stages 5 and 6, things get a little more sober as students deliver formal speeches that critically analyse the iconic texts they study in class, including JD Salinger’s A Catcher in the Rye, Kate Grenville’s The Secret River, the poetry of Robert Frost, and Ang Lee’s film Life of Pi.

Regardless of the form and content of their speaking tasks, we challenge our students to break through the fear barrier and find their voice. Through our extensive feedback, we support our students in their endeavours to become confident speakers – a skill they will rely on in later years. It is always gratifying to see students flourish as they unlock their own potential, blossoming into impressive, self-aware young adults as a result of finding their voice.

Amy Hughes | English Teacher

Image caption:  Year 8 practise their Shakespearean sonnets and soliloquies for their up-coming speaking assessment