Across the journey: public speaking - Aspen Country Day School


Across the journey: public speaking

December 13, 2022

Being an effective communicator requires strong listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills, all of which are cornerstones of an Aspen Country Day School education. ACDS strives to graduate students who are confident and self-aware; curious and resourceful. Why the emphasis on these particular traits? Because they’re essential for a life of learning, critical thinking, and contributing to the greater good. Compelling public speakers inspire and gain trust from their audience. The results can influence decisions and inspire change.  

Whether it’s dancing in the all-school play, delivering a dramatic Shakespearean monologue, narrating a science project slide deck, or speaking at Eighth Grade graduation, students build essential presentation skills over each year of the journey. It starts with the youngest students, who are introduced to formal listening and speaking exchanges through circle time, read-aloud opportunities, and singing. Children find their voices through storytelling, self-advocacy, role playing, and the expression of ideas. While summoning the nerves to speak to an audience can be uncomfortable, through experience and preparation ACDS students gain confidence from these challenges.


Kindergartners develop a rudimentary understanding of stage voice, with opportunities to test out public speaking throughout the year. They are introduced to William Shakespeare and the Globe Theatre and perform an abridged version of Macbeth in the school’s annual Shakespeare Festival. They also practice speaking on front of their classmates during morning meeting.

First Grade

Taking on challenges, honing new skills, and building the competence that leads to academic and social-emotional confidence: these are the hallmarks of First Grade at Aspen Country Day School. First Graders begin developing the listening and interpreting skills necessary to become active members of literature groups. They also practice public speaking, presenting a variety of projects in front of audiences.

Animal research projects in First Grade, where students choose any animal from around the work to study, are an early stop on the journey that gradually helps build the critical thinking and presentation skills that are a hallmark of an ACDS graduate.

“The First Grade year features a Star of the Week, where each student has an opportunity to share more about themselves in front of the class. You can see them earnestly becoming more confident, poised and self-assured.”

Noga Vardy, First Grade teacher

Second Grade

Busy and engaged with their many commitments and responsibilities, Second Graders are in warm and welcoming classrooms designed to build confidence and competence. Each day begins with a morning meeting where students gain a sense of belonging and purpose while practicing life-long social skills.

Second Graders learn to identify, count, and make change with money in conjunction with an economics unit that culminates in an Economics Fair. Students create products ranging from jewelry to bookmarks, to boats and skis as they learn about profit and loss and what it is like to create a successful business, all while maintaining a budget.

Third Grade

Third Graders take a deep dive into research of historical figures who have made positive differences in the world. They explore a subject and use their growing public speaking and presentation skills to communicate what they have learned.

The Third Grade Changemakers Social Studies project gives students the chance to amplify someone from the past or present who has made a positive change in the world. Students pick someone to research with whom they feel a connection and then deliver a speech in character. The goal is to respect each person’s achievements and hardships while also finishing the project knowing each Third Grader can also make a positive change in the world one day.

Fourth Grade

Fourth Graders’ appreciation of literature continues to grow as they are exposed to a variety of reading materials, both fiction and nonfiction. Reading skills focus on comprehension of more complex texts. They review, analyze, and critique works as a class or in small-group discussions. Students predict outcomes, identify story elements, read “between the lines,” draw conclusions, make comparisons, and recognize figures of speech. They develop their skills in creative writing, expository paragraph-writing, and public speaking.

Homemade costumes and 3D projects are part of the Fourth Grade unit exploring ancient Egypt. Students learn about the fundamental elements of a civilization and how a society is influenced by geographical conditions and structural and economic factors.

Fifth Grade

Leadership is a theme throughout Fifth Grade, where students are role models in the Lower School and work to develop more independence in their academics. Fifth Graders’ reading and writing skills also ramp up, with literature selections becoming more complex and students learning to not only identify, but also to interpret literary devices such as metaphor, simile, personification, and foreshadowing. Increasingly, students are expected to apply their language arts skills to investigate topics of interest and deepen their understanding of both literature and non-fiction topics. Fifth Graders also lead monthly Lower School assemblies to give them experience speaking in front of larger groups.

Fifth Graders research historical Revolutionary War characters who contributed to the fight for America’s independence

Sixth Grade

The increased academic demands and independence of Sixth Grade foster remarkable growth over the course of the school year. Responsibility is the theme of the academic year in Sixth Grade, where students deepen their ability to complete extended assignments, collaborate on group projects, and engage in their schoolwork. 

Highlights of the Sixth Grade year include special academic projects like “World of Big & Small.” Math students scale up a common object using their knowledge of proportions.

“Public speaking is embedded in all the work students do. Whether it’s a presentation in Spanish or leading a Middle School assembly, they have so many opportunities each year to practive and get comfortable sharing their voices out loud.”

Morgan Atkins, Middle School Counselor

Seventh Grade

Seventh Grade is a time of consolidating academic skills and developing deeper interests. Students engage in collaborative projects, seminars, debates, and individual presentations to hone their oral communication skills and engage with differing perspectives while defending their own. Aspen Country Day School instills foundational skills for Seventh Graders to become critical thinkers and excellent communicators.

Teachers challenge students to convincingly state a claim and support their thinking with textual evidence. Students engage in increasingly complex short- and long-form writing assignments to reinforce sentence and paragraph structure and develop their essay-writing skills. In addition, students experience collaborative projects, seminars, debates, and individual presentations to hone their oral communication skills.

Seventh Graders practice an essential skill for modern life: to engage with differing perspectives while defending their own. They participate in National History Day, a nationwide history competition, to understand the past, put the present in context, and imagine a better future.

Eighth Grade

One of the highlights of Eighth Grade is the class trip to Washington, D.C., an immersive experience and an inside look at democratic institutions. Beginning the summer before Eighth Grade, each student completes a Washington D.C. Speech Proposal, which they then spend months researching, writing and honing before delivering live in front of landmarks (and, often, tourists) in our nation’s capital.

All the years of developing skills, methods, and passions in the arts then come together in Eighth Grade when students create, produce, and perform in a big musical at the Wheeler Opera House. The entire school comes together under the leadership of the Eighth Grade class. Eighth Graders also take on leadership roles during Outdoor Ed, Buddy activities, and Blue Green Days.

Every Eighth Grader at ACDS delivers a heartfelt speech at graduation. To speak solo in front of a big audience of parents, grandparents, and all teachers –this is a challenge that many adults would find daunting. But for Country Day students, it’s a natural evolution of the journey to becoming an effective public speaker.