Congratulations, Cheryl by Mark Feldman
Lunsford Wows Swedes, by Marvin Diogenes
Congratulations to MLA special delegate, Sohui! by Mark Feldman
Congratulations to Jonah by Mark Feldman

Teaching Orality, Talking the Talk, compiled by Mark Feldman
The Undergraduate Advisory Board Strives to Improve PWR by Ashley Baker, Monica Bhattacharya, and Monique King
Structural-Generative Reflections on a Term in PWR by Lawrence Stanley

John Tinker's Inimitable Style, by Mark Feldman
Community Writing Project, June 2005

FOCUS ON: TEACHING ORALITY

Teaching Orality: Talking the Talk
Compiled by Mark Feldman

As a program, we all acknowledge the importance of delivery and oral communication. We may, in fact, be living through a period during which the spoken word is becoming more integral. Readings and discussions during the PWR2 Summer Institute underscored this. And yet, for many of us, some rather large questions remain unanswered. We have excellent and tested approaches to teaching students how to write and research, but how can we effectively teach students rhetorical savvy and proficiency in oral delivery? What specific practices and exercises will support these goals? How can we reshape our classes to include varied opportunities for self-reflective speaking? These were the sort of questions I asked PWR instructors. A number of ideas for classroom practices follow. For best results mix and match.

The Benefits of Group Presentations

In Susan Wyle’s PWR 2 class, “Writing the American West,” she has students do short initial presentations and a longer, final research presentation. Both of these are done individually. But in between these there is a collaborative presentation, with four students to a group. For this group presentation, students choose a new research topic and investigate it together. Susan lists five benefits to this approach:

  1. Bonding!
  2. They practise together, so get lots of feedback before they present
  3. They are less nervous because they are together
  4. They are so creative!
  5. They can go into all different aspects of the topic, because four of them are presenting.

Two especially memorable and creative presentations stand out: “Four women dressed up as Rose Queens, brought chocolate roses for everyone, and did a great presentation on the history of the Rose Bowl from its earliest days.

Another group researched Orange Crate Art. They made individual orange boxes out of cardboard, downloaded color orange crate art from the web, and pasted it on each box, put an orange in each box, so each student got an orange with the crate!”

Centering and Settling

Jonah Willihnganz notes that so many of the problems students have with presenting are caused by nervousness. And so much can, in turn, go right if students can manage this initial nervousness: “so many issues are dealt with by giving students strategies for relaxing and centering before they deliver—I use breathing exercises that Tom and Doree have taught me and centering exercises I have learned over the years in Aikido and Tai Chi Chuan. When students are relaxed, centered, and breathing, lots of other elements fall into place (such as overall pace, pausing in between sentences or sections, connecting with the audience, and having inflection and gestures follow meaning). Grounding the body grounds the voice and calms the mind so you can better let natural, as opposed to nervous, energy animate a presentation.” Jonah admits that these exercises are easier to demonstrate than describe. But, if you ask, he’ll be happy to oblige.

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