Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Art of Brainstorming Speech Topics

One of the most challenging aspects of an assignment for some students is coming up with an idea. The adage that I subscribe to and teach is to “write what you know.” Currently, my students are working on speeches. Coming up with a topic is challenging because, as one of my students said, “There’s just so much you can do.”

There is a misnomer that a proper brainstorming session involves students shouting out stream of consciousness thoughts, whatever first comes to mind.  This method typically doesn’t produce the best ideas and is challenging to control.

To brainstorm ideas for a speech, I ask students to take a personal inventory of sorts. Individually, each student has to answer a series of questions in a Google Document titled: “What do You Care About?”  After they have answered the questions, students may share their answers with the class. From the answers we generate a Google Document where they can further review possible speech topics. All three sections of 10th Grade English contribute to the document.

After they answer the questions, I use the bull’s eye diagram to further explain why the exercise is important in the brainstorming process. For a typical teenager, the most important and central part of the bull’s eye in the self, next the family, then school, followed by other communities, and lastly “greater society” or the world. I hypothesize to them that their speeches will be easier to write, more authentic and compelling the closer it would fit to the center of the bull’s eye. This hypothesis isn’t absolute. Some student can take any topic, delve into it, and write a good speech. However, when students “write what they know” they may find the elusive “flow” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes about. According to Csikszentmihalyi, being in state of flow will help students produce better work and enjoy learning.



Persuasive Speech Topic Brainstorming Session: What do you Care About?

  • What are the three most important things to you about your family?
  • What are three things about your family you wish you could change?
  • What are three things about this school that you really like?
  • What are three things about this school that you wish you could change?
  • What are three things everyone should know how to do?
  • What are three things people take for granted?
  • If you had an unlimited amount of money, to whom/which groups would you donate money?
  • If you had to choose to take one class, all day, every day, what class would it be?
  • Where are three places everyone should visit once in their life?
  • What are three common misunderstandings adults have about teenagers?
  • What are the three biggest problems facing the world today?

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