Career & Technical Education

Boosting Students’ Speaking Skills in Career and Technical Education

Students can build job-relevant skills—and confidence about speaking in class—by crafting and delivering speeches in CTE classes.

December 20, 2023
Allison Shelley / American Education

Classrooms are quiet. More teachers than ever have voiced concerns about students’ hesitation to speak in class, whether in discussions, presentations, or responding to teacher questions. Glossophobia is the term for this fear of public speaking—one of the most prevalent fears in the world. 

In a recent meeting with ninth-grade teachers, they reported that students felt most comfortable, confident, and engaged in career and technical education (CTE) classes. This feedback sparked a possible solution to quiet classrooms: embedding public speaking in CTE. Below are five types of speeches that can support CTE students as they learn how to teach, negotiate, inform, interview, etc.—skills that will help them communicate well after graduation.

Demonstration Speeches 

Students need to be able to articulate skills learned. A basic demonstration speech will authentically assess their content-knowledge acquisition and skill proficiency. By breaking down a skill into small steps and demonstrating their ability to explain the process while informing their audience about the reason behind the process, students make their learning visible and practice job-relevant communication.

This can start with a minor skill like stripping wires. Students explain the objective of the activity, the tools they need to perform the task, problems that could occur, situations where they might need to apply this skill, safety measures involved, disposal of falloff; how to gauge what wire and tool they need to use, and other steps and strategies.

During a demonstration speech, the audience (teacher and classmates) can participate by analyzing the steps and determining if anything is missing, developing questions about methods or materials, assessing language used, and providing feedback regarding clarity of communication. 

To help students succeed, begin with something simple: prepping for a task or explaining the importance of a piece of safety equipment. The topics are infinite. 

Persuasive Speeches 

The powers of rhetoric—ethos (ethics/credibility), pathos (emotional impact), and logos (logic/reason)—will help students in every aspect of life. How might we foster these skills in the CTE classroom? 

Consider when a customer is deciding between fixing their car or trading it in for an electric car. What might a mechanic want to convince the customer of? Think about an addition on a house. What materials would you want the customer to use for studs? What does the customer need consider before making this decision? Think about a project manager who is developing a park in a small town. What might they need to consider or advocate for? How about a situation where a student will need to ask their employer for a raise—how might their speaking skills improve the likelihood of success? 

Developing a persuasive speech, applicable to these scenarios (which are all viable topics for students’ speeches), requires research, organizing thoughts, developing a claim/stance, identifying a counter-claim and dispelling it, and delivering the final product with sincerity and confidence. 

The classroom audience can evaluate the rhetoric of the speech. Did the presenter truly persuade using the powers of rhetoric: ethos, pathos, and logos? Where and how? Ask listeners to cite evidence from the speech that includes these facets and to create questions to ask the presenter to further explain examples or challenge counterclaims. 

Elevator Pitches

In elevator pitch speeches, students have 45 seconds to introduce themselves and convince someone that their skill is important and necessary. They must also convince the listener that the topic is important and they need to learn more. An elevator pitch is an important skill for networking and creating opportunities. 

Listeners can critique the speech using the TAG method: Tell speakers something positive about their delivery, ask a question about the topic introduced, and give advice to improve their delivery. 

Informational Speeches

To practice this type of communication, students can present information a;out a new innovation in their trade. Students will research something they’re interested in pertaining to their CTE class; information about safety equipment, routines, and procedures; materials used in the industry; careers; etc. They can develop a presentation and share the information with the class to communicate its importance. 

The audience can develop three questions (per person) about the presentation to glean insight into the student’s depth of research. If students conduct a thorough investigation about their topic, they should be able to answer many questions with confidence. 

Motivational Speeches 

A major component of any job is building a team. The motivational speech will help students motivate colleagues to achieve the mission and vision of a company, project, or philosophy. The assignment could include a different mission, vision, or strategic plan for each student. The motivational speech will help students support their team when things are difficult while continuing to support the mission and vision of the company. If students are able to lead a team with confidence and positivity, they will be able to better achieve a deadline, goal, or vision. 

When listening to motivational speeches, students in the audience can identify different words or phrases that speak to the mission, vision, or strategic plan assigned to that student. 

These five speech opportunities will not only help students speak in front of the room, but also help students grow their confidence for interviews and customer interactions, which makes learning relevant and applicable to their lives in and beyond the classroom.

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  • Career & Technical Education
  • Communication Skills
  • 6-8 Middle School
  • 9-12 High School

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