4-H demonstrations offer members a lesson in public speaking

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One of the seven areas of the 4-H program to be taught is communications. I have had the most wonderful two weeks by going into Cartmell Elementary and presenting the communications assignment to the fourth- and fifth-grade students.

So many mixed emotions occurred in the classroom when the students were told that they would be giving a speech or a demonstration in front of their classmates. I sure did not want to add more stress to the students, teachers or to the children’s parents or guardians.

Speaking is part of the school curriculum as well as the 4-H curriculum. We communicate every day and need to feel comfortable doing so. When they practice speaking in front of an audience, students also will be more comfortable asking questions in class and talking with adults.

Public speaking includes putting yourself in front of people. Children find this challenging in the beginning, because they have self-doubt and fear. However, with practice they can overcome this anxiety and lose their shyness. This is an important skill to teach children, because they will learn to enjoy presenting projects and ideas to classmates, and to future employers without worry.

Childhood and adolescence are tricky times, as children experience peer pressure and question who they are. Public speaking is one way to gain self-worth, which increases a child’s opinion of and confidence in himself. Good public speaking contributes toward building self-worth in children as they reduce their hesitation and nervousness at speaking to an audience.

Too often, children feel that they have nothing to offer anyone and that others in the classroom are not interested, but this is the furthest from the truth. They also are afraid that if they speak, people will think what they had to say is stupid and classmates will laugh at them. Children enjoy listening to children and if the speaker choses a topic that interests him/her, the others in the classroom will enjoy listening.

From personal experience, as an elementary student, I knew I could never make a difference in the world because I was scared to death to speak in front of a group. I was convinced that I would never be a leader. I wish my teachers had recognized my fear and included public speaking in their lesson plans. If only I had been told that the feeling of butterflies was normal and assured that the more I spoke, the fewer butterflies I would experience.

In summary here are my thoughts:

• Speaking in front of a group positions you as a leader.

• You can make a bigger difference in the world if you are willing to speak what is in your heart and mind.

• It’s acceptable and natural to be nervous in front of a group.

• You don’t have to be articulate to be a great speaker. It’s more important to be passionate about your topic.

• The popular students are good speakers because they are willing to take a risk and speak in front of groups when they get the chance.

• Avoiding public speaking is the most detrimental thing a student can do to impair future success.

• The more you practice, the easier it gets.


I am really looking forward to the February meetings, when the students will be speaking in front of their classmates and practicing a skill that will give them lifelong benefits.

4-H camp sign-ups

Parents interested in sending their children to  4-H camp are invited to call the Extension office at (502) 732-7030. Camp is set for July 15-19 and is for children ages 9-14.


Joyce Doyle is the Carroll County Extension agent for 4-H and youth development. Call her at (502) 732-7030 or send e-mail to JWDoyl2@email.uky.edu.