The Lit2Go free audiobook site contains over 5,000 audio passages including book chapters, poems, short stories, essays, fables, memoirs, and speeches. Most of these genres were originally created as the written word. Some, such as fables or folk tales started out as oral traditions, but are likely to have been modified in the transition to the written word. Transcripts of speeches, however, are intended to capture the original spoken performance. While there are of course no original audio recordings of Patrick Henry proclaiming “Give me liberty or give me death” or of George Washington’s “Farewell Address,” the Lit2Go site does offer re-creations of many famous speeches by professional voice actors.
Here are just a few reasons to incorporate audio versions of historic speeches in your classroom:
- All students, and English language learners in particular, benefit by exposure to a wide variety of genres—including ones such as formal speeches that they otherwise wouldn’t often encounter.
- Since each Lit2Go passage is available both as text on the web page and as audio it’s easy to create experiences for students to meet a literacy standard such as: Compare and contrast the experience of reading a story, drama, or poem to listening to or viewing an audio, video, or live version of the text, including contrasting what they “see” and “hear” when reading the text to what they perceive when they listen or watch.
- Analyzing the spoken message is given short shrift in many classrooms. This becomes a critical issue in a time when many no longer receive current events and opinions from the written newspaper, but instead from talking heads on the TV or internet. Students should come to understand that it is much easier to slip logical fallacies and propaganda techniques into a spoken argument than in a written piece where the reader can review the flow of what is being claimed.
- Pronunciation and diction skills are enhanced by listening to recordings of careful speakers.
- Because a student’s listening level is usually several grades higher than the reading level, using the audio version gives students the opportunity to engage with material somewhat beyond their reading level.
- Introducing the Rhetorical Triangle (speaker, message, audience) in the context of these speeches gives students the opportunity to unpack the history, politics, personalities, and social issues behind the speech.
- Students’ vocal expression is enhanced by listening to professional interpretations of the historic speeches. In a post several years ago, I suggested an activity of having students listen to a passage, recording themselves reading the same passage, and then comparing the results.
- Careful listening is an important skill in and of itself, but of the four language skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking) it’s usually not given the specific attention that the others receive.
- The audio files can be used to accommodate students with a visual impairment, those with learning delays, English language learners, or others who require additional support.
- A speech typically has a more prominent emotional arc than, for example, an essay on the same topic. Listening to actual speeches gives students the opportunity to become more sensitive to the use of emotional appeal and to identify its persuasive power.
- If students are learning to write speeches themselves, listening to a speech rather than merely reading it will help to drive home the important differences such as the more common use of pronouns, the need to orally signal transitions and summaries, the more frequent use of alliteration, or the common use of repetition as in these famous excerpts:
We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” . . . I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!
General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
Free Audio Recordings from the Lit2Go Website
Ain’t I a Woman? by Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth addresses the subject of equality at the 1851 Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio.
Speech to the People of Rochester, New York on the Hypocrisy of Slavery, July 4, 1852 by Frederick Douglass
Excerpt from Frederick Douglass’ speech outlining the hypocritical nature of slavery in the United States of America.
Speech on Lynch Law in America, Given by Ida B. Wells in Chicago, Illinois, January, 1900.
Ida B. Wells’ speech concerning the prevalence of lynching throughout the United States, as well as the racial bias of the judicial system.
Speech Cautioning Americans to Deal Justly with His People, January 12, 1854 by Chief Seattle
A widely publicized speech arguing in favor of ecological responsibility and respect of native Americans’ land rights.
The Struggle for Human Rights, Paris, France, September 28, 1948 by Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt discusses the importance human rights.
“Solitude of Self” by Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Elizabeth Cady Stanton addresses the Committee of the Judiciary of the United States Congress in January of 1892.
Is it a Crime for a Citizen of the United States to Vote? by Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony discusses her arrest for attempting to vote.
The Surrender of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, Montana Territory by Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce surrenders to General Nelson A. Miles in October of 1877.
Remarks from a debate on Capital Punishment; with Judge Alfred J. Talley
Clarence Darrow’s debate on capital punishment as presented to Judge Alfred J. Talley in New York City in October of 1924.
“No Compromise with the Evil of Slavery”, 1854 by William Lloyd Garrison
William Lloyd Garrison discusses the far reaching implications of the institution slavery in the United States.
Speech to the Virginia House of Burgesses, Richmond, Virginia March 23, 1775 by Patrick Henry
A transcription of Patrick Henry’s famous “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech made before the Virginia House of Burgesses.
Address to the Federal Convention, Philadelphia, PA, September 17, 1787 by Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin’s address to the Federal Convention in Philadelphia, PA, September 17, 1787, as transcribed by James Madison.
The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln
Speech given by Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863 at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Oration in Memory of Abraham Lincoln, Washington, DC, April 14, 1876 by Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass speaks at the unveiling of the Lincoln Monument (now known as the Emancipation Memorial) in Washington, DC, April 14, 1876. The monument was paid for solely with funds donated from freed slaves.
George Washington Prevents the Revolt of His Officers, March 15, 1783
George Washington addresses the officers at Newburgh in an attempt to prevent a possible uprising.
Farewell Address, September 19, 1796
George Washington’s Farewell Address was written to “The People of the United States” near the end of his second term as President of the United States and before his retirement to Mount Vernon.
First Inaugural Address, New York, April 30, 1789
George Washington’s first Inaugural Address delivered at Federal Hall in New York City, April 30, 1789.
The Second Inaugural Address of President Abraham Lincoln, Washington, DC, March 4, 1865
Abraham Lincoln delivered his second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865, during his inauguration at the start of his second term as President of the United States.
First Inaugural Address, Washington, DC, March 4, 1801
Thomas Jefferson’s first Inaugural Address, presented in Washington, DC in March of 1801.
Second Inaugural Address, Washington DC, March 4, 1805
Thomas Jefferson’s second inaugural address, presented in Washington, DC in March of 1805.
Annual Message to Congress January 8, 1790
George Washington’s first Annual Address to Congress.
Annual Message to Congress December 8, 1790
George Washington’s second Annual Address to Congress.
Annual Message to Congress October 25, 1791
George Washington’s third Annual Address to Congress.
Annual Message to Congress November 6, 1792
George Washington’s fourth Annual Address to Congress.
Annual Message to Congress December 3, 1793
George Washington’s fifth Annual Address to Congress.
Annual Message to Congress November 19, 1794
George Washington’s sixth Annual Address to Congress.
Annual Message to Congress December 8, 1795
George Washington’s seventh Annual Address to Congress.
Annual Message to Congress December 7, 1796
George Washington’s eighth Annual Address to Congress.
Annual Message to Congress November 22, 1797
John Adams’ first Annual Address to Congress.
Annual Message to Congress December 8, 1798
John Adams’ second Annual Address to Congress.
Annual Message to Congress December 3, 1799
John Adams’ third Annual Address to Congress.
Annual Message to Congress November 22, 1800
John Adams’ fourth Annual Address to Congress.
Annual Message to Congress December 8, 1801
Thomas Jefferson’s first Annual Address to Congress.
Annual Message to Congress December 15, 1802
Thomas Jefferson’s second Annual Address to Congress.
Annual Message to Congress October 17, 1803
Thomas Jefferson’s third Annual Address to Congress.
Annual Message to Congress November 8, 1804
Thomas Jefferson’s fourth Annual Address to Congress.
Annual Message to Congress December 3, 1805
Thomas Jefferson’s fifth Annual Address to Congress.
Annual Message to Congress December 2, 1806
Thomas Jefferson’s sixth Annual Address to Congress.
Annual Message to Congress October 27, 1807
Thomas Jefferson’s seventh Annual Address to Congress.
Additional Lit2Go Posts
- Lit2Go: Grade 4 Reading Activities for Home and School
- Lit2Go: Grade 5 Reading Activities for Home and School
- Lit2Go: Grade 6 Reading Activities for Home and School
- Lit2Go: Grade 7 Reading Activities for Home and School
- Lit2Go: Grade 8 Reading Activities for Home and School
- Lit2Go: Grade 9 Reading Activities for Home and School
- Lit2Go: Grade 10 Reading Activities for Home and School
- Lit2Go: Grade 11 Reading Activities for Home and School
- Lit2Go: Grade 12 Reading Activities for Home and School
- How To Use Lit2Go Audiobooks in Your Classroom
- Lit2Go: The Soundtrack for Your Students’ Next Movie
- African-American Digital Content Collections
- Tales for All: The Lit2Go Folk & Fairy Tale Collection
- Spooky Stuff: Scary Tales from Lit2Go
- Autumn in Verse: Poetry from Lit2Go
- Winter Pictures and Poetry from Lit2Go
- Spring in Verse: Poetry from Lit2Go
- April: National Poetry Month
- 39 Recorded Speeches and the Reasons To Use Them with Your Students
Roy Winkelman is a 40+ year veteran teacher of students from every level kindergarten through graduate school. As the former Director of FCIT, he began the Center's focus on providing students with rich content collections from which to build their understanding. When not glued to his keyboard, Dr. Winkelman can usually be found puttering around his tomato garden in Pittsburgh. Questions about this post or suggestions for a future topic? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To ensure that your email is not blocked, please do not change the subject line. Thank you!
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