Spring 2011





Preparation for Discussion


Group Assignment

Return to Course Home

Group Assignment

In the group assignment you and your group will lead the class in a discussion of one of Barack Obama's presidential speeches. You will need to do research in preparation for the assignment.


February 8 -- Group assignments made

By February 15. Organize your group. Decide on your leadership structure and find good meeting times during the week.

February 22 -- Group should identify speech to be studied. The assignment requires a speech from his presidency. the group may change their choice if another important speech comes up that excites them more.

March 10 -- Draft of bibliography and seminar plan due

By March 17 -- Group should have met with Klumpp to discuss plans.

March 31 -- Any reading assignments for class negotiated with Klumpp for posting to website

April 5 -- Group discussion begins. Each group reports on following days.

Recommended Step by Step

Step 1: Get organized. Select a group leader. Explore schedules.

Step 2: Select a speech from Obama's time as president. In doing this the White House website should be useful.

Step 3: Begin your research. Prepare a draft of a bibliography.

Step 4: Discuss your basic approach to the class. Prepare a seminar plan.

Step 5: After meeting with Klumpp and when research is reasonably completed, finalize your seminar plan. Select any reading you want the class to do and negotiate the assignment with Klumpp.

Step 6: Rehearse your seminar, presenting whatever material you see as necessary and discussing among yourselves.

Step 7: Finalize your bibliography and plan for handing in.

Step 8: Your presentation.

Advice on Choosing a Speech

Presidents make all kinds of speeches and they are typically better at some than others. There are policy speeches to the nation, either in the well of the house or from the oval office. Obama, for example, gave a speech about the turn over of Iraq to the Iraqi security forces. Presidents also give policy speeches to select groups such as a group of business leaders or union officials, etc. There are also epideictic speeches such as those given on Memorial Day or Veterans Day. Then there is the State of the Union Address. Presidents also travel abroad and give speeches in foreign nations. So, you have many options to select from among. Think through the type of speech you might like to examine as well as which particular example of that speech.

Advice on Research

The biggest part of your research is placing the speech back into the context of the days when it was given.

I recommend that you systematically read the Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times for the period. Read front page, editorial pages, opinion pieces. In addition, explore some archived blogs from that period of time. If the speech is given outside Washington try to access the local media where the speech was given. Look for blogs from that time. Academic Search Premier and Lexis Nexis should be helpful at this stage of your research.

You may also need to do some research on specific genres of speaking. Or there may be concepts you have learned in this or other rhetoric courses that you want to apply. Useful in this research will be Google Scholar and Communication and Mass Media complete. The latter is available in research port at the library's website.

From this research you should be able to answer the following questions:

  1. Why did the President decide to speak? Was it an event? A ceremony? Why at that moment?
  2. What did the President's speech need to do? What was its purpose?
  3. What was the genre of the speech? State of Union, policy, foreign trip, epideictic? What are the characteristics of that genre?
  4. What was the response to the speech? In the immediate audience?

Annotated Bibliography

A portion of your grade is based on the annotated bibliography. This bibliography should list the sources that you consulted. Select a style manual and follow it. I recommend that someone in your group assume the role of editor of the bibliography. That person should insist that people submit work in the proper format and with good annotations. Good annotations will explain in a sentence or two what the source was about and then in several sentences report material that might go into the presentation.

I have no preconceived notion of the number of sources in the bibliography. I will expect it to do the things that I have outlined above. My guess is that if you have ten items that is too few and fifty is too many. That gives you a great range. Remember I will not be counting sources but assessing their comprehensiveness and qualiity.

An "A" bibliography will be one that (1) is comprehensive in terms of the questions and sources above; (2) is neatly and carefully prepared including proofreading; and (3) follows a style manual in format of sources such as the APA or Chicago/Turabian manuals. 10 percent of the semester grade. Everyone in the group gets the same grade.

Advice on Presentations

You will have about an hour for your in-class presentation. There are a number of choices that you will need to make in doing your planning:

  • What are thing things you want people to learn from your presentation? Define your objectives clearly and outline a plan to achieve them. The objectives may be quite specific to content.
  • Do you want the class to read anything or watch any tapes before hand? I will be happy to make reasonable assignments. I will monitor when the assignments are getting too heavy so ask that you discuss the decision to have preparation before you get too far along. Make these choices carefully and be prepared to explain to me why you think reading this will further your objectives. Reading may be something about speeches, about this particular speech, or about the context.
  • Will you split up the presentational/discussion task so that everyone in your group presents something? You need not. All in the group will get the same grade. But you can do so if you wish. Just make certain that each of you are controlled in terms of the amount of time you consume. You may wish to divide up tasks rather than script. That is someone presents material, someone controls time, someone handles media, someone leads discussion, etc. But again, this is totally up to you.
  • What will be the proportion of presentation to discussion? Anything less than 20 minutes of discussion will not be enough. Certainly if you have had students read material, you should ask them to discuss it. Generally speaking, nothing you present should be duplicated in what people read. If you wish to dispense with discussion altogether, talk that over with me. I am not inclined to do so.
  • Will you use media? It comes out of your hour. Is the time too precious? Is there an excerpt you want people to see? Do you want to assign it to be read in preparation?
  • Will you use power point? No need to, but you may. What will you use it for? information? questions to answer?

Preparing the Seminar Plan

You will hand in the seminar plan at the same time you hand in the bibliography. The seminar plan should contain the following sections:

  1. Objectives you wish to achieve in your presentation
  2. Activities that will be included in the presentation constructed into a timeline
  3. Identification of any preparation you want the class to have before the seminar
  4. Identification of responsibilities during the seminar. Who will perform which tasks?
  5. Any other information you wish to include.

The seminar plan will be assessed as part of the grade on your presentation on the day of your group's report.

Grading the Group Seminar

I will grade the group seminar on how far you go in achieving your group's objectives and how much you assist the class in learning significant things through the study of the speech you have chosen. Your seminar should make a significant contribution to the learning in the class. Quality of presentation will also influence the grade as will the plan you have developed. 10 percent of your semester grade. All members of the group get a similar grade.

Group Assignments. (10 percent for bibliography and plan; 10 percent for in-class discussion). Early in the semester I will divide up the class into seven groups. Each group will be responsible for presenting a class discussion late in the semester. You should select one of the speeches that Barack Obama has given as president. I will let you make this choice, but will insist that each group take a different speech. You will research the speech and prepare a bibliography and a lesson plan based on your research and your plan for the class session. More detail will be provided on the website.

A Note on Leadership

I do recommend that you have a group leader. However, this does not mean that the group leader has to be the leader for all tasks. You might, for example, want one member of the group to be the leader in the research phase, another in planning the presentation, another in speaking the day of the presentation. In short, leadership can be divided, but do have an Executive leader. Please attend to making assignments carefully. Don't rush into them until you see who seems particularly good at leading a given task.

A Note on the Non-participant

I want everyone to be successful with this assignment. I know that members of a group who do not participate fully are a drag on everyone. I do have some advice in this regard. First, try to make certain that schedules are compatible. If upon your first meeting you find that one person is outside the norm of availability, have that person talk to me about reassignment to a different group. I am flexible with this. Second, throughout the process make carefully limited and crafted assignments (John, you look at the Washington Post for this date.) and monitor accomplishment of those tasks. If the task is not accomplished, discuss the barrier to doing so. Monitor each other with kindness and toward assisting in getting the work done. Third, expect that there will be a variety of commitment to the group. Try to work within each person's abilities and levels of commitment. Finally, remember that praise for work well done is worth far more than chastisement for work not done. Keep encouraging each other. If there is still a problem with a group member, before it gets out of hand the leader should approach me to discuss the problem.