Eighth Grade Speeches: Pro or Con?


Eighth grade speeches have been around at BSM for about twenty years. Year after year the junior high graduating class has to complete a three minute long speech in front of a panel of teachers. The speech may only be three minutes long, but it requires hours of preparation and can contribute to large amounts of stress. Mr. Platt, the junior high dean, says speeches were implemented in the eighth grade curriculum “because they are a good opportunity to challenge students to speak in front of a large audience.”

Eighth grade speeches may pose many positives, but those may be outweighed by the  many negatives. One of the many stern rules requires the speaker to perform the speech in front of the entire junior high. Performing a speech in front of an ample amount of peers may help to introduce public speaking, but it can also stimulate anxiety and deepen one’s insecurities. When we spoke to Ms. Shea, the junior high principal, about her eighth grade experience she said,  “My speech was on cheese. It was awesome, but when I did my speech, it was in the Great Hall. You had to look up at everyone sitting in the bleachers, which was terrifying. I was extremely nervous. I think it is really hard to speak in front of people you know and that still hasn’t changed for me now, even here at BSM.” Ms. Shea is also on the panel of teachers that grades speeches. According to her it is one the best parts of working at BSM. “I love to judge speeches because most of the time it is new information for me. It is one of my favorite things. I might be a bit more generous in my comments and grading because I know how nerve racking it is to do an eighth grade speech.”

The heaps of work required to perform a satisfactory speech can add more weight to the shoulders of the student. This extra weight can contribute to additional stress and can cause grades to teeter.  Lacking the option of working on the speech in school amplifies the amount of homework that a student receives, which can also increase stress levels. For many students their eighth grade speech is not looked forward to and they can spend days dreading the upcoming event. For students, the eighth grade speech is not thought of as something that  strengthens communication and organization skills, but is merely another project we somehow have to complete.

Although terrifying, eighth grade speeches have many positives. Speaking in front of large crowds is essential for many occupations and can improve critical thinking and personal development. As Ms. Shea said, “It is a skill that everyone will use in high school, in college, and in their jobs. It prepares students to learn how to speak in front of large groups of people.” When assembling a speech you have to think about organization, persuasive strategies, and language, which prepares students for many challenges they may face in their futures. Public speaking also forces students to analyze their communication methods and to work on getting a clear message across in a short amount of time. However, public speaking comes with a lot insecurities and fears, in fact it is the number one fear of most people. Eighth grade speeches teach students to conquer public speaking phobias early on and can boost self-esteem and be empowering.

The question of whether eighth grade speeches are a good or bad idea may continue to be a controversial topic. Eighth grade speeches have been around for twenty years, which means there has been twenty years of controversy. Both sides of the argument prove valid points. Are eighth grade speeches good for students? The answer to the question lies in your opinion.