Common Core Standards: ELA
- The Standard
- Sample Assignments
- Aligned Resources
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.
Sample Activities for Use In Class
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.)
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.)
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.
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.”
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.
(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 QuestionsHere'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.
Quiz 2 QuestionsHere'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.”
Quiz 3 QuestionsHere'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.
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