Not a groupie for group speeches

Anna Simek, staff writer

As a sophomore at Joliet West, you are required to complete several different speeches as part of the English II curriculum. During second semester, students must give a persuasive speech on their chosen social issue. Although speeches are normally given by just one person, persuasive speeches are given as a group this year. My English class was told that the Central and West English II teachers got together to discuss the upcoming persuasive speeches and decided that it was to be given as a group in which students would receive both an individual and group grade.

Now, you might think that doing a speech as a group would be much easier and depending on what type of worker you are, it could be incredibly simple or incredibly difficult. Each group member is expected to contribute their portion of the speech, but this requires the not so productive students to actually work and pull their weight. For those students who take their studies seriously, this isn’t a problem, but for the students who wouldn’t complete their speeches on their own, it’s quite difficult to pick up their slack. Most classes were lucky enough to pick their own groups. This could potentially serve as a problem because there is always that one group member who is determined to do nothing and force others to pick up their slack. “I hate group speeches because you have to rely on your group members to have all their information put together on time,” said sophomore Natalie Fleming. Luckily we have the individual grade to rely on if other group members mess that portion of our grade up.

What frustrates me the most with this new assignment is the grading policy; considering this grade counts as a Goal test grade, it seems unfair to factor in a group grade. Another concern stems from the fact that each teacher assigns this speech differently, although they use the same scoring rubric. What one teacher does to help their students be successful with this speech may not necessarily be the same situation in the class down the hall. An assignment that serves as a goal test, that is scored a certain way, should be taught the same way.

I find myself wondering that if part of the reason we’re doing group speeches is to calm public speaking fears and to learn group dynamics, then why didn’t we do them at the beginning of the year before we did all the other speeches? Wouldn’t it make more sense that if we are required to do a group speech at all, to introduce speeches as a group activity first rather than at this point in the school year?

I’m not the only one who is not a fan of group speeches. “My teacher babied us and gave us basically everything and yet almost all the groups in my class failed,” said a frustrated sophomore student. It seems that many of the students I talked to were just as frustrated as I found myself while working on this group speech. It was difficult to find someone who thought group speeches were great.

I can appreciate that teachers are looking over their curriculum and trying to find new ways to teach the learning goals. But it needs to be known that this group speech is not being received well among sophomore students. Our teachers held a meeting once to discuss this issue; maybe this article can continue to influence further conversation and meetings as to the effectiveness of the group speech and whether or not to continue to do it in English II.