This speaking activity asks students to construct a group presentation with careful attention to rhetorical devices and by modeling the style of a speech from americanrhetoric.com
Author: Sohui Lee
Activity title: “Ventriloquy”
Activity brief description: By Week 8, my students in PWR 2 have finished their research-based argument paper and are preparing for their final presentation of research. This is a good time to revisit oral delivery, but this time I like to up the ante by calling attention to style through figures of speech and other devices. The final results are sometimes silly, often funny. Moreover, the activity encourages students to pay more attention to how they form their syntax and use language in speech for effect.
Class: PWR 2
Schedule: Week 8
Activity length: Approx. 55-60 min.
Activity goals: Oral invention through rhetorical devices. Modeling.
Activity details: How did great speeches get be great speeches? Some of it is timing. Some of it comes from the speaker and how they said it.
Ventriloquy (“speak from the stomach”; venter “belly” + loqui “speak”) is the act of throwing one’s voice so that it appears the voice is appearing elsewhere else. Ventriloquy is a metaphor for how we will explore speech style and the art of using rhetorical devices by throwing your “voice” into a great speech!
- 5 m: List Topics. Ask students to write four or five topics on the white board (such as they would do for impromptu speeches). Don’t tell them what they’ll be doing with it until after they write the topics.
- 10m: Modeling. Introduce the activity and then ask students to form groups of 2 or 3. The groups will:
- Select a speech (American Rhetoric.com)
- Paste two opening or “significant” paragraphs to PowerPoint
- Highlight and name rhetorical devices that they see (you provide them with a list of four or five rhetorical devices with examples).
- 10m: Discuss their findings. (Ask one or two groups to share–all if you have time)
- 15m: Ventriloquy practice. Now ask the group to:
- Select a topic from the board
- Replace their topic in the speech they analyzed (ask them to retain the style and/or devices as much as possible)
- 10-15m: Large group sharing. (Usually I ask them to email their text to our Tumblr blog so that the class can see the language arrangement as well as hear it on a bigger screen. I like to keep a record of them too.)
Additional notes: This activity requires some basic introduction to rhetorical devices. I use a handout that they read before the day’s activity, but a simple introduction to some common devices might be helpful. I recommend: anaphora, epistrophe, antithesis, climax, apostrophe
Here’s a silly example of the sort of ventriloquy produced by one of my students:
The Pavement or The Padding
Professor Lee, Brother Conrad, graduate students and undergraduate students, friends, and enemies: I just can't believe everybody in here is a friend, and I don't want to leave anyone out. The question tonight, as I understand it, is "The Cardinal Revolt, and Should We Wear Helmets?" In my little humble way of understanding it, it points toward either the pavement or the padding.
Before we try and explain what is meant by the pavement or the padding, I would like to clarify something concerning myself. I'm still a grad sudent; I'm a 5th year here. That's my personal standing. Just as Brian Yang is a great undergraduate student cyclist who wears a helmet; and Peter is an undergraduate crusade for helmet use. I myself am a student, not an undergraduate student, but a graduate student; and I believ in action on all fronts by whatever means necessary.
This activity was featured as an Activity of the Week in winter 2014.