This May Be More Than They Can Handle…


I sent this note (letter) to my public speaking class last night. Do you think any of them will understand what I’m asking, or should I learn to be more concise….?


Dear Class:
For this week’s online portion of class, you need to do two things: First, read chapters 11 and 12 in your text and answer the study questions on Blackboard. Please put them in the digital drop box rather than emailing them to me – I won’t be responsible for losing assignments that get sent to my personal email. If you still can’t figure the digital drop box out, make an appointment with the IT people on the main campus and they’ll help you. You all understand that not handing in homework is a double-whammy, right? You get a zero for the assignment AND you get marked as absent for that “class.” Just making sure you’re all aware….

The second part of the week’s homework will involve your planning out the next speech. This will be delivered with the use of visual aids, so you need to choose a topic (please keep it college-appropriate) and work out a strategy for how best to include props, graphs and other visual elements into your speech. I would suggest reading chapter 13, which covers the use of visual aids in a speech (doing this will make next week’s deliverable easier, too, since chapter 13 is next on the list of things to do). I’m going to ask you to do some sort of outline or preliminary sketch so that I can see where your planning is leading you. Please clearly map out, in which ever way you feel works best for you, your introduction, body and conclusion in a way that illustrates to me that you’re giving it a lot of thought and are being as comprehensive as you can be. Let’s put a bit more work into it than you gave me last time, shall we? Many of you either didn’t do it at all or did such a quick job of it that it was a challenge for me to give you credit for the work.

Finally, we’re having a guest speaker come to class on Monday. Tom White is the Educational Outreach Coordinator for Holocaust Studies at Not-So-Local University. Please be respectful and arrive to class on time – a little early might even be better.

While I want you to enjoy the topic of the speech, I’m particularly interested in how well you can discern the structure of Mr. White’s talk. Take notes as you listen, paying attention to the language he uses, where you notice transitions, what techniques he uses to draw you in and hold your attention, and how he uses facts, figures, quotations, and stories. Notice not only the topic of Mr. White’s presentation, but the specific purpose of the speech, as well. What pattern of organization does he use? What do you notice about the flow of the speech? Thinking back to the “news story” exercise (the one that dealt with two different versions of a Dennis Rodman incident), pay particular attention to the rhetorical structures that Mr. White uses. How does he use language to influence your thinking? Does he use visual aids? If so, what are they intended to do within the context of the speech?

I will ask you to focus on two or three of these questions and to write an in-depth analysis of the speech in an essay for me, due a week from Monday. As I explained in class, I’m not crazy about assigning minimum page lengths for essays, so I’m not going to say “it needs to be this many pages long.” What it DOES need to be is comprehensive, thoughtful, and well-written. Don’t just parrot back bits of the speech to me – use quotes, certainly, but use them to illustrate the point you’re making in the essay. Take some risks here; stretch your thinking beyond what you feel safe doing and really work your way through this assignment.

I know it seems like I’ve given you a lot, but if you look at it you’ll see that it’s just because I’m wordy and feel the need to explain everything in excruciating detail. Feel free to contact me at this email address if you have any questions about any of this. I’m fairly free this week and can meet with any of you if you feel the need to sit down and work this through.

Warmly,

-Mrs. Chili

Rereading this, I think an intervention might be in order…

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “This May Be More Than They Can Handle…

  1. That’s possible. I mean, I like the Jed Bartlett quote as much as the next person but there is a time and place for and an art to being concise that’s also useful. Perhaps you could have bullet pointed the highlights for them at the end or something. 🙂

  2. I read the first paragraph. I got what was in it and, even if I weren’t as smart as I am (if I do say so, myself), I don’t think there’d have been any question about the assignment.

    Then my eyes crossed over.

    It’s probably because I have a limited amount of time to read blogs and the long posts simply hog that time (I need bytes, people! Short, quick, easily digested bytes!), but I can speak from experience that (my) students simply do not read long things unless they do it in class, aloud.

    The way I get around this is to have them read it in class, aloud. It’s not a panacea, but it goes a lot further than trusting them to read it on their own (pfft!)

  3. Yeah…not gonna lie, I would not have read that whole thing. (And I’m an honors college student that reads medical texts as part of my major!!)

    When you didn’t tell me EXACTLY what I needed to do to get every point possible in your class, I skimmed. Haha.

    I saw that you didn’t have any crazy clauses like, “If you don’t put your name in the subject line you will *fail* my whole course” so I figured that I would be able to figure out the assignment without needing to read.

    Profs crack me up. If any of you knew how little we ACTUALLY pay attention, you would be amazed every time we pulled off a grade better than an F. *shrug* God bless caffeine pills, twelve hour nights and Cliffs notes!

  4. Oh, MAN! Don’t tell me THAT!

    Yeah, I’m going to spend some time this weekend putting together a worksheet that they can use when listening to the speech. Bullet points and all that – probably more in line with what I SHOULD have said in the first place…..

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