I asked students to be ready today by having decided on a topic for their final speech/talk. These are the directions for the final speech/talk, which I have already given students. We have watched and discussed three TED Talks delivered by teens. We have also read a few speeches. Because we engaged with speeches as well as talks, I am calling this assignment a speech/talk.
Today, I give students more specific directions because they are starting to plan and organize their speech/talk. I give them these directions before they begin working on their outline.
They have also been studying several effective rhetorical devices that I hope they use in their speech/talk. Before they start planning and organizing, I briefly address a couple of additional devices for them to consider using in their speech/talk.
I tell students that I am introducing them to a couple of additional rhetorical devices and that we are only spending a bit of time with these because they are pretty straightforward. The first one is Anecdote. They are somewhat familiar with the term but cannot remember so I explain that an anecdote is a piece of a personal story that an author uses to engage the reader and illustrate a point. It’s helpful to show them examples. I point out that the TED talk we watched in the previous lesson opened with a quick anecdote of the speaker as a child looking at a picture of her mother with MLK Jr. I also project this speech we read in class last semester titled “The In Group” and read the anecdote in the last paragraph of the time when the speaker joined classmates making fun of someone’s diary.
The second device I want them to consider is humor. This one does not need a definition. Instead, I remind them of a few examples of humor in the TED talks we have watched in this unit. For example, Jacob Barnett announces that he is giving the audience a physics problem that sounded very complicated and then threw the papers up in the air because he was just pulling their leg. This is not necessarily my students’ idea of humor, but I remind them that it absolutely worked for Jacob Barnett’s audience. He was aware of his audience and used humor effectively. I take this time to address the importance of being aware of one's audience. Because their audience is mainly their classmates, I have to point out that I am also their audience so if they are going to use humor in their speech/talk they have to take me into consideration as well. This is meant to dissipate any thought of silly high school jokes that would just weaken their presentation.
I end this quick lecture by telling them these are two more devices accessible to them as they move on to plan and organize their speech/talk.
With the last two devices I just presented to them, students now have access to a total of 8 devices. I want to give them an opportunity to plan ways in which they can use them. For this, I ask students to create a web in which they come up with ways of using the devices. In other words, I want them to try and come up with a specific anecdote to illustrate something important about their chosen topic, or to create a metaphor, or to think of a humorous situation they can include in their speech/talk, etc. However, I instruct them to use only 6 of the 8 devices we have covered. This is because I want them to ignore allusion because it is very difficult for them. I also want them to ignore parallelism for now because we are going to be working with this device in more detail in the next lessons. These are the specific instructions I give them for the web.
As they begin, I hear complaints that this is difficult. It is difficult and I acknowledge this by announcing my observation that it probably feels like they are working in a vacuum because they have no sense of where they are actually going to insert these examples in their speech/talk. I clarify that I am giving them an opportunity and time to make purposeful use of these devices. I explain that they should not stress out if they just cannot come up with examples for one or two of these. Some devices will work much easier than others for their topic. The point is to take control of these and figure out how to use them effectively, which can lead to writing of a quality that is expected by the Common Core.
The plan is for this web to lead to an outline of their speech/talk. So in essence, their web is a brainstorming, prewriting tool. To make this web more useful when they move on to outlining their speech/talk, I ask students to begin to think about the central points they are going to make about their chosen topic and to list them in the center of their web. In doing this, students are practicing establishing central ideas and communicating these effectively through examples of the devices we have been discussing. A successful web will visually show the connection between what they are going to be communicating, the central points in the center of the web, and how they will communicate it effectively, the examples they are coming up with. This is a challenging task for my students, but these are important Common Core skills. I make it clear that I don’t expect them all to come up with all three central points, but I do want them to start thinking in that direction.
I now want students to take the next step and organize their ideas in an outline. For this, I want them to use the points they came up with when working on their web and to develop and organize them. Students usually find outlines tedious so I always have to speak of the value of organizing ideas before drafting. To minimize the stress, I tell them that they are not bound to the outline. They can always change this plan as they go through the writing process, but an outline can really ground their ideas. I give them more specific instructions. I tell them that their outline is just the bones of their paper and that I want them to include the following:
Make two or three mature, intelligent points about your topic.
Support your points with specific examples.
Use some of the devices we have studied.