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The Speech-bite

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Author: Christine Alfano

Course: PWR 2

Activity length and schedule: This activity is completed outside of class time and works well when students are developing their arguments for their research project.

Activity Goals:

  1. To have students practice implementing rhetorical devices purposefully in a spoken text
  2. To have students experiment with careful crafting of language
  3. To have students practice effective oral delivery
  4. To have students begin to articulating arguments about their topic that they could potentially incorporate into their research essay and/or presentation

Activity Details:

Set up: Part 1 - This activity requires set-up in class.  Two class sessions before I assign the speech-bite, we spend time talking about oral delivery in class, using an activity that I originally got from Shay Brawn long ago, where every student reads the same paragraph but with instructions to model a different type of exagerrated oral (and occasionally embodied delivery).  The rest of the class then guesses what type of delivery the student was modeling.  

Set up: Part 2 - Then the session before I assign it, we spend time specifically talking about levels of decorum, referencing this handout and looking together at samples in class (we start with the Christakis sample on the handout but then move to other examples that I switch up from quarter to quarter).  

Creating the Speech-Bite - They do the speech-bite activity after that class, using this assignment sheet; the activity itself is designed to allow them to apply some of what we've talked about to their own work. They upload it to their student folder on Box, which other students have access to as well.  At this point in the quarter, they have already recorded audio files, so there is no tech learning curve; most students use their phones or Quicktime audio recording (found under the File menu in Quicktime player).  As a tech alternative to Box/phones/Quicktime, you could ask students instead to post their speech-bite to a Canvas Discussion forum, which allows audio files and also is set up for feedback/response from others.

Feedback from Classmates on the Speech-Bite - Depending on the quarter, I often have students listen to each others' speech-bites and leave comments about them (each person listens to 2, assigned by me), focused on how they felt the level of style chosen influenced the delivery of the argument and how what they heard relates to what they experienced when recording their own.  I also leave a comment on it as well.  

Follow up on Activity -  In the following class, we'll debrief about what it felt to compose their pitch in high style and to give such careful attention to rhetorical strategies. Then we continue our conversation about style (started the previous class) to talk about how stylized speech and rhetorical choice are influenced by audience, purpose, and context.  Sometimes in class I've asked them to then revise it for plain style and deliver it again, this time live, in small groups, afterward having a discussion that once again asks about style in relation to argument and adjustments for rhetorical situation.

Additional notes: I've used this activity as part of my genre/modes assignment in PWR 2 (which I teach as a set of scaffolding activities in different modes across the quarter), but it could easily function on its own or be transformed into an activity that could be done live, in class.