In ninth grade, your students will be stepping up to high school writing and presentation expectations. With the more sophisticated oratory, your students can start to delve into more complex and nuanced topics. Suggest topics that connect with teen interests but that also encourage them to broaden their worldviews and consider new problems or questions.
Persuading the Teacher
To generate nearly limitless topics for persuasive speeches, have your students focus on persuading their teachers to do something. By focusing on teachers, you'll make the topic realistic and relevant to your students. Update this common speech theme to suit your high school students' maturity level. For example, challenge your students to make the case for doing more hands-on activities, grounding their arguments on pedagogical theories and research, such as theories of multiple intelligences, which posit that a class may benefit from a combination of teaching styles. If the students feel there is some chance that they will persuade you, these topics may inspire them to deliver exceptionally stirring speeches.
Connecting with the Community
Whether your students are focusing on persuasive, expository or descriptive speeches, giving them topics that relate to the community will provide a concrete theme for the speech and will help to inform students about the world around them. For a persuasive speech topic, assign students a local issue that has recently garnered widespread attention. Have students prepare by reading newspaper articles and opinion pieces. As a follow-up to the speech, have your students send letters to the editor of the local newspaper.
Colorful Biography Topics
For descriptive or expository speeches, have your students select topics about themselves and their lives. Encourage students to be creative in choosing topics. You might provide them with suggestions such as their favorite day, their relationship with their best friends, the most interesting place they have visited, their most interesting relative, their favorite possession or what their bedroom or their fashion style says about them. For a twist on the biographical theme, have students work in pairs. For this assignment, they must first interview one another and then write a speech about the other person, in the style of an extended, formal introduction.
Speeches That Share Skills
Let your students show off their individual skills by setting the topic of their speeches to teaching their peers how to do something. To create a well-rounded speech, students should introduce the activity with relevant background information, give clearly ordered steps, use appropriate visual aids and, finally, provide any useful pointers or recommendations for variations and extensions of the skill. Depending on the students' interests, they may present on anything from designing a website to strengthening a tennis serve to developing a character for a theatrical performance. If any students cannot think of a skill to share, give them the option of explaining how to do something relatively difficult that they have learned to do in class, such as an enrichment activity or a bonus problem.
Danielle Hill has been writing, editing and translating since 2005. She has contributed to "Globe Pequot" Barcelona travel guide, "Gulfshore Business Magazine," "Connecting Lines: New Poetry from Mexico" and "The Barcelona Review." She has trained in neuro-linguistic programming and holds a Bachelor of Arts in comparative literature and literary translation from Brown University.