At Spark, we think it’s important for the teachers to talk to you, as students and parents, about the work we’re doing in our lessons. Spark is about useful, honest and fun education. We’re always looking for ways to link our work to the real world. One day our students will be adults and we hope to give them the understanding and skills they’ll need when we get there. That’s why over the last couple of weeks in English we have held a Spark Election with our Year 9 students.
A lot of our students find the idea of writing and giving speeches terrifying. Not only is this a key skill students will have to demonstrate during their GCSEs, but many job interviews will ask students to give presentations. Talking in front of others confidently is something we all have to do at during our lives. This is what makes it such an important topic for us to cover at Spark.
We started by thinking about persuasive writing. Looking at speeches by others helped students understand how techniques like rhetorical questions and repetition can be used to get your point across. We compared speeches by Barrack Obama and James Corden (as his well-known character Smithy) to see how even comedy and political speeches use these techniques.
Once the students were happy with how to use different persuasive techniques, it was time to start thinking about writing a political speech. As a class we talked about what political parties are and what they do in our country. It was important for us to understand fringe parties too. Our political parties wouldn’t be mainstream. We split our classes into groups and gave them a fictional political party.
Splitting the classes into groups meant that they would have to work as a team – not just to write their speeches but to complete their manifesto and agree on policies for all of the important areas of politics. They were able to consider and explore different opinions on tax, education, health, immigration and crime among other ideas. It was fantastic to hear as students started to think about the wider implications of their ideas. Each group had long discussions on what public opinions on their ideas might be before they agreed on policies!
After the policy decisions had been made and the speeches written, it was finally time for groups to deliver their speeches. The nominated Party Leader from each group introduced the speeches and every member of the group needed to speak. The speeches were all very impressive. It was clear that not only had the groups worked hard to write an effective speech, but they’d deliberated over policy details to try and increase their chance of winning the election.
Voting and Results
After the speeches, it was time to vote. Every student received an ballot paper to cast their vote.
We wanted everything to be as close to a real election as possible. The votes were all anonymous and counted up to discover the winners. You can watch one of our winning speeches below!
So… why political speeches?
Over the course of the two lessons our Year 9 classes learnt how to write and present speeches effectively. They evaluated each other’s speeches and completed a self evaluation to help themselves when they next cover speech writing. Our students also had a crash course in how our democracy works. In fact, they participated in it! Spark is all about preparing our students for the future. Exploring politics at the same time as speeches gave our students a glimpse of real world issues.
In a time when so few young people take an interest in politics, hopefully our work will encourage future voters to take notice. One day they could even be putting their speech skills to working in politics themselves. I can’t think of a better outcome than that!