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Chicken Dance Speech Class | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother

Chicken Dance Speech Class

The chicken dance inspired me! I was teaching a new public speaking class to teens and wanted a different icebreaker to begin the year.

The first day of class, all chairs and tables were pushed to the sides of the room. All students formed a big circle but didn’t know why.  Then I began to play the chicken dance – telling them the first class assignment was dancing the chicken dance. Some were more reluctant than others. For the fun of it, I wore a big, bright yellow outfit.

After we did it, I had them help me go through the steps of the chicken dance. When do we flap, and when did we wiggle? When we had the steps broken down, I gave a mock demonstration speech on the chicken dance, after which we danced to it one more time.

After we finished, I asked, “How many think starting a speech class with the chicken dance is stupid?”

All agreed.  So I continued, “Did anyone feel stupid doing the chicken dance in front of everyone else here?”

A few admitted to it. So I continued, “Fine. You have just done the dumbest thing you will do all year in speech class. Now we can get to the business of speaking in public and doing it well.”

I hate writing or speech classes where students spend more time studying the theory or art of speaking or writing than they do in the actual writing and speaking. The best way to write well is to write often. The best way to be a good public speaker is to speak publicly and often.

In every speaking or writing class, the bulk of our time is spent speaking and writing. We cover a little theory, practice, and then analyze what we learned. Finally, I encouraged them outside of class to read and explore their interests. 

We don’t teach kids musical instruments by having them study theory and occasionally experiment with the real instrument.  We do encourage them to practice daily and see incremental improvement over time.  When kids learn to swim, we don’t have them sit poolside to study books or videos; we take them to the shallow end, have them get in the water, and encourage them to discover what it feels like to move in the water.

The same should be true of the written and spoken word.


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