Submitted by: Lillian
I teach 3rd grade and to help them learn how to get in front of their peers to talk (which they will be doing lots of in the upper grades) we begin the year memorizing short and then longer poems each week. Every student is given the poem on Monday and everyone has to say it in front of the class by Friday. September the poems are really short and catchy. They get longer each week. The poems always tie into our curriculum or are timely. We move into oral book reports. We do biographies where they dress as their person and give the report in the 1st person. One book report is done using puppets. Another is a character book report. They take on the personality of one character and act out a scene in the book. Another is a demonstration: they demonstrate to the class how to do something - make brownies, tie different kinds of knots, make a lanyard, draw a horse, etc.
All students must give their book reports alone because they all have to read different books (I never let 2 people give a report of the same book - I tell them there are too many good books out there and the 1st one to pick gets that book and the next person has to choose something else.) For book reports, they can use note cards to refer to, but not read verbatim. but they will get a better grade if note cards are not used.
Often I have a few shy ones or those that just have trouble memorizing. Especially, as the poems get harder and Friday rolls around and they haven't said their poem yet. I will let 3 or 4 say the poem together in front of the class as a group. They want to say it after school or at recess when no one is looking, but I don't let them. I don't advertize about the group reciting, but act like I forgot to call on them and it is the last hour of school on Friday and in order to get credit for saying the poem in the time we have left that week, they will just have to say it all together. They feel comfortable with a group and to watch and listen to them, most of them know the poem perfectly - they just lacked the confidence to recite.
As we begin doing more book reports and not as many poems, I'm surprised at how many children ask "when are we going to do another poem?" They really like doing it and listening as each person get up to recite. They even clap when someone does an outstanding job!