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Common Core Standards: ELA

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening

Speaking and Listening CCRA.SL.4

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas

4. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

In other words: “If a speaker gives a presentation but nobody can understand him, is he really saying anything?”

The ability to speak to a group - whether formally in an auditorium or informally in a small work team - includes the ability to give information to the listeners in a way they can understand. To do this, the speaker should evaluate several things:

  • Who is his audience? If he is trying to explain how airplanes fly, for example, he wouldn’t give the exact same speech to a group of kindergarteners and to a college physics class. His visual aids, if any, will probably be different, too.
  • Why is he trying to get this information across? Is he talking to someone who wants to be a pilot? Someone who is responsible for designing airplane wings? Someone who is terrified to fly because she can’t understand how a metal box can stay in the air? His audience is much more likely to understand him - and to do or think or feel what he wants them to do or think or feel - if the information he gives is focused on their specific questions and gives them the answers they need, whether for signing up for flight training classes or just getting on the plane without panicking.
  • Is he using the best information he can get to answer this question? If his job is to give a presentation on “How Airplanes Stay Up” to a college physics class and he gets all his notes from Baby’s First Guide To Things That Go Zoom!, he’s probably not using the best information for his audience. Likewise, a three-year-old will be unimpressed by the Encyclopedia Britannica entry on the Bernoulli Principle.
  • Is he presenting the information to his audience in the best possible way? Giving a three-year-old a copy of Baby’s First Guide To Things That Go Zoom! will help her more than giving her an encyclopedia entry on airplane physics -- but she still won’t get everything she needs out of it if she can’t read and no one reads to her. Likewise, the college students might need diagrams or a step-by-step guide to the math involved to really understand how airplanes fly.

Example 1

Sample Activities for Use In Class

Activity 1

Congratulations! You’ve just been hired to teach a class on forensic firearm and bullet analysis - the stuff the police use to figure out which bullets came from which gun. Since you only have a week to prepare your lesson plans, you ask the department secretary to come up with a list of four books you might be able to use to teach your class. Which of the following book options is your best choice, and why?

- Baby’s First Guide To Things That Go Bang!
(Possible answers: Not a good choice. It’s probably way too simplistic and isn’t likely to say anything at all about forensic analysis. If it says anything at all, it’ll probably be about how kids should never touch guns but should instead tell an adult if they see one. Great for kids, but useless for students who need to get to understand firearms very well in order to do the delicate work of matching bullets to the gun that fired them.)

- The Ridiculously Heavy and Overpriced Guide To Every Gun Everywhere Ever
(Possible answers: Better than the baby book, but not great. This one is actually bad in the opposite direction: it contains too much information. The class focuses on forensic analysis, not on the comprehensive history of guns - which you probably couldn’t teach in only one semester, even if you wanted to. It’s not a good idea to bury your audience in information they can’t use.)

- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Hiding the Evidence: Gun Crimes Edition (Possible answers: This book is a better choice than the other two, but it’s still not the best option. While this book talks about both guns and crime, it’s written for people who are trying to conceal forensic firearms evidence, not find it out. This book is more likely to be helpful for forensic scientists who already have jobs and are trying to learn more about tricks that criminals actually use, instead of learning how to examine and analyze guns and bullets. You might want to put this on your reading list, but mark it “optional.”)

- The Professionals’ Guide to Things That Go Pop!, Bang!, and/or Rat-tat-tat-tat!: Firearm Analysis for the Future Forensic Scientist or Police Officer.
(Possible answers: Bingo. This book is written for an audience of students who are learning forensic firearms analysis, which is exactly what you’re trying to teach. Therefore, this text will be the most helpful.)

Example 2

Activity 2

You’re the world’s leading expert on how to build houses out of logs, which means you’re a very popular presenter who is often on the road giving speeches to various groups. Unfortunately, your agent almost never tells you who you’re talking to before you get there. Usually, she just hands you a pile of posters, handouts, and exhibits and shoves you in front of the audience.

Today, you have to give three speeches, each with its own pile of visual aids. Based on what’s in each pile, what can you guess about your audience for each speech? Assume your agent has given you the appropriate visual aids for each audience.

Speech 1, 8:00 a.m.: A pile of half-sawed logs, a hand saw, a map of the Rocky Mountains, and a handout titled “Building Your Log Cabin After Retirement: What Will the Neighbors Think?”

(Possible Answers: This audience is probably in its fifties to mid-sixties and has always dreamed of building a log cabin, but the responsibilities of a job, spouse, and/or kids have prevented them from doing it. They probably don’t know anything about building a log cabin, but the chance to realize their dreams and the fact that they’ll show up for a lecture at eight in the morning indicates that they’ll be an enthusiastic audience that will pay attention.)

Speech 2, 11:00 a.m.: A pile of burned logs, a gasoline can, a map of your local neighborhood, and a handout titled “Arson: Not Such a Good Idea, Actually.”

(Possible answers: Your audience consists of either people who want to burn down someone’s house or people who have already burned down someone’s house, or maybe both. They are probably people who hold grudges, or people who really needed that insurance money for something. They most likely need you to explain that arson is not the way to solve their problems and that, whether they’ve already burned something down or not, they should not burn down anything else, especially not log cabins. Since this speech is scheduled just before lunch, expect a distracted audience.)

Speech 3, 3:00 p.m.: A pile of Lincoln Logs, a brown crayon, a picture of a house made of Legos, and a handout featuring a smiling bunny rabbit next to a log cabin.

(Possible answers: For some reason, your agent has booked you to give a speech to children. Kids love to learn things hands-on, especially when they involve toys, so it might be wisest just to play Lincoln Logs with them. Bonus points if you can convince them that Lincoln Logs are way cooler than Legos - the smiling bunny on their handout says so! Three p.m. is usually just after naptime, so expect an audience full of energy and too busy looking for snacks to stay in their seats.)

Example 3

3. Writing the Speech

Have students read the following “speech ingredients” alone or in groups, and then tackle the activity that follows.

Topic: What the speech is about; also known as the main idea. A topic of a speech is often more general than the speaker's stance, which is how the speaker feels about that particular topic.

Examples: Specific points that support the speaker's topic.

Organization and Development: How the speech moves from one point to the next and works to create the speaker's argument.

Alternative Arguments: Arguments that are not the one the speaker is making, but that are also points that support the same ideas the speaker is espousing.

Opposing Arguments: Arguments against the one the speaker is making.

Activity: Give an example for each of the parts of a speech given above.

Sample Answers:

Topic - “Pink elephants are easy to capture. Anyone can catch a pink elephant with a raisin pie.”
Examples - “In 2005, I caught a pink elephant by placing a raisin pie on my front porch.”
Organization and Development – “First, bake a raisin pie. Then, choose a place to put the raisin pie. Finally, watch the pie carefully until a pink elephant appears.”
Alternative Arguments - “Prune pies will also catch pink elephants.”
Opposing Arguments - “Pink elephants are impossible to catch because they don't actually exist.”

Example 4

4. Who's the Audience?

Read or have students read the following definitions, then complete the activity.

Purpose: When you're writing a speech, it's important to know what you want to say, but it's also equally important to know what it is you want the audience to do. A speech with a clear purpose should inspire people to do something specific related to your topic.

Audience: A speech must be tailored to the audience in order for it to have its maximum effect. “Considering the audience” means considering things like what sort of language they understand, whether they are inclined to support or disapprove of your main idea, and whether they understand and are capable of carrying out the purpose behind your speech.

Activity: The main idea of your speech is: “Planting trees helps the environment.” Identify a possible purpose for each audience listed below, and show how you would tailor your speech to this audience.

1. Kindergarteners

(Possible Answers: Getting the kids to talk to their parents about planting a tree. The speech should use simplified language and be only a few minutes long. Bright and colorful visual aids may also help.)

2. High school freshmen

(Possible Answers: Encouraging teens to plant trees as part of a community service project. The speech can use more complex language and focus on abstract ideas, like helping the community, as well as concrete rewards, like earning community service credit if needed.)

3. Climate scientists

(Possible Answers: Sharing new research on how trees metabolize certain greenhouse gases. The speech will probably use technical scientific language, and the speaker can assume that the audience understands climate science and biology on a fairly high level.)

Quiz 1 Questions

Here's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.

For Questions 1 - 10, assume that you have been hired as an agent/personal assistant to Tina Tornado, an ex-rock singer who just got out of rehab for the fifth time (and the last time, she swears). Since no one wants to buy her music anymore, Tina has started giving lectures on the evils of drug use. Your job is to book audiences for Tina’s lectures and to make sure Tina has everything she needs to give these lectures, including visual aids and notes.

  1. The principal of Tina’s elementary school wants her to come back and give a lecture to the fourth and fifth graders (ages nine and ten) about how drugs ruined her rock star career. Which of these visual aids is going to be the LEAST helpful for the kids to understand what Tina is saying?

    Correct Answer:

    A table from a report titled “Physiochemical Effects of Alcohol Consumption in Performers of Standardized Band Music in Common Time.

    Answer Explanation:

    (d) - This is likely to be way over the kids’ heads.


  2. The principal of Tina’s old school wants her to make it very clear that it was drugs that ruined her career, not the fact that none of her band members could actually play music. Which of the following stories should you put in Tina’s speech to make sure the kids in the audience understand that drugs are to blame?

    Correct Answer:

    A story about how Tina’s best friend Gina is also a rock star, but that Gina still has a career because she didn’t do drugs while Tina lost her career because she did drugs.

    Answer Explanation:

    (b) - You’d be able to get this point across clearly by using comparison and contrast.


  3. Given that Tina’s audience is full of nine- and ten-year-olds, what is the most effective way for Tina to begin her story?

    Correct Answer:

    “How many of you have best friends? Well, let me tell you a story about my best friend....”

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - Kids generally pay attention to stories that are about them, or sound like they are. *correct answer
    • (b) - This opening would put anyone to sleep - especially kids.
    • (c) - This might work for younger kids -- but for nine- and ten-year-olds, it’s probably insulting.
    • (d) - Good for complaining to one’s friends, not for talking to kids.
    • (e) - Remember: The principal wanted a story about how the drugs are to blame, not the drummer.

  4. Immediately after giving her speech to the fourth and fifth graders, Tina has to run across town to talk to the National Coalition on Keeping Rock Stars Drug-Free, a government agency responsible for helping rock stars get off drugs and stay off them. Which of the following visual aids should you give Tina for this presentation?

    Correct Answer:

    A graph showing how rock stars who get grants from the Coalition to pay for rehab stay off drugs longer than rock stars who don’t get grants for rehab.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (b) - Presumably, the coalition already knows this or they wouldn’t have asked her to speak.
    • (c) - This would be most appropriate for this audience, and would get the point across most effectively. *correct answer

  5. In her speech to the Coalition, Tina wants to thank them for giving her a grant to pay for rehab. She wants to explain how she had no hope until the Coalition gave her the money to get clean. How should you organize Tina’s notes so that her point is MOST clear to the audience?

    Correct Answer:

    Introduction; living on drugs; receiving the grant; going to rehab; living happily ever after.

    Answer Explanation:

    (a) - The other answer choices would present the information in a disorganized way and confuse the audience.


  6. After Tina’s speech to the National Coalition on Keeping Rock Stars Drug-Free, one of the members of the Coalition raises his hand. He asks, “What would you say was the most effective part of rehab for you, and why?” Tina knows this man is responsible for giving grants, and she wants the Group Therapy team in rehab to get more grant money. What is Tina most likely to say to persuade this man to give Group Therapy more money?

    Correct Answer:

    “Group therapy was great for me. Too bad they don’t have the money to help everyone who needs it.”

    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - This clearly indicates that the Group Therapy sessions were important in Tina’s experience, and also implies that they should receive more funding.


  7. It’s time for Tina’s final speech of the day. This one is a presentation to the local police. They’ve had a lot of trouble from rock stars in the city who use drugs, and they want to know what clues to look for to tell whether or not a rock star is using drugs. Which of the following speech outlines would be the MOST effective?

    Correct Answer:

    A speech describing how Tina’s behavior changed when she used drugs.

    Answer Explanation:

    (e) - This would be helpful so the police can look for behavioral signs in other drug users.


  8. Tina wants you to prepare a handout that she can give the police officers attending her speech. Which of the following handouts would be LEAST helpful to the officers?

    Correct Answer:

    “Need to Find a Drugstore? Ask a Rock Star!”

    Answer Explanation:

    (d) - These aren’t the kinds of drugs a police officer investigating a rock star is looking for.


  9. One of the officers wants to know how to prevent kids from using drugs, whether or not they want to be rock stars. Which is the MOST helpful and appropriate answer for Tina to give?

    Correct Answer:

    “I recommend working with their parents and teachers to find healthy and fun activities for them, like singing or playing the guitar.”

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - This answer is more appropriate for a young child.
    • (b) - Offers appropriate content in an appropriate vocabulary and tone when talking to another adult. *correct answer
    • (c) - Not only are there far too many nickel words here, this doesn’t even answer the question.
    • (d) - This answer isn’t helpful for a police officer, who can’t possibly follow every kid every moment of every day.
    • (e) - Five trips to rehab, and Tina still hasn’t learned not to insult a police officer. Uh-oh.

  10. After her final speech is over, Tina shows you a list of potential new audiences. For each audience, she’s listed the title of a speech she would like to give that audience. Which of Tina’s speech titles is most useful for its potential audience?

    Correct Answer:

    A speech to insurance salespeople titled “Selling Insurance to Rock Stars: Five Things You May Not Think They Need Insurance For, But They Do.”

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - This is not at all useful for bus drivers.
    • (b) - Janitors are usually already grown up.
    • (c) - Way over the kids’ heads.
    • (d) - Sellers sell stuff, not make it.
    • (e) - On topic. *correct answer

Quiz 2 Questions

Here's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.

For Questions 1 - 10 below, assume that you are a high school teacher. As part of the National “Teach Classes People Actually Want to Take” Initiative, you have been assigned to teach a class called “History of Fashion.”

  1. The first thing your “History of Fashion” class needs is a textbook. An online search brings up the following five titles. Which one would be best for your audience and topic?

    Correct Answer:

    Fashion Ain’t What It Used to Be: A History of Teen Clothing Styles

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - Yes, it covers history and fashion, but it only covers babies, so it’s not broad enough for your audience or class; (d) is the better answer.
    • (c) - A history of clothing, but not of fashion; (d) is the better answer.
    • (d) - This is perfect! It suits the audience and is about both fashion and history.
    • (e) - This is good for teens and is about fashion, but is not about history.

  2. In addition to the textbook, you’ll need to make lesson plans for the semester. There are 26 people in your class, ages 14 to 18. Which of the following lessons would be LEAST appropriate for your class?

    Correct Answer:

    Dressing paper dolls in outfits appropriate to the weather for each day.

    Answer Explanation:

    (a) - Teenagers usually know how to dress for the weather, even if they don’t do it. This lesson is better for a younger group.


  3. While watching the newest teen TV drama, you realize that - surprise! - different teens like different styles of clothing. Which of the following activities is LEAST likely to tell you what clothes your own students are interested in?

    Correct Answer:

    Tell the students they have to learn about hoop skirts and morning coats.

    Answer Explanation:

    (e) - Telling them this doesn’t tell you anything about what they want.


  4. Two days before your “History of Fashion” class starts, the publisher of your textbook calls. Your textbook order will be two weeks late. In the meantime, the publisher offers you any one of the following lesson plans, free of charge. Which is LEAST appropriate for your students?

    Correct Answer:

    A chemistry project analyzing the chemical components of various fabric dyes.

    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - You’re teaching history, not chemistry.


  5. It’s the first day of class, and one of your 14-year-old students arrives in tears. His parents have told him that if he takes “History of Fashion,” they’ll disown him. Which is the most appropriate response?

    Correct Answer:

    Take the student aside and tell him privately that you will talk to his parents after class.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - This is embarrassing for most fourteen-year-olds.
    • (b) - Now you have no students, which means you have no job.
    • (d) - This saves the student face in front of his peers and gives him the chance to stay in your class. *correct answer
    • (e) - This is more of a punishment.

  6. You spent all evening typing out a syllabus for the class but you left it at home, so now you have to try to recreate it on the blackboard. Which of the following lists gives the BEST order to teach your lessons so the students will understand them?

    Correct Answer:

    Prehistoric Fashion, Your Great-Grandmother’s Fashion, Your Mother’s Fashion, Fashion Today, Fashion in the Future

    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - Chronological organization will help students easily see the change in fashion over time.


  7. During a lesson on the history of shoes, you tell your class, “High heels were originally made for men, not women.” Which of the following visual aids would best support your point?

    Correct Answer:

    A picture of France’s King Louis XIV wearing the very first pair of high heels.

    Answer Explanation:

    (a) - He’s a man. Wearing high heels. And stockings and makeup, but that’s how they rolled in 18th century France.


  8. One of your students wants to write a research paper proving that skirt hemlines rise and fall at the same time as stock prices. Which of the following resources do you recommend as MOST helpful for her?

    Correct Answer:

    A study titled “Wearing Consumer Confidence: How The Economy Affects Women’s Fashions.”

    Answer Explanation:

    • (c) - The writing might be dense for a high schooler, but the topic is dead on. *correct answer
    • (e) - She may or may not know something about this subject whereas the study is dead-on, making (c) the most helpful answer.

  9. Your textbook has finally arrived! On page 26, the writer states: “As pants have become more popular for women, they have made skirts obsolete.” Which of the following provides the BEST evidence that this is not true?

    Correct Answer:

    Several of your students wear skirts, and in fact two are wearing skirts today.

    Answer Explanation:

    (d) - They’re not obsolete if people still wear them.


  10. Your “History of Fashion” class is so popular that the principal wants you to teach it to the elementary students next year. Which of the following assignments are the elementary students LEAST likely to understand?

    Correct Answer:

    A research paper including a review of university studies of fashion.

    Answer Explanation:

    (a) - This is probably way over their heads.


Quiz 3 Questions

Here's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.

Questions 1-10 are based on the following scenario:

You are a professional horse trainer who has trained several famous racehorses, including the most recent winner of the Triple Crown, Correct Horse Battery Staple. You are giving a speech to a group of elementary school students who want to be jockeys when they grow up.

  1. You decide to begin your speech by introducing yourself and explaining what you do for a living. This beginning has the advantage of:

    Correct Answer:

    Establishing your credibility by showing that you know what you're talking about.

  2. While describing the horses you've worked with, you decide to include a visual aid so the children will have a better idea what you're talking about. The BEST option for a speech to elementary-age kids is:

    Correct Answer:

    pictures of the famous horses you've helped train.

    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - This is appropriate for your audience, who might be bored by the items detailed in the other answer choices.


  3. After introducing yourself, you start explaining what a jockey's job is. Which of the following real-world objects would help kids understand what jockeys do?

    Correct Answer:

    a racing saddle and bridle

    Answer Explanation:

    (a) - None of the other items will help to explain a jockey’s work.


  4. Since the purpose of your speech is to encourage children to learn more about horseback riding, which of the following facts should you probably NOT share with your audience?

    Correct Answer:

    The number of jockeys who have died during races in the last five years.

    Answer Explanation:

    (d) - This information might be too traumatizing for young kids, and might scare them off the topic.


  5. While you're talking about the Triple Crown, you realize that your audience is giving you confused looks. You should probably modify your speech to:

    Correct Answer:

    explain that the Triple Crown is made up of three major horse races: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.

    Answer Explanation:

    (a) - Since you audience clearly doesn’t already know this, it will be helpful to explain it.


  6. While talking to the kids, you're secretly glad none of them knows that you never worked as a jockey. This fact might convince them that:

    Correct Answer:

    You don't know what you're talking about when you describe what jockeys do.

    Answer Explanation:

    (b) - The fact that you’ve worked as a horse trainer might not be as impressive to them.


  7. One of the children asks if you can make money as a jockey, even if you never win the Triple Crown. The BEST example to support your “yes” answer is:

    Correct Answer:

    You work with several jockeys who make a comfortable living, even though they've never ridden in any of the Triple Crown races.

  8. A hands-on example that you can add to your speech in order to show kids what it's really like to work with horses would be:

    Correct Answer:

    Cleaning the racing saddles and bridles.

    Answer Explanation:

    (d) - Dreary work, but necessary.


  9. Which of the following would NOT be appropriate for an audience of elementary school students?

    Correct Answer:

    A scientific discussion of racehorses that carry jockeys of various weights.

    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - Too complicated for young kids.


  10. During the question and answer session, one of the students raises his hand and says, “I love horses more than anything, but my mother says I have to be a doctor. What should I do?” If you want the boy to obey his parents but still consider horse racing, you are MOST likely to say:

    Correct Answer:

    “Many doctors own racehorses and enjoy coming to the track after work and on weekends.”

    Answer Explanation:

    (a) - Nice! This answer is diplomatic and relevant. It doesn’t mess up the kid’s head and incite rebellion, and also doesn’t cause him any embarrassment.


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