Robert Babcock’s Mastering the Lost Art of Oratory aims to teach children to speak and communicate effectively.
In this comprehensive workbook, Babcock emphasizes that “good writing makes speaking better and good speaking makes writing easier.” Through easy-to-follow activities, he posits that students will improve their speech writing skills, which are crucial to verbally communicating “with clarity and conviction.”
Although the author notes that this course has been used successfully with students ages 5 to 18, the assignments are geared toward middle to high school students. Babcock encourages readers to “work with a group of students” and that their “teacher will help [them] through this workbook,” which causes some confusion as to whether this is a student workbook or teacher’s manual. Older students should be able to tackle the lessons on their own but will need to find an audience for their speeches and feedback.
From impromptu speeches to memorized, persuasive or educational presentations, Babcock covers a variety of speech styles. A detailed “speechmaking rubric” clarifies the necessary ingredients for an effective speech, while peer and self-evaluation forms help students improve weak areas.
Additionally, Babcock’s vocabulary development exercises help students build a strong vocabulary, which he maintains is “crucial” to effective speech writing. Finally, a robust poetry chapter rounds out the experience as students practice articulation, style and listening skills.
The content here is excellent, but Babcock’s presentation is undermined by glaring word choice errors (e.g. “prospective” for “perspective” and “Forward” for Foreword), grammatical and typographical errors and other missteps (one prompt for a speech topic reads: “Should people with terminal illnesses have the right to doctor assisted rainforests?”) that weaken the book’s credibility.
Additionally, Babcock’s vocabulary enrichment activities, sprinkled throughout, are also included in a dedicated chapter toward book’s end, giving the text’s structure a disjointed feel.
Despite these technical issues, Babcock’s guidance is spot on. His teaching will be especially useful for group instructors, who will find much value in his course.
Also available as an ebook.