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Category Archive for 'Oral Presentation'

Learning with Audio

In my first-year seminar, I move my students through exercises and assignments aimed at:
1. Helping them feel comfortable with their own voices.
2. Helping them organize their thoughts before making formal oral presentations.

I consider these exercises and assignments important both for their success as college students and for success in their lives beyond college. Most of our students come to us as good high school writers, and through our first-year program and through subsequent college writing classes most become good to competent college level writers and many become excellent writers. There are, of course, exceptions, but in general we achieve our writing goals for our students.

On the other hand, these highly intelligent students often do not sound articulate or intelligent when they speak, especially when they speak in formal settings. In order to help my students sound intelligent and feel comfortable, I move them through increasingly challenging sets of assignments and exercises.

o First start small. Try an exercise to move students to the front of the class to introduce themselves. Teach them to use deep breathing to control their voices. Teach them to be aware of their bodies during presentations.
o Let them get comfortable presenting informally from the middle of the class.
o Have them record and listen to their own voices while creating an i-movie.
o Give them tips and strategies to help them give better oral presentations.
o Move from shorter to longer more complex oral presentations.
o Have them evaluate classmates’ presentations for clarity, volume, organization, content, and poise.
o Add a public dimension: online or with an audience.

Student comment:

Aside from learning how to write deep, well-thought out, analytical papers, I think that the most valuable thing that I have learned is how to present orally in front of the class. Before this class, I really didn’t feel comfortable speaking in front of a class or group of people. After presenting several times in this class, however, I really do not mind giving oral presentations. In fact, I have found that I really enjoy crafting my words just so, and seeing the audience’s reaction to what I have written. I like anticipating their reactions and playing off of them. My confidence in public speaking is at an all time high thanks to Jane Austen!

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Originally uploaded by mebertolini.

The semester winds down, leaving behind papers, portfolios, blog posts, digital stories, conversations and memories. Students check out the weather, and hope their planes, trains and rides will take them safely home. or to vacation destinations. The work my students leave behind now sits conventionally in folders for me to grade and less conventionally on DVDs and on live class sites for me to evaluate. In the last few weeks of the semester, I fought desperately agains the urge to add new demands and assignments to my students’ overflowing plates.

At Middlebury, we call the last two weeks of the semester PPZ: the “Professorial Panic Zone” because we want to ADD MORE before the semester is over. Like parents sending children off to college (and I’ve done this twice), faculty want to give the final bits of wisdom, information, evaluation before the door closes and our children or students are gone. Of course, the end of the semester and the car ride to college are the worst times to impart wisdom. In both cases, tired, frightened minds are looking ahead–if they can look or think at all. BG speaks eloquently about the end of the semester burnout when she asks:

Isn’t there something odd about this? Shouldn’t they leave craving the next course, the next opportunity to hang around a bunch of motivated fellow thinkers and work through some relevant, interesting problems together? There’s got to be a better way to end a semester, a more creative, satisfying, rewarding way to move out of a course?

BG pulled a final assignment from her course in order to allow her students more time for reflection. I turned the final week of my course over to my students who gave Research-based oral presentations. They had finished reading the last novel of the course before Thanksgiving, and they wrote the first draft of their final papers two weeks before their final portfolios were due. By somewhat clearing the decks of new work, I hoped to give my students some time for reflection, and for each paper, each digital story, and each portfolio submitted, my students included reflected cover sheets through which they confronted the intentionality of their writing and intellectual choices.

In his “the making of” entry, earth wide moth considers the challenge of tracing narrative of intentionality in his own work;

I have been thinking quite a bit about how things get done, how scholarship gets made, what methodologists want, and where the methodical (as more typically associated with a researcher’s trail) blurs with writing. Furthermore, in light of the recent interchanges on WPA-l, I’m thinking about the limitations of any published monograph to reveal the subtleties of the research and writing that went into it. Yet a conventional model for knowing method~ologies is through inference. Read something likely to have been researched and, from the text, extrapolate. Another model: specific procedural explanations or how-tos (the way to ethnographize, the way to discourse analyze). So what else can we do with method~ology beyond the domesticated regimen (albeit a stabilizing and study-able force) of this is how you do x? What can we do with method~ology beyond the reverse-ordered and confounding in-through-the-exit of method read back through the monograph? Maybe a collection of “the making of” essays that looks back on the production of the project, attends to the special effects, and so on.

I love the “making of” metaphor, he employs here, and I’ve come to see my students’ reflective pieces in their portfolios as a “making of” the semester. The final questions I always ask students on their portfolio cover sheets are

What goals do you have for your writing in the future?
How do you plan to achieve those goals?

Intead of offering my students useless pearls of advice as the end of the semester, I push them in their natural inclination to look ahead and ask them to form their own goals and decide thier own ways to reach those goals. Sometimes I have the pleasure of seeing their goals come to fruition when they take another class with me, when I read their writing on a colleague’s class blog, or when six months later as I make my way across campus they stop me to say “It clicked! I get it!.” Once, when I had given up teaching at the high school level, a student stopped me two years later as I pushed my first-born in her stroller. I hadn’t been able to prevent his dropping out of school, and I’d chalked up my efforts with him as a failure. “Thanks for everything,” he told me. “I went back and finished high school. I just couldn’t do it then.” Remembering his words always helps get me though the PPZ at the end of the semester and gives me hope that even though the semester ends now, the dance of learning goes on.

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