Making Speeches : Learning to explain through Games

Teaching Notes (Lecture, Activity)


Class Outline:  100 minutes

(1) Word Guessing Game  (see class 4 word game.xsl)

(2) Lecture/Discussion on Explanation Strategies (see class 4 lecture ppt)

(3)  Activity:  Explanation Strategies (see class 4 activity)

(4) Speech Outline using explanation strategies (see class 4 handout)

Class Prep:

- cut out word cards

(1) Word Guessing Game:

The objective of this class is to get students used to the idea of making speeches in public without preparation or much notes.


  Description:        For this class we will be playing a Word Guessing game. It works a lot like the card game Taboo, except this is simpler. You will need to prepare cards with common words on them. Words should be simple – nouns, verbs, names of famous places/people, something that can be described easily.


Game Rules

1.    You cannot point to the object if it’s in the room, on your body etc

2.    You cannot mention any part of the word – alphabet or half of the word etc.

3.    You cannot make sounds of the object, animal etc

4.    You cannot gesture and act out the object

5.    You must use English, you cannot translate the words into another language

6.    You can only pass once. Else if you know the word, you must try to describe it.

7.    People who are guessing can guess as many times as they want.


(2) Discussion & Lecture

At the end of the game, (1) tally points of each team and ask which words they missed. The missed words can be used for the explanation strategies in the next activity and (2) initiate a discussion about what they have learned. Use the example below, “car” to explain each strategy. There are three main learning points


1.    Strategies on explaining ideas and concepts

1.    Ask students how they explained their ideas. What strategies they used to explain. The most common and useful ones are

1.    Describe or define – to directly define the word. “Car : a vehicle used to transport people, has four wheels..”. This is the most direct and accurate way to explain ideas, but also the longest.

2.    Similar or Opposite words – to give a similar or opposite meaning. “Car : not bus, or motorcyle but...”. This is quick and easy, but people have to guess a lot to get the right answer. Not something you can do in a public speech.

3.    Examples or Categories – giving examples or giving the category word belongs to. “Car : Hyundai, BMW, Kia.. OR Car : This is a type of transportation..”. Effective because people often store ideas in categories, they want to put things in boxes. People also like example – they provide details and are interesting

4.    Word or Idea Associations – filling incomplete sentences or using common behaviour or  practice. “Car : I used this to come to school today OR Car : most men like women and _____?”. Effective, but only if you know your audience. When people have different experiences, they have different word and idea associations.

2.    Ask students which one of the strategies is the most effective. The answer is that it’s different depending on the what you trying to explain and who you are explaining it to. Good speakers should also use more than one strategy when explaining anything. This is more effective because their audience might have different preferences.

2.    The importance of gestures and using a natural voice

1.    Most students will try to use gestures, even with instructed not to. They will also be speaking in an animated way. This is because they really want to explain these ideas. Contrast this with when asked to make a public speech for 1 minute – students would be nervous, reading their notes and without gestures.

3.    Making a public speech using cards without preparation, and without nervousness

1.    In effect, students playing this game all made public speeches for at least 1 minute and 30 seconds with no preparation time and no notes. All they had was a few words on a card. They could do this because the attitude they took was one of a game. The environment was fun and casual, not tense and formal. So if students want to make a speech, they don’t need to write or memorize a script. The biggest challenge is to have a mindset of fun.


Word Game Strategies for Class:

Make if FUN and COMPETITIVE! This exercise only works if students FORGET they are making speeches and only think about competing with each other!

  1. Students come up to the front, one at a time and try to describe as many words as they can in 90 seconds.
  2. Create 5 to 6 groups and hand out a set of word cards to each group. Each member will have 90 sec to explain as many words as possible. Each group can time themselves (if projector does not work)  or the instructor can set a stopwatch at 90 sec via projector for all the students to use (preferable). (total time: 10 minutes).
  3. Create two or three groups. Create group names (use popular sports teams or companies) and for each correct guess award 100 points. Have a large stopwatch or better yet, project a countdown clock.
  4. If there are many students in the class, you can have two rounds – one where students have a fixed amount of time to describe as many words as they can and one where students have a fixed amount of cards and have to describe them in the least amount of time possible. It can get a little tedious if there are 15 students on each team.