Creating Emphasis

Creating Emphasis

Overview: This speaking activity asks students to rehearse and revise their delivery of a short piece to better understand how emphasis can be used as a rhetorical strategy.

Author:  Shay Brawn

Activity title: Creating Emphasis

Class: PWR 2

Brief description: Students rehearse and perform a reading of a short text; the class is divided into two groups, working in two separate classrooms.

Schedule: Anytime during the quarter

Activity length: 95-100 min.

Activity goals: To help students practice and develop a range of strategies for creating/using emphasis in their writing.

Activity details:

  1. Silently read the piece you brought to class. Considering each clause separately, decide which word in each clause needs the most stress and underline it. (5 minutes)
  2. Read your piece out loud to the whole group, stressing the underlined words. Listeners should listen carefully and make notes about both choices that seemed particularly effective and choices that seemed surprising or less effective. During the feedback, you should be asked to deliver one or more sentences with a different stress. (If no one has any suggestions, you might have an idea about changing things up.) (30 minutes)
  3.  Now, read the piece to yourself again. This time, in addition to stressing particular words, 1) consider the overall feel of the piece and, in the margin, write one adverb that captures that vibe, or a series of adverbs if the vibe changes over the course of the piece, and 2) Find an opportunity to do each of these things at least once:
  • Pause for two or more seconds between sentences
  • Speak very slowly
  • Speak very quickly
  • Use both the upper and lower parts of your register within a single sentence
  • Change your pacing within a single sentence
  • Pause within a sentence
  • Increase your volume
  • Lower your volume
  • Do something physical (gesture, walk, make a face, etc.)

Your choices, of course, should have to do with conveying both the meaning and feeling of the work. (10 minutes)

  1. Working with a partner (there may be one group of three), rehearse the delivery of your piece as you have planned it. (10 minutes)
  2. Discuss the choices each person made and quickly make changes according to the feedback and your own sense of how things went (10 minutes).
  3. Read the piece again out loud to the entire group based on these final changes. (30 minutes)

Additional notes: This activity was originally shared as part of a Program Meeting in winter 2014.