Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Ulysses S. Grant as Desdemona" or "Adventures in Speech Class"

"A speech is poetry: cadence, rhythm, imagery, sweep! A speech reminds us that words, like children, have the power to make dance the dullest beanbag of a heart." -Author Peggy Noonan

I love that quote.  Here at Sage Parnassus, we work hard at Speech.  Our K-6 program is especially rigorous.  Daily.  I'll get to that in a minute.

Marit (age 12) has been participating in a weekly Speech Class.  Parents can observe, so I've been watching from the back of the room.  She was assigned a five-minute speech on  "Generals of the Civil War".  As she is one of the youngest of the 18 students, I was prepared to help her.

She didn't need my help.  Once she got home, she started pulling books off the shelves and began writing.  A few days later she did a fine job presenting her speech to the class.  I asked her what she thought of her speech.  Did she think it was difficult to prepare?  To deliver?

She said, "No, it's just like what I do everyday at home.  I'm just narrating to a different group of people."

It's true that we narrate from many different sources every day.  She didn't think twice about reading the material and telling it back in her own words.  No need to read the speech for the audience, she just wrote down a few key words.  Listen to what Charlotte Mason says about the relationship between narration and public speaking:

"To secure the power of speaking, I think it would be well if the habit of narration were more encouraged..." Vol. 3 p. 88

"The act of narrating what has been read might well be useful to boys who should be prepared for public speaking. By a slight alteration of this kind... it is probable that our schools would turn out many more well-read, well-informed men and convincing speakers than they do at present." Vol. 6, p. 86

I would also add that the recitation of poetry, Shakespeare and other works helps with speaking in front of others.  We've both enjoyed the class.  I've even picked up some pointers for my presentations from her teacher, Mr. Lunn.  Here he is as "Garth" trying to make a point about appearances.


On a funny side note (and one that will explain the title of this post), Marit has an ongoing joke with her teacher.  She likes to quiz him with Shakespeare facts and quotes.When he assigned the topic of "Generals of the Civil War", I think he thought he would be spared any reference to the Bard.  Not so, as she found an obscure fact about the young, well-rounded Ulysses S. Grant playing the part of Desdemona in a makeshift production of Othello as a lieutenant during the Mexican War.  Who knew?

-Nancy





1 comment:

  1. Careful, mom, she's gonna replace you as the keynote speaker!
    I do know what you mean. On Fridays when all the kids give their presentations/speeches it seems to be with ease and confidence. Oh the fringe benefits of narration!

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