How to Write a Graduation Speech

“Eloquent speech is not from lip to ear, but rather from heart to heart.”

-William Jennings Bryan

Our Grade 8 students are in the midst of putting the final touches on perhaps one of the most significant speeches they’ve given in their young lives—the speech they will deliver at their graduation on June 9. They’ve been working on their speeches for a few weeks now, but in many ways, their preparation has been years in the making.

From the first time our youngest first graders perform their class play on stage in front of the school, to leading our school assemblies as our 8th graders do, there is a lesson or unit in every grade that is preparing the students for this speech. As we mentioned in last week’s blog post, Grades 3 and 4 present to fellow students and parents on a chosen state and historical figure during the State Fair and Wax Museum respectively. By Grade 5, they are writing an in-depth series of essays on the Roman Empire, further enhancing their writing skills.

When they reach Middle School, the students learn to write in detailed and descriptive ways about seemingly small moments in their lives. All the while, they are also reading literature that shows them what good writing looks like.

By the time they reach their Grade 8 year, the students are making several speeches in class and reading great historical speeches as well. The spring of Grade 8 culminates in the writing of their graduation speech. Starting in early May, the students start by writing about whatever comes to mind, whether it be a memory, specific happening or person that they’d like to incorporate into the speech. They create a rough draft which they read to their fellow eighth graders.

“The students give each other very constructive suggestions and ask good questions throughout the process. They offer praise and comments and it’s a great way for the students to see whether they’ve hit their mark and what parts of their speech need re-working,” says Middle School Humanities teacher, Hilary Huse.

Mrs. Huse works with each student individually and asks the students to focus on a theme, quote or message for the speech, to make it a cohesive whole. The students also begin to realize that the speech is for the audience and not necessarily for themselves. After re-drafting their speech and delivering it to their peers once again, they make their final changes. It is safe to say that on Graduation Day, the Grade 8 students are thoroughly prepared to give not only their speech, but also know exactly how to draft, hone and deliver another speech in the future.

“In many ways, the whole process helps the students come to terms with the fact that they are leaving and can be very therapeutic,” says Mrs. Huse.

While the speech our eighth grade students give at Graduation only lasts a few minutes, the Green Hedges program spends years preparing them to make the most of their moment.