Beacon Lesson Plan Library

What Makes a Good Speaker?

Vicky Nichols
Bay District Schools


Improvement of public speaking skills doesn't have to be difficult or boring. In the first lesson of the unit, -Speak for Yourself,- students respond to a diagnostic assessment to determine what they need to know in order to become good speakers.


The student evaluates classroom presentations according to volume, stress, pacing, and pronunciation.

The student uses a rating sheet to compare and contrast effective and ineffective presentations according to volume, stress, pacing, and pronunciation.

The student organizes and effectively delivers a speech using a beginning, middle, and end.

The student knows when to use formal and informal English based on audience and purpose.

The student uses words and images that best express intended messages.

The student uses language appropriate to purpose and audience.


-Diagnostic Assessment and checklist: What Makes A Good Speaker? One per student (See Extensions)
-Internet connected computer with speakers OR
-A tape recorder
-Audio of Martin Luther King’s speech, I Have a Dream (See Weblinks) OR
-Audio cassette recording of Martin Luther King, Jr’s speech or another speech that demonstrates the concepts of the standards (Video option--The Speeches Collection: Martin Luther King, Jr. isbn-155607-009-8)
-List of significant leaders (See Associated File and Weblinks)
-Manilla folders for students' work


-Prepare or obtain an audio/visual tape of the speech, I Have A Dream. (cued to the correct spot) OR
-Bookmark the site for instant access in the classroom.
-Duplicate the diagnostic assessment. (See Extensions)
-Duplicate the list of significant leaders in the Associated File.
-Check out the Weblinks. (if they are being used in class)
-Obtain folders and decide on a place to store them for the duration of the unit. Middle School students are notoriously unorganized and taking this step to store their work will halt unneccessary problems in the future.
-Make sure all equipment is working.
-Create a bulletin board that will emphasize the GLEs being taught and assessed in this unit. It may be helpful to utilize the Beacon Learning Center's DO YOU KNOW THE CODE? handout as a center piece. Then, write/type the GLEs identifying number and definition on construction paper and post them around the DO YOU KNOW THE CODE. This can act as a focal point for the unit and can also be beneficial when parents or administrators come to visit the classroom.
-Begin thinking of your own examples of great speeches or speakers you have heard.


Note: The benchmarks listed are only being assessed in this lesson for diagnostic purposes. This is part of a unit on the Beacon Learning Center site titled, Speak for Yourself.

1. Ask students if they have ever been bored listening to someone make a speech. Allow a few minutes for them to name the times they’ve been bored. Don’t be surprised at the number of boring speeches they’ve heard! Explain that they will be starting a unit called, Speak for Yourself that will help them know what to do to become good speakers, but first, they are going to take a diagnostic assessment that will show what they need to study. The guiding question for this unit will be What Makes a Good Speaker? Tell them to think about this question as the diagnostic assessment, What Makes a Good Speaker?, is being distributed. (See Extensions)

2. Review the directions printed at the top of the diagnostic assessment. Read the prompt aloud and then tell students they have 20 minutes to respond. Make sure they know that while conventions are important, content is the most important part of this assessment. While the students are writing, circulate and remind them of the instruction to circle key words that describe the qualities of a good speaker.

3. Warn students after 15 minutes and then collect papers at the end of 20 minutes. (NOTE: This diagnostic will need to be assessed prior to Lesson 2 of this unit. Make sure to use the Entry Points that are listed in the assessment directions to assess the diagnostic.)

4. Play the audio/video version of the speech, I Have a Dream. (or whatever speech you've chosen) Be sure to tell the students who is making the speech and the occasion. After listening, tell students that they will be examining this speech as well as others in order to determine exactly what makes a good speaker. (Note: The entire speech takes approximately 16 minutes. For this lesson students should just listen to just the I Have A Dream part that is toward the end of the speech. It is very short, but demonstrates excellent speaking behaviors.)

5. Ask the class the guiding question: What Makes a Good Speaker? Ask them to think about this in connection with what they've just heard and to jot down on a piece of their paper 3 ideas that occur to them since they will be discussing this in the next several lessons. (Students can either save for use in lesson 2 OR they can place in their student folders.)

6. Review the standards and benchmarks that will be covered in the unit so students have a grasp of what standards they will be responsible for. (It may be helfpul to create a bulletin board for this process. See Preparation.) Explain that students are going to choose a significant historical leader to research in groups and that they EACH will prepare an oral presentation on that person. The oral presentation is one way that students will show that they have mastered the benchmarks. Assure them that this unit includes other ways that they will indicate mastery as well. (Some students at middle school do not like to present in front of others and will not do a good job even though they know what they are supposed to do.) Read the list (see Associated File) aloud or post it in the room for students to read. Explain that by tomorrow they must choose a significant leader to research and the groups will then be formed. Assure them that research time will be provided in class and that they will receive much help and instruction as well as examples in order to become good speakers during their presentations. (Note: If this unit is being done in conjunction with a social studies time period, change the list to correspond to significant leaders of that era. (Websites are also included below that offer other choices.)

7. Conclude this lesson by asking students Great Speeches Question #1: What's the difference between a good speech and one that isn't so good? In order to faciliate, provide examples of your own experiences. Ask students to list them on the same paper they began in # 5. Students should bring this to class for lesson 2.


The response to the written prompt is the diagnostic assessment. Although students self-assess in the next lesson, check the students’ writing for knowledge of What Makes a Good Speaker? Use the Checklist For Writing Prompt to determine the students’ knowledge and what constitutes mastery according to the standards and benchmarks listed for this unit. This information will help guide the next lessons in this unit.


1. The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page or by using the following URL: Once you select the unit’s link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, Associated Files. This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files (if any).

Web Links

This Website gives information on the I Have A Dream speech as well as other information about Significant Leaders.
The Archive (of speeches)

Suggested biographies for What Makes a Good Speaker?

Suggested biographies What Makes a Good Speaker?
People, Past and Present

This is the entire unit including files and instructions.
Speak for Yourself

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