J201 sections run on the active participation of students. The speeches, discussion and writing students do also qualify the course to fulfill Communication  B requirements. In this class, each student will give one prepared speech, one impromptu speech, lead one discussion and write one research report at some point during the semester. Each of these activities will take place in the context of a specific reading from the required readings.

In the case of the prepared speech, discussion, and research report, students will be assigned a reading based on their personal section number. On most weeks, two students give prepared speeches, two lead discussion, etc. The syllabus and schedule denote which student is assigned to which activity for each week.

The impromptu speech is not assigned--it is impromptu. TAs will determine who gives each impromptu speech following the prepared speech on a particular article. This is an additional reason students must attend section: missing an impromptu speech because of a non-excused absence will result in forfeiting the 5 points.

Here is the rubric you will receive from your TA after your speech. Please note that speeches are graded holistically, so the sections of the rubric do not added up in a strictly mathematical way.

Descriptions of each assignment follow.

Prepared speech

You should devote the first part of your presentation (2 minutes) to identifying the main arguments of the reading, outlining the author's claims, reasons, and evidence. You do not have to go into great detail (your audience will have read the article) but you do provide an accurate summary.
The rest of your presentation (2 minutes) should deal with your reaction to the reading. You need to make your own claim and your reason for that claim, providing evidence to support it. Like a good paper, your talk needs a short introduction and a satisfying conclusion. 

Do not read your presentation! You may speak from simple notes that keep you on track, but allow the words to emerge spontaneously and conversationally. The key to a good speech is practice: it will help you get your timing right and plan what you want to say and how to say it. A good strategy is to practice your presentation in front of a mirror, a voice recorder, or for a friend.

Flip VideoWhile you are making your presentation, your TA will designate a fellow student to record you on a little digital video camera.  Later, your TA will either email the video to you, or post the video on your discussion section wiki.  You are required to view your performance and perform a self-critique: email your TA with one specific way that you could improve your delivery next time. This email is worth 1 point and is due within one week of the speech. After that time, 1 point is deducted from the speech score.

Make sure to turn in a one-page written outline of your speech.

Impromptu Speech
The impromptu speech is a two-minute response to another student's prepared speech. Your reply should both summarize and acknowledge what your colleauge said about the article (1 minute) and then critique what that student said, offering your own ideas (1 minute). Remember, though, that "critique" doesn't necessarily mean "criticize."  Explain whether you agree or disagree with the student's assessment of the article, and why.  Or you may suggest a different way of understanding or interpreting the article, contrasting it with what the first student said.
This is not an easy assignment — you only have two minutes. Try to be constructive, civil, and, above all, concise.

The best way to prepare for this speech is to do the readings well, think about them, and take good notes during your peers' speeches.

Extemporaneous speeches will not be digitally recorded.

Speech evaluation criteria
TAs will use the following evaluation criteria for prepared and impromptu speeches.


  • Do you accurately capture what the article author (or previous speaker) was saying?
  • Is your own claim clear?
  • Is your evidence for your claim convincing?
  • Have you kept to the time specified?
  • Do you project enough for everyone to hear you?
  • Does your inflection and emphasis help convey your meaning (as in normal conversation)?
  • Are you, like, avoiding the use of slang and, basically, all those crutch phrases like "like" and "basically"?
  • Do you seem to be enjoying yourself (even if you aren't)?

Discussion Leadership
Once during the semester, you will lead a ten-minute discussion on one of the two readings for that week.  This means you are responsible for posing some interesting points or questions, getting people talking, calling on your peers, and managing the conversation.

On the week that you lead the article discussion in section, you need to post an interesting discussion-starter for your assigned reading to your discussion section weblog, at least 24 hours before section meets.  For example:
  • pose a question about the reading (and give an example of how you might answer it)
  • ask students to connect the reading to their own experience (and give an example of how it connects to your own)
  • identify one or two key terms from the reading (that might show up on an exam) and ask students to define and give the significance of them
  • pose a challenge or critique to the reading and ask students to defend it
Then, in discussion that week, you will lead a 5-10 minute discussion on your reading. Encourage students to respond to your posted starter. Then, ask constructive follow-up questions that help the class make something new of the reading. This is a challenging assignment. Your goal is to help make the conversation productive and interesting, while not being the person who talks the most.

Research Report
This assignment is about getting beneath the surface of readings. An essential element to interpreting communications of all kinds is understanding why they were created, by whom, and for whom. Rather than understanding messages as more or less straightforward depictions of the author’s view of “The Truth,” this means getting to know who the author is, where the message appeared, and why the author chose to write it.

To answer these questions, this assignment requires a little bit of detective work. A good place to start is to read the article in question. Doing so with a critical eye should make you start thinking of questions: why did the author choose to talk about these ideas, and not others? Why did they include the examples they chose? The individuals they chose?

Then work to build a profile of the author. What occupation does the author hold? What kinds of organizations or companies does he/she work for? Where has he/she worked in the past? What kinds of expertise does the author have for the topic at hand? Perhaps most importantly, what kinds of motivations does a person in the author’s position have? Are they an academic, attempting to build a reputation through rigorous research and the development of ideas? Are they a journalist trying to get a story right—while also meeting a looming deadline? A blogger trying to shock and surprise? A person’s occupation does not, of course, tell you everything about that person’s motivations of course—but that can be a useful starting point for understanding them.

Next, dig into the publication in which the article appeared. Every article is the product of an extensive editorial process, starting with the editor’s decision to publish the article at all. What does the publication, and its history and goals, tell us about the final product? What is the audience for this publication? How does that likely impact the way that the publication selects and presents its material?

Finally, do a little bit of investigating to see if there were responses to the article. The Internet makes it easy to find blog posts or other pieces that link to the article. If the original article came from a book, book reviews are also likely available. Investigate these to gain more perspective on how the article was received—by either its intended audience, or others.

Drawing on your research, compose a 500-word blog post describing what you found. Make a case for how we should interpret the article based on your results. Should we be cautious in interpreting it and view it as a provocative article? Or be confident in the details it describes?

Your research report is due posted as a blog post to your section blog at least 24 hours before section meets. As the member of section who did the research on the article, you should also have important insights to offer during discussion.

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