November 26, 2014

The Super Power of Speech: Toastmasters Youth Leadership Program

Toastmasters International has put together a brilliant compilation of Public Speaking and Leadership knowledge, and packaged it for Teens.  I have been teaching the material to Middle School students at the Delphian School since January 2012.

Toastmasters calls it the Youth Leadership Program.” The kids like to call it “Jr. Toastmasters.”

I want to pass on just a few Pros & Cons of teaching this program to Middle School aged students.

To quote from the purpose of the program on the Toastmasters International website:

“Every young person has the potential to become a good communicator and leader, but this potential needs to be developed. The program’s unique eight-session, workshop-style design enables participants to develop this potential through practical experience.

“The program is not in competition with school programs or courses, or other established youth projects. Instead, it’s a supplement to these programs, providing emphasis on specialized speaking and leadership skills, and individual needs. Participants learn to:

  • Overcome nervousness when speaking before an audience.
  • Organize and present ideas logically and convincingly.
  • Listen carefully to others’ ideas.
  • Offer advice to help others improve their speaking and leadership skills.
  • Participate in – and even lead – group discussion or meetings.”     

PRO: Although this program has been in place for a number of years, Toastmaster’s updates and modifications have truly made it a gold mine for teachers, parents and students alike. It is well written and easy to follow.

You can order all material directly from the Toastmaster website.

CON:  The Youth Leadership Program can only be delivered by a trained Toastmaster and supported by a local Club.

PRO: With Toastmasters Clubs peppered all around, you can contact your local Toastmaster group and ask them to deliver this program to your school or group of children.

As of 2011, there are over 13,500 clubs in 116 Countries with over 8,200 in the USA alone.  2012 statistics are not on the web yet.

PRO: Middle School aged students are still dealing with self-esteem issues, for some as a priority over academics.  Getting them to stand up in front of a group, overcome their nerves and communicate something meaningful is about the best medicine you can offer.

My Rule – “What happens in Jr. Toastmaster’s Stays in Toastmasters.”

My kids are generally willing to follow this rule. They each have to speak and prepare equally. No one kid wants to poke fun of another, as it is too easy to retaliate.

CON: Since most 11-14 year olds have a difficult time writing, preparing and practicing for a 5-6 minute speech, I have found “Table Topics” to be the most effective way to teach individual lessons (gestures, vocal variety, etc.)

Though they are still required to write and deliver set speeches, I reduce speech time to 3-4 minutes.

PRO: All in all, I have found Toastmasters to be a well-ordered and helpful organization. The annual dues are very reasonable and opportunities abound to learn and grow as a speaker, no matter your age.

Whether you Home School or send your kids to traditional schools, this program can help teach your kids the art of public speaking and give them basic leadership skills.

Dana Houston Jackson

Delphian School – Middle School ESL Teacher – Creator of YouthMUSE

President of our local “Wil-Sher” Toastmaster Club, District 7 – Area #44

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