Most Thursday evenings you could find us all in the family room, seated comfortably, and focused on the old white, tall hamper turned upside-down. That was the makeshift podium our kids used for their weekly oral presentations.
Fondly known as “Oral Presentation Night,” and documented on our oversized monthly calendar as “OPN,” it was something we all came to look forward to.
The hamper would get emptied of its dirty contents and placed upside-down on the family room floor. Whoever wanted to go first went first.
The rules were easy. Come prepared to give a talk on something of interest and bring a visual of some sort. Each presentation was followed by applause (of course!) and then by a Q and A, so the speaker had to be knowledgeable about their topic.
We would occasionally offer a helpful tip, something they could work on for next time. The presentations were never negatively critiqued.
All ages participated, from the preschooler to the college student returning home from college on break. (Not because he had to, but because it was fun.) My husband and I did not participate, although I think I did once, prior to a speaking engagement.
The topics were usually easy for the kids to come up with since they were avid readers and most had broad interests.
Some of the oral presentations that I can remember are Ponce De Leone, Kitty Cats, Legos, Our Freedoms, Abe Lincoln, and book reports and reviews, just to name a few.
Our daughter who was into dogs could speak on everything from different dog breeds to dog training. Our son who was obsessed with Legos could stretch out his Lego topics in many ways, including how Legos were made.
Three decades ago when we first started this, my twenty-something self did not have a clue about the vast benefits that our children would acquire through this practice.
Critical thinking and organizational skills were honed (even at those young ages) since the kids had to organize their thoughts in order to present them.
Communication skills blossomed as we encouraged eye contact, enunciation, and being clear and succinct.
Fears were overcome and confidence was gained.
Creative skills were enhanced as well. Since visual aids were required, the kids created posters and artwork, designed costumes, fashioned figures from things like Legos, origami, and wax, and brought in things from the outdoors.
Some of our kids went on to be award-winning speakers through Speech and Debate and Toastmasters. Some of our kids, as adults, are required to speak publicly, from the lawyer in the courtroom to the lobbyist in Washington, DC. None of our kids fear public speaking and they are all good communicators.
But more than that, I think it is one of the things that helped create the well-rounded, competent, and confident adults they are today.