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Take a stand impromptu presentation

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Author: Christine Alfano (based on a 2008 Activity by Sohui Lee)

Activity name: Take a stand impromptu speech activity

Class: PWR 2

Activity brief description: Students select a topic then deliver an impromptu, 1 minute oral presentation on it in which they showcase one rhetorical appeal

Schedule: Week 1, 2, 3 (Works well in the first couple weeks of the quarter as an informal warm-up activity to get students comfortable with presenting in front of the class)

Activity length: Approx. 40-50 min.

Activity goals: 

  1. To help students become more comfortable with speaking in front of class.
  2. To encourage students to think through some key elements of public speaking, including how to make a structured argument that uses evidence and is engaging to the audience.
  3. To demonstrate that even impromptu speeches involve drafting, structure (introduction, evidence, conclusion, signposts), strategic use of rhetorical appeals, and practice.
  4. To help students review the persuasive power of the rhetorical appeals they learned in PWR 1 (pathos, logos, ethos, kairos, nomos) by applying them.
  5. To encourage students to move past being intimidated by public speaking and instead see it as an opportunity to be creative and have fun.

Activity details:  See handout.

Additional notes: Here’s how I break it down the activity during class time:

  • 2 minutes to go over the activity
  • 5 minutes for their drafting (slide-making is prohibited)
  • 1 minute for practice (so they can feel what 1 minute feels like when you’re trying to get through presentation ) — they just do this mumbling at their seats
  • 1-2 minutes for quick revision.
  • 25-30 minutes to get through everyone.  We just move through one presentation after the next without pausing for more than applause between them.  I instruct everyone to jot down a few notes for each person about what they LIKED.
  • 10 minutes going around the class, one by one (everyone has to contribute something), having people share something they liked that they had seen (specific, naming a person, or even general).  I don’t allow any critiques … and I actually tell them right at the very beginning that we would only be focusing on the positive for this activity in our discussion. I want to make it a safe space and use the positive as examples instead of scaring them by critiquing them. Every quarter I wonder if I should eliminate the No Criticism choice, but for now that’s how I’ve been doing it.

This activity was originally featured as an Activity of the Week in winter 2014.