The course is divided into a series of units, each concentrating on
a particular American community and the uses and characteristics of
discourse in that community. Over the years, this is the method that
students have recommended for mastering a unit of the course. If you
follow it you will be working on two units each day, one in which you
are applying what you have learned about the community to discourse
from your book or elsewhere and preparing for discussion in the process;
the other in which you are preparing for the classroom lecture.
If this unit is the one for your
semester project, beginning a week or two before the
unit is scheduled:
For all students, before the classroom lecture on the unit:
Read through the commentary and speeches for this unit once.
Read quickly, for a general knowledge, making note of any questions
you have about the times or the community.
Some students like to read through (or even print for bringing
to class) the notes for the unit.
During the classroom lecture on the unit:
Take notes on the material. You may do this either separate from
or by expanding on the notes from the website, choose whichever
will help you learn the material best.
Be an active note taker. In short, don't just record
the lecture in note form, shape the material to your understanding.
Your understanding should be shaped by the fundamental
questions about each community that you encountered in the
first week of the course.
Make special notes on differences with other communities you
Ask questions on material you do not understand, or insights
that you have in comparing the community with others.
After the lecture and before the class discussion on the
Take the notes from the lecture and compare the characteristics
of the discourse of the unit to the speeches for the unit. This
should be intense studying. You should be using the speeches you
study to thoroughly understand the discourse of the community
and clarify any questions you have about the lecture material.
Using the framework
for studying speeches you learned in the first week of
the course, work with each assigned speech.
Find as many of the characteristics predicted in the lecture
as you can in the speech. Note how they work into the strategy
of the speech; how they give the speech its character.
You may find that some characteristics are not present. Think
why they might not be in the particular speech you are studying.
When there are more than one speech from the community, compare
and contrast the speeches. How do they differ? What explains
that difference? Are there characteristics you see that were
not introduced in the lecture that you think characterize
the discourse of the era.
Prepare your abstract on the speech.
The abstract should fix the speech in your mind and record your
If the unit is the one for your semester project, go over your
annotated bibliography and identify some sources that seem to
you particularly appropriate to the speech. Prepare to add these
observations and this material to our discussion.
During the discussion of speeches on the unit:
Try out your observations. Articulating your discoveries is critial
in final mastery of the material in preparation for the exams.
This is not a time to take notes nor to just listen. This is the
time to see how much you know.
If you are having to take notes, worry! You should have seen
the same things others are seeing in your studying. Why did you
miss it? Do you know the material well enough?
After the discussion of speeches:
This is the time to add to your notes. Go over your notes for
the lecture. Add comments that you acquired from the discussion.
Go over your abstracts a final time. Revise if necessary to master
the material. This means your abstracts will be the final word
for your studying for exams.
In studying for the exams:
If you have done the things above you have two important resources
for the exam: your notes from the lectures and your abstracts.
Review the notes on the website.
Quickly reread the speeches, noting the things you have written
about in your abstracts.
Construct charts for comparing the various communities and the
various speeches you have read. This and other suggestions are
available on the recommendations for preparing for exams on the
Study Aid section of the website.
Using this pattern in your studying will prepare you for learn
the material through a systematic repetition and study through stages:
- careful reading and application,
- articulation of your knowledge in discussion,
- and review of your knowledge in preparation for exam.