Pick up any five business magazines at the airport and look for an article touting the “Top 10 skills leaders need in the 21st Century.” Better yet, just google the title and you’ll find thousands of articles. Click on one. Look down the list of each. I can bet you there is one skill that is on every list.

The other soft skills such as critical thinking, collaboration and having a growth mindset seem to be included in some, left out in others, but the one skill that is always there is the ability to communicate effectively.

You might be surprised to learn that we start public speaking in kindergarten.

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Kindergarten Author Study:

Through class literature study and free reading at home, kindergarten students are exposed to a number of different authors and genres. Each kindergartener selects an author, gathers biographical information about the author, and shares a presentation with the class. These oral presentations can last between two to four minutes and are a milestone in the kindergarten experience at Powhatan. “Some make posters as visual aids, some will dress up as a character from their favorite book, and it is fun to see the different types of creative presentations the students come up with,” says Mrs. Lucas, a kindergarten teacher.

Building Confidence:

Not to be overlooked is the confidence that is instilled in these young learners when they complete their Author Study presentation. “It’s a huge accomplishment and you can see the self confidence growing as they overcome this challenge,” continues Mrs. Lucas.

“Research tells us that more than 80% of Americans indicate that speaking in public is their number one fear in life,” continues Mrs. Lucas. “So for these students to become comfortable with getting up in front of a group at such a young age is a massive boost to their self-confidence in school and life. Obviously you have to practice and practice and practice, but over time it really builds their confidence. It’s extremely empowering.”

Eighth Grade Chapel Talks:

It is no coincidence that the kindergarten presentations coincide with the beginning of eighth grade Chapel Talks each January. “Each week our students watch the older students making speeches to the entire school,” says Mrs. Scheulen, a kindergarten teacher. “It is fun to see our student’s mimicking their eighth grade friends as they make their big presentations in class.”

Each eighth grader gets up in front of the school community and delivers an 8-10 minute presentation about a topic he or she is not only knowledgeable and passionate but also one that the mostly younger audience, Pre-K through seventh graders, will be interested in and able to understand. The presentation is followed by a question-answer session. This provides the eighth graders the opportunity to share something unique about themselves, to teach others about it in the process, and to stand up and be leaders for the younger students. It also promotes younger students learning from older students. This capstone project showcases strategies Powhatan students have gained throughout their Powhatan careers such as research, writing, technology, communication, and collaboration.

“We hold public speaking in the highest regard,” says Mrs. Robb, an English teacher and the coordinator of Chapel Talks. “It’s a very thoughtful and deliberate process. And while I get to work daily with the eighth graders to hone their public speaking skills, the reality is that they’ve been doing this over and over since kindergarten.”

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