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Public speaking doesn’t always happen on a stage or at a podium.


Participating in class discussions. Speaking at assemblies. Appearing in videos. Participating in club meetings. Serving on student government. These are just some of the ways Potomac students practice this critical life skill.

Sixth grade speech


“You’ll never guess what happened this weekend!” And just like that, there is a speaker, an audience, and a story to tell.

Public speaking doesn’t always happen on a stage or at a podium. Whether it’s sharing a humorous family story at recess, giving a presentation in class, or participating in It’s Academic on TV, Potomac students have ample opportunities to practice speaking clearly and with purpose.

Capstone project

The eighth grade Capstone Project empowered students to find a story to tell. In this project, students learned about various forms and structures of storytelling. They each produced a 4-7 minute documentary that captured a story of their own or of a family or community member. Through these stories, the students not only learned how to document a story via video but also the power of moving past a “single story” to uncover connections, awareness, and empathy.

Potomac students Lauren Hilliard and Abigael Lonkeng participated in the virtual ChangeFest hosted by LearnServe. The event was the culmination of a seven-month Fellows Program focused on social entrepreneurship that included students from 30 public, charter, and independent schools across the DC area. Each student pitched their social venture to a panel of judges. Lauren's initiative focused on code switching, while Abigael focused on providing financial literacy resources to underserved community members. Congratulations to both on developing compelling social ventures! 

Students pose with head of school

Potomac honored nine Potomac Speech and Debate Academic All-Americans at a special lunch hosted by Head of School John Kowalik and Upper School head Doug McLane. The four seniors and five juniors were presented with their certificates. For Potomac to have so many Speech and Debate Academic All-Americans is an impressive achievement: only about 1.5% of the 150,000 student members of the National Speech and Debate Association are named Academic All-Americans during their high school careers.

LOWER school

In the Lower School, young learners begin experiencing what it’s like to get up in front of an audience, as well as what it means to be an attentive audience member. Sharing Assemblies give LS students opportunities to talk about what they are learning and perform simple songs and skits for their classmates and parents. Class projects and special events like the Third Grade Science Fair offer more chances for our youngest students to speak, listen, and learn.

upper school

By the time they reach the Upper School, Potomac students have long experience in sharing their ideas with audiences both large and small. Through class projects, assemblies, campus leadership positions, and participation in co-curricular activities, US students use their public speaking skills to get things done. Synthesizing information and ideas, thinking on their feet, expressing themselves in an authentic yet passionate way – these are skills that serve our students well and will continue to position them for success as they move confidently toward the future.

middle and intermediate schools

In the Middle and Intermediate Schools, students are challenged to organize their ideas and articulate their thoughts effectively, often giving presentations related to their classwork. Class plays, divisional and school-wide assemblies, and initiatives like our fifth grade Invention Convention and eighth grade Capstone Projects help MS and IS students hone their speaking skills and steadily gain confidence. In the eighth grade, students may elect to begin participating in Potomac’s nationally recognized Speech and Debate program, which includes participants through grade 12.


One facet of Potomac’s focus on public speaking is our nationally recognized Speech and Debate program, open to students in grades 8-12, with additional opportunities starting in Middle School. Our orators and debaters regularly win state and national championships, and several have been recognized as Academic All-Americans in Speech and Debate.

Speech and Debate


  • be active, engaged listeners
  • organize their thoughts and ideas
  • use details, examples, and evidence to support their points
  • speak clearly and articulately
  • be comfortable and confident in front of an audience
  • develop leadership skills